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UK government promoting Chinese learning

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Flickserve

The initial qualification is GCSE Chinese. Have a look through a textbook to gauge the level required.

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Shelley

Interesting, I like the idea initially, have to give it more thought and research to see exactly what this entails.

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LiMo

It will be interesting to see if it has any effects. 

 

Language courses are supposedly very ineffectual if you go by the usual proficiency achieved by the end of GSCE. My school was a "Specialist Language College" and I doubt if 1 in 1000 students could ever be considered functional in any of the languages taught. It would probably be even worse for Chinese. 

 

Of course, this all seems to be based on the idea that the next century will be Chinese, just as the 20th century has been American and the 19th was British. I think that's a hugely misguided assumption from what I've read elsewhere but that's another topic.

 

At the end of the day learning Chinese is a wonderful thing. I just think the strongest factor in their child's success (regarding the artilce) will be the effects of a private education and parents who can afford it, not their fluency in Mandarin.

 

If I ever have children I'll make them take Mandarin GCSE and A level three or four years early; the way I'll be able to lord my (apparently) amazing offspring over the other parents will make up for my own failure to cash in on Chinese.

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Demonic_Duck

Article is rather short and ends in a strange way (“Founded to educate young Britons in Mandarin, it may next be teaching Chinese tots in English.”) Is the rest hidden behind an invisible paywall or something?

The fact Hatching Dragons have been approached by Chinese investors should surprise exactly no one. Seems like they're just taking a business model that's been tried and tested with ambitious Chinese parents and applying it to ambitious English parents.

My other thought is... what the heck does "on track to fluency" mean? Fluency as a level is already poorly defined, and "on track to fluency" could mean literally anything. If it just means getting 5000 more kids to take Mandarin GCSEs, then 8000 GCSE takers in a country with a population of 65 million is still pretty pathetic.

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Napkat

Could someone please send me a copypaste of the article? The Economist looks to be blocked in China and my VPN doesn't feel like playing nicely. :(

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Gharial

@Napkat: Here's a copy n paste of the article, as who knows how many might be PMing you with it LOL (but if any of the mods are worried about copyright infringement then I guess they'll delete my post soon enough):

 

>>>Chinese schools

Babes among dragons

Ambitious parents give their children a start in Mandarin

Sep 10th 2016

 

[The article is headed by a stock photo of several young white schoolkids being taught what appears to be fingerpainting, with the caption 'One day she'll be your boss']

 

BREXITEERS promised that, free of Europe, Britain would be better equipped to trade with China. But they failed to reckon with the rather sorry state of Chinese-language education in Britain. Though a few years ago David Cameron called on pupils to drop French for Mandarin, few have taken up the former prime minister’s entreaties. Last year just 3,100 students were entered for GCSE exams in Mandarin, compared with 150,000 for French.

 

Yet a few schools detect a growing market for bilingual learning. Kensington Wade, a private school in a posh part of London, will open next year and will eventually admit three- to 13-year-olds. The school will teach all lessons in English and Mandarin and incorporate both Chinese and Western pedagogy, for fees of about £15,000 ($20,000) per year. Some parents are getting their children started even earlier. Hatching Dragons, a Chinese-language nursery across the city in Barbican, aims to turn toddlers into “globally aware, globally capable” citizens, says Cenn John, its founder.

 

The government is also putting a little more money where its mouth is. On September 7th it said it would spend £10m on getting 5,000 state-school pupils “on track” to Mandarin fluency by 2020. The Institute of Education at University College London, which is supporting the project, is aiming to train 100 qualified Chinese teachers during the same period.

 

Both the London schools play on the aspirations and insecurities of today’s parents. Hatching Dragons’ tagline is “Helping your baby fly through life”. Its little charges are mainly from white, upper-middle-class families, with parents who work in industries like law and finance—types most likely to picture their children as part of a globalised world. Wade is targeting a similar bunch. Both schools echo the language of the government in imagining a future where its economy is driven by trade with China.

 

Though they have only recently appeared in London, the schools are already beginning to plan where they might expand. Kensington Wade thinks there is potential to set up elsewhere in Europe. Hatching Dragons, intriguingly, has been approached by Chinese investors interested in bringing its brand to China. Founded to educate young Britons in Mandarin, it may next be teaching Chinese tots in English.<<<

 

Oh, and the article currently has one comment, from an 'ashbird', posted on Sept 10th:

 

"Though a few years ago David Cameron called on pupils to drop French for Mandarin...."
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Had no idea Cameron did that!!
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As kids in the British colony of HK, we all received bi-lingual eduation. The "Vernacular" schools began formal instruction of English in first year of secondary school (roughtly equivalent to US' 7th grade). The "English" schools began earlier - in first year of primary school (US's 1st grade). Worked out just fine. It would be hard to find anyone who graduated from secondary schools who would NOT be bilingual. The good ones went on to read Law in Cambridge. And some became barristers. There is a wide variance across the board in level of proficency attained. BUT NO ONE is NOT bilingual.
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The earlier instruction of a language begins (this includes first language), the easier the learning is. Kids learn languages fast. But of course if you learn as an adult, any language learning will be harder. There is not a lot of mystery to this.

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stapler

I can't say much about the bi-lingual schools. But I do have some thoughts on the government pushing Mandarin.

 

The Australian government did a similar thing a few years ago. They started producing all sorts of papers about "the Asian century" and how Australian kids have to learn Mandarin or the country will be left behind. It was truly bizarre that this kind of policy could be taken seriously by the government. First and most problematically there seems to be zero evidence that lack of Mandarin ability is holding back Australia's (and all this applies to the UK as well) economic development or ability to trade in Asia. As The Economist highlights, it seems to be something dreamt up out of unreasonable anxiety or optimism about what the future world is going to be like rather than actual hurdles being faced.

 

The history of teaching foreign languages in Australia (and I again I imagine exactly the same in the UK, the USA, NZ, Canada, etc) has been a bit of a joke. The school system fails to make students "fluent" (even in the weakest sense) in relatively easier languages like French, Italian, and German (*Japanese is in fact the most popular language at school and of course has had no success - and speaking of, wasn't the whole world going to be Japanese in 1985?). How on earth do people think that given this failure, students are going to be successful with Mandarin? I've actually met a few people who did Mandarin throughout their school lives. They're just the same as us who were compelled or chose to learn a European language: completely non-functional in that language.

 

But more strangely is that this seems to overlook the fact that all English speaking countries don't even seem to have a shortage of native Mandarin speaking citizens to perform any necessary translation or for that matter, the fact that Asian businesses  seem to have enough English speakers for their commercial needs.

 

I think encouraging kids to do Mandarin purely in the hope that it will get them ahead is completely overblown. If you're an anxious wealthy parent surely the best thing to do would be to force your kid into mathematics. The value of being a Mandarin speaker is almost nil for one's future career.

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Angelina

The history of teaching foreign languages in Australia (and I again I imagine exactly the same in the UK, the USA, NZ, Canada, etc) has been a bit of a joke. The school system fails to make students "fluent" (even in the weakest sense) in relatively easier languages like French, Italian, and German (*Japanese is in fact the most popular language at school and of course has had no success - and speaking of, wasn't the whole world going to be Japanese in 1985?)

 

or the elephant in the room: Aboriginal languages? 

 

 

how is Polish going on the UK? no Polish century? and Arabic? 

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li3wei1

I'd be happy if the UK school system managed to teach English competently. Plenty of people graduate from secondary school without a clue what a sentence consists of. Slightly off-topic: my daughter is doing an art GCSE; she knows exactly what she needs to do to pass her exams, but had never heard of Picasso. In languages it's similar: she can memorise huge chunks of German, but can't do basic communicative tasks.

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davoosh

In pragmatic terms I'm not sure how this could be implemented without bad results. Firstly it would mean there would need to be enough qualified Mandarin teachers (which there aren't) - there are lots of native speakers in the UK but I doubt many of them want to go through the teacher training programme.

 

Another problem is if they implement this up to GCSE and beyond, Chinese would need more classroom time than French or Spanish simply due to how different Chinese is, and the longer amount of time needed for writing especially. So from the schools' point of view it is pretty risky. I know a few schools offer Mandarin but only to the brightest students.

 

@Angelina, the Muslim communities in the UK are largely non-Arabs, so it would make more sense to offer Urdu or other heritage language over Arabic. Having said that, there is a big Arab community where I am, and schools offer after-school clubs and there are always community-ran weekend classes, etc. Obviously it is mostly only heritage speakers who attend these. The same thing happens with the Chinese (mostly Cantonese-speaking) community. 

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Shelley

I went to school in Canada from the age of 5 to 14, I lived in Montreal.

 

French was required to graduate from High School. You were expected to have a "working knowledge of French" this was because Quebec was bilingual. Everything was in English and French, signs, all government paperwork, legal papers, package labelling and so on. English schools had to teach French and French school had to teach English,

 

It was not really a problem because you had to use French quite often, so it made sense to learn it, sometimes I think kids wonder why they are being taught another language when they have no intention of going there or any other need to use it. Of course you can't predict the future and you never know what you might need , but that doesn't seem like a good enough reason for kids, who seem to be resistant to learning languages in my experience.

 

I don't know if anyone is if familiar with the history of Quebec in the 70s, but language was part of the problem, they wanted French to become the only language and for Quebec to leave the Canada, and be an independent French speaking country, it didn't happen but the troubles were bad enough to cause our family to leave Canada and come to the UK.

 

http://www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/scripts/explore.php?Lang=1&elementid=103__true&tableid=11&contentlong

 

 

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Flickserve

Chinese students seem to also think English teaching in China is a bit of a joke.

Also in many countries, second language learning for school age is quite 'inadequate'.

In a pragmatic sense, are the expectations of GCSE language too high? True fluency requires intensive study - not GCSE level.

GCSE really is only a primer to give some experience of the subject. From that group, the hope is that a proportion will go on to further studies

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realmayo

I think it comes down to the attitude of 18-year olds who leave school after studying a difficult language like Chinese versus those who leave after studying an easy one like French. My worry is that the former will make only very modest progress and will be sick and tired of the language. They won't want to continue studying it.

 

But those who have studied an easier language will already be able to chat to native speakers, read books, watch some TV. They might decide they like studying languages and are good at it. They're the ones who should be encouraged to consider studying a difficult language like Chinese at university.

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geraldc

Don't see it working. It's fine to learn Chinese as an academic subject, but learning it as a tool for future business use is pointless. Spend the money on music lessons, so there's the chance they'll preserve the skill to recognise absolute or relative pitch, which would prove useful at a later date if they were to decide to take up the language.

 

For a Chinese parent, sending your kid to a bilingual school where there's the chance he might get beaten in Chinese by a non Chinese kid doesn't bear thinking about. You'll start additionally self tutoring at home and try preserve the advantage. So you'll get Chinese kids going to a bi lingual school, and then to a Chinese crammer in the evenings/weekends.

 

Currently it's very difficult for non Chinese to get an A* or A at Chinese. They'd have 3 years Chinese tuition and are going up against Chinese who've been attending additional Chinese school for a decade. As all exams, GCSEs are marked on a curve, so at the top end it will be all the near native/native Chinese students, and the lower grades will be non Chinese.

 

Just to show how competitive it is now for tiger parents now, I have a friend who's Hong Kong Chinese, but emigrated to Canada, but now working in silicon valley, his kids speak Cantonese at home, speak fluent French, English and Mandarin, but they are now going to a school where the medium of instruction is Spanish.

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MarsBlackman

 

 

It's fine to learn Chinese as an academic subject, but learning it as a tool for future business use is pointless.

I'll be the first to agree that there is better use of one's time. Studying Chinese is not the best return on investment if your only goal is to make money. That being said, the UK government, or any government for that matter, has national secret interests when pushing foreign language study. You can't just rely on the other country's citizens to interpret/translate for you. 

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LiMo

I think language learning needs to be totally overhauled. The only reason I can stand Chinese is because I really like it. It should be obvious that for some "non-essential" subjects better results could be achieved with after school programmes for those who show a real interest. A bit like sports clubs, they could have language contests and such. I suppose coverage would be quite spotty so costs would go up -you might have to drive quite far to find another Swahili speaker- but they might be offset by the fact that they're no longer dragging 99% of the school age population along for the ride.

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Luxi

This is the site for the Mandarin Excellence Program for schools England, which is now entering its second year. An ambitious and very interesting program indeed. I hope they do well.

https://ciforschools.wordpress.com/

 

Interesting articles, links and teaching resources as well. Worth exploring.

 

 

 

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Aniston

In my opinion in multicultural country (Malaysia), I would like to share some suggestion as below...

1. Hiring the semi talented or having teaching experience people in bilingual (English and Chinese) - If too expert, they will have the taught "You suppose to know to learner that will diminish the interest to learner" This bring benefit to progress according to learner instead of duck-feeding learning.

2. Implementing with good education system through imitation such as Malaysia as https://www.pressreader.com... . As there is complete for kids from age 3 - 12 that learn enough of word as similar level of HSK exam in China. As the english level in Malaysia still consider to be average (as in IELTS average score 2015). However, if want to implement the accurate (grammar and dialect) that should be sending teacher to China and adapt the knowledge. But, language is used to communicate.

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somethingfunny

IELTS average score 2015 sounds pretty awesome to me.

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