Mandarin or French?(14 Posts)
For y7? Choose either. 300m Chinese people are learning English. Depends which one your DC is interested in and how much further they wish to take languages. Clearly Mandarin has its challenges - maybe more so than Spanish. Further to go to practice it.
Mandarin it tonal which can be tricky for some people, but the grammar is pretty easy - no real tenses, no genders, no conjugating verbs. One of the hardest things I find is if I come across a new word it's so bloody complicated to look it up in a dictionary - identify the radical, count the stokes etc. Obviously easier to draw it on the ipad, but don't always have that option.
I love languages, and I've studied all three. Mandarin is much much harder than French or Spanish for a beginner. But I did find it difficult to separate French and Spanish because they are similar.
It depends on the character of your DC imo. Are they not keen on languages because they find language learning challenging? Or because it's not what interests them? If it's the former, go for French as it will be much easier for them to feel they are making progress. If the latter, then Mandarin might be different enough to spark an interest in languages. Personally I've found getting my head round Mandarin to be one of the most exciting and rewarding things I've ever done.
Overall though I'd say let them choose, as you say if they are not going to carry on with either it is not so important long term.
Agree with Drowsy - let them choose. But if they are not really interested in languages then I would go with French.
There is a good discussion of the choices, an the different ways of making a choice based on what you think is important, in this British Council Report:
If you combine all the criteria in a weighted scheme, Spanish comes out in first place, French is 3rd and Mandarin 4th. If you think about number of native speakers, Mandarin is first by a mile and French does not make the top ten. There are other orderings based on what you think is important. It's worth a read.
In the experience of my DC, Mandarin teachers are usually native speakers. This is generally thought to be a good thing, but with it comes the cultural differences. In China, the expectation is that DC will sit down and shut up and learn. In the UK, children expect to be be engaged in their learning. (Not saying one is better than the other, but IME, Chinese teachers tend to have difficulty controlling a class, because of the different expectations.)
Also, a native Mandarin speaker may well not express themselves well in English. Often, they can come across as a bit harsh, because in European languages, the meaning of a sentence is changed by tone, but in Mandarin, the tone used changes the meaning of a word. So, they may not be good at communicating in English. (An example of this is Cherish Finden, the judge of Creme de la creme, who comes across as very harsh in her comments, but actually often gives higher scores than the other judges. DD2 has met her, and she was lovely!)
DD1 did Mandarin for a couple of years, in senior school, and had a succession of different teachers. The one she found best was an Irish woman, who, because she was an English speaker, who had learned the language herself, understood what it was to do so.
DS has learnt Mandarin since year 3, and is now in year 7. He has received reasonable marks for the subject, but is now intending to give up in year 8. He has found the native speakers to be unengaging.
I have leant a little Mandarin, when I was backpacking in my early 20s. I found it fascinating, because of the differences in the writing and the grammar, and the way tone is used.
If a Mandarin teacher could instill a sense of these things, then I think their students would do very well.
IME, Chinese teachers tend to have difficulty controlling a class, because of the different expectations - also the experience of one of my DCs who did mandarin for GCSE. It created quite a lot of tensions in the class between pupils who wanted to get on with learning and pupils who enjoyed the winding up of the teacher..
My DC does not regret doing mandarin at all (also did French and Latin) but IMO a DC has to quite like drawing characters and not mind the discipline of rote memorising of them since a lot of repetitive effort is needed for this. I think at GCSE a pupil can get away without really mastering the different tones.
Would go for Mandarin if dc is good at art e.g. line drawing (for writing) and music for tone or if likely they will go into a field where they might live in China/Hong Kong for a while
Agree with previous posters that it is easy to mix up French and Spanish.
I suspect that unless dc has a particular talent for languages they will go with 1 at GCSE because of all the other options and because languages are more harshly marked (see bbc education website today). In future its likely that a year or two of French might allow more proficiency than similar of Mandarin
Dd1 did Mandarin for 5 years nearly every day in an International school overseas .When we returned she was aged 10 and subsequently did French/Spanish and two Latin GCSE's.She found them incredibly easy,as she found the Mandarin so difficult.But she said it was good preparation for learning other languages and perhaps gave her an 'ear' for picking up sounds.She absolutely hated Mandarin at the time and still says it's by far the hardest language to learn.
The moral of this story is don't do Mandarin unless you're really brilliant at learning languages or you live with a Native Mandarin speaker.
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