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Mandarin?

(33 Posts)
Cortina Sat 03-Oct-09 08:19:12

Any schools offering this?

More useful than French?

Anyone's children studying currently?

Thanks.

snorkie Sat 03-Oct-09 08:56:48

dd did it last year at lunchtime for fun (& because her friend twisted her arm), but decided not to do the GCSE course this year (& next) as the lessons were moving from lunchtimes to after school twice a week.

It's a very hard language to get reasonably proficient in, so unless you are planning to study it further arguably French, which is not too hard to get to the level where you can have a meaningful conversation, is more use. Clearly more people in the world speak Mandarin than French, but if you mainly travel in Europe you are probably more likely to mee the French speaking ones.

I understand there's a new GCSE for non-native speakers or something. I think with the old one, only native speakers stood any chance of getting the top grades.

violethill Sat 03-Oct-09 09:31:18

One piece of advice - look carefully at how it's being offered and delivered to make sure it's not just a gimmick. My friend's kids, in private school, were offered this. Turned out there is a new mandarin teacher every year, they seem to come over on fixed contract, like a sort of 'year out', so there is no longer term continuity if you're serious about taking the subject. The school has very short terms anyway, and on top of that, the Mandarin teachers seemed to all arrive a week late and often leave in the summer a week or two early. There would always be a letter from the school explaining 'problems with flights' etc hmm

Just seemed a bit of a shambles to me (and her) and more about publicity than really teaching a useful skill. There are a lot of overseas students in that school, and they are the only ones who seem to take the subject to exam level, and all get A*, which is hardly surprising as it's like me taking a fairly easy exam in how to speak and write basic English!!

So, I would investigate carefully, don't assume that just because it's offered, it's necessarily anything useful.

vinblanc Sat 03-Oct-09 11:08:35

My DD, Y8, does Mandarin as an extra-curricular activity. It is taught by a permanent member of staff who is a native speaker.

The plan is for her to take an Asset exam in it. She is also doing French and Spanish, with at least one (probably 2) to GCSE.

Mandarin is where the future is!

posey Mon 05-Oct-09 21:50:00

Dd is in year 8 and was offered the chance to start learning it at the beginning of year 7. She does an hour a week, and will (hopefully) continue until Y11 and do GCSE.
They have a permanent member of staff teaching them it (she teaches some humanities aswell), and as part of their studies spent 14 days in China in the summer. I have no knowledge of Mandarinbut am pretty impressed by what she can do!

All kids in the school do a 9 week taster at some point in year 7 even if they aren't doing the GCSE couse.
They also all learn Spanish, working towards GCSE.

ABetaDad Mon 05-Oct-09 22:01:54

violethill - exactly the same story with us. Total gimmick. Basiclly the A level was done by native Mandarin speakers at the school so it just made the results look good.

Frankly Spanish is a far better language and far easier to learn and far more useful to a Western child. South America is a grossly underdeveloped continent with huge opportunity and Spanish is highly useful there.

Learning Mandarin is not going to make your child anymore competitive in the world market. There are many millions of Mandarin speakers already and they are willing to work for less and know how China works.

Cortina Tue 06-Oct-09 00:49:57

Am not sure you are right that having Mandarin won't give a child an advantage in the world market in the future.

I have friends who speak some Mandarin (not native speakers) and this has helped enormously in their jobs in finance. Both in getting to interview stage and conversationally when dealing with China.

I would agree it's a hard language to get reasonably proficient at and wold argue a child needs more than a hour a week for this.

I have friends in Asia, (China and Singapore) and their children are all studying Mandarin - what interested me is that they started very young with it. They speak it every day in one way or another. When they return to the UK they hope their children will continue with their studies.

NezLiquide Tue 06-Oct-09 05:05:07

Not able to give any advice on the school front but I now live and work in Singapore and am at a bit of a disadvantage not speaking Mandarin. I have a degree in French & Spanish which is now perfectly useless to me here. I would be able to command a higher salary at work if I were able to speak Mandarin too.

DS (14months) and I have just started attending a toddler group one afternoon a week for an hour and a half and in this time we get 15 mins Mandarin emersion - seems like a great way for us both to start learning Mandarin - no doubt he'll pick it up a lot quicker than me though!

seeker Tue 06-Oct-09 05:09:48

It's available at my dd's school - she chose to carry on with Latin instead! Very useful if she ever gets caught up in a time machine - you always end up in Pompeii at some stage, don't you!

thepumpkineater Tue 06-Oct-09 06:03:46

They do Latin and Mandarin at my DCs school (plus they have to take two languages for GCSE) but it has some kind of Language status I think.

CarmenSanDiego Tue 06-Oct-09 06:52:01

My six year old is doing 'Chinese' - I assume Mandarin. They do it twice a week at school. But I'm in the US and her school has a large amount of Chinese-American students. Oddly, my eight year old doesn't do it, although it's offered as an extracurricular for her year group.

minervaitalica Tue 06-Oct-09 14:35:27

This comes from my experience of having A-level equiv. in Mandarin - I am now in my 30s.

It depends on what you seek from education, really. An A level in Mandarin will not give your child the capacity to even read a newspaper (it takes years of hard graft to learn Mandarin properly) - while the same qualification in French or Spanish would allow you to do that. I chose "reading a paper" as an example because if you can learn to do that it's a lot easier to keep a language up afterwards.

So, on a practical basis, an A level in Mandarin is useless unless the kid continues studying it later, probably full time and preferably in China. It may impress whoever reads their CV one day, but again, it's a talking point not a skill.

However, from a wider educational point of view, studying Mandarin is a perfect way to get acquainted with a totally different culture, which may well be more dominant 20 yrs down the line - it was incredible fun to do, I never regretted doing it and it has certainly opened up my mind to a different world.

So, definitely go for Mandarin, but "hedge your bets" by taking it as an extra subject to do for interest (it may be that your DCs want to continue studying it further) or by doing it as an extra-curricular activity.

Cortina Wed 07-Oct-09 01:33:48

That's interesting minerva. The expat children I know (Singapore/China) do around 5 hours a week extra study and are beginning to write the characters. They are around 4 or 5. They can write and recognise the characters for mei mei that sort of thing.

It's interesting to read that even if they kept up that level of progress they might not be able to read a newspaper going forward in many years? In your opinion is that so?

MrsGhoulofGhostbourne Wed 07-Oct-09 09:13:56

Violet - done as a gimmick at DS2's primary also. No way could the children become proficient in any way - it does take many hours of study from a very young age - one hour a week is a joke and just a sop to the parents who naively think it will boost their child's CV grin.
My neive in France however does Manafarin at school in specailised languages stream ( she is 14) and they do several of their 'normal' lessons in it - so they take it seriously.

BecauseImWorthIt Wed 07-Oct-09 09:20:03

Spanish and Mandarin are the languages our children should be learning, given the number of people/countries that speak these languages, unlike French/German, which continue to be the most common languages offered at school.

Mandarin is harder than some languages, because you also have to learn the characters, but this learning also encourages the brain to use its more creative, conceptual side as well as the more analytic, rational side.

There is a new GCSE programme starting this year which follows the way of teaching of other languages.

As long as you have a good teacher, which would seem like it could be an issue for some of you, I think it would be a great language to do.

Cortina Wed 07-Oct-09 09:35:15

Really interesting, BecauseImWorthIt - especially about the creative, conceptual side of the brain etc.

Those I know that take it appear to have a sort of 'jolly phonics' type learning system approach - pictures and gestures as well as repetition of word.

hullygully Wed 07-Oct-09 09:36:57

Clementines are preferable.

Cortina Wed 07-Oct-09 09:45:20

BecauseImWorthIt Wed 07-Oct-09 09:50:15

The speaking part is really important (as it should be with any language). It's especially important in Mandarin to make sure that the four tones - used for vowels - are taught properly, as this is the key to making yourself understood properly. It's not just about correct pronunciation but about communication. For example, the word 'ma' has a different meaning if you say it in each of the different tones. It can mean 'mother' but it can also mean 'horse' - get that wrong and you could be in a lot of trouble!

Pictures, words and sounds are probably a really good way of learning.

As an adult learner I have to do it in a slightly more serious fashion - although I would love to have some children's books as I suspect they might be pretty helpful!

Snotmonster Thu 08-Oct-09 02:41:13

BecauseImWorthIt I have quite a few picture books (basically flashcards) for DS. My FIL lives in Ningbo and so sent some for DS first birthday but I noticed I can also buy the same here in Singapore. Could always scan some to you if you are interested.

I had heard that you can make a sentence out of 'ma' as it has 5 different meanings or something smile.

minervaitalica Thu 08-Oct-09 14:48:17

Cortina,

I believe that if the children live in a Chinese speaking environment, then they will learn faster than they were in Europe (particularly if they have Chinese nannies etc) - however, if they were living in France, they would probably become fluent within a year. Not so in a Mandarin speaking environment.

I learnt about 500-700 characters in my course (you can read/use more than you can write, if that makes sense), but to be able to read the paper you need more like 1000-2000.

So, I agree with BecauseIamworth in that learning Mandarin is a great exercise for all the reasons she mentions (a bit like Latin). However, from a strictly practical point of view an A level in Mandarin is almost useless unless more study is planned (or at least a year in China).

Cortina Thu 08-Oct-09 15:02:02

Thanks. Out of interest how long do you think it would take to become fluent in a Chinese speaking environment. I think starting v young is a big advantage?

minervaitalica Thu 08-Oct-09 16:40:23

Yes - the earlier the better - it's the easiest way to become trilingual (I assume 2 European languages are already spoken/been studied).

How long it takes depends on exposure (in Singapore you can get on perfectly well without speaking Chinese, for instance) - if the exposure to the language is at least 30% of their time, probably in a couple of years they could speak it well. However, you are talking about 5 yrs of studying to write/read effectively (although it also depends on the starting age, attitude, ability etc)

BecauseImWorthIt Sat 10-Oct-09 17:04:09

Thanks snotmonster - only just seen this!

Not sure what I'll need, but there's also a language fair at Olympia or Earls Court in November, where apparently we will have the chance to get books free/cheap, so I'll probably take up those offers.

blueshoes Sat 10-Oct-09 18:14:08

Cortina, coming onto this a bit late.

My dd has been taking Mandarin lessons from Reception for a year now. It is 3 hours every Sunday at a Chinese Community School and prepares the children for GCSEs. A lot of the children speak Cantonese (a dialect) at home and have some connection to Hong Kong.

It is by no means guaranteed that just 3 hours of lessons a week in this environment would mean the child is well-prepared for the GCSEs. The principal makes it clear she will not recommend her students for Mandarin GSCEs unless she is confident they can get good grades.

I am from Singapore and studied Mandarin as a second language (did not speak it at home) from ages 5 to 18. I can understand it a lot better than speaking or writing. It really isn't an easy language to pick up without immersion.

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