Mandarin Chinese is spoken by more than a billion people making it the most widely spoken language in the world. It is spoken almost three times more than English as a first language. Gresham’s is one of the very few schools in Norfolk which offers Mandarin as part of the main curriculum.
Gresham’s has established an outstanding profile for its expertise in Mandarin teaching and learning and China studies, in the region, nationwide and overseas. We have been teaching Mandarin to non-native speakers since 2011, and the number of pupils is growing as the subject becomes popular and embedded in the life of the School. We have had an A Level/IB cohort since 2012 and are seeing non-native speakers applying to read Chinese or Oriental/Asian Studies courses at Oxbridge and other leading universities.
There are many compelling reasons to study Chinese. Chinese is particularly fascinating because of its beautiful logographic characters, melodic spoken language, and poetic phrasing. There are many practical reasons to acquire another language and Chinese is becoming an increasingly invaluable asset within global relationships and dialogues.
In Year 9, students who choose to do Mandarin as a beginner’s course are given an introduction to the language and culture. The course focuses on all four linguistic skills at a beginners’ level. Cultural elements are also embedded in the programme: students are given or choose their own Chinese name, learn about Chinese festivals, making Chinese food in the school kitchen and utilising traditional skills such as paper cutting and Chinese calligraphy. After the one year ‘taster’ course in Year 9, pupils can choose to continue studying Mandarin as one of their GCSE subjects. For native and advance Mandarin leaner, pupils will have small class tutorial to prepare them for Cambridge Mandarin Chinese GCSE 1st language and 2nd Language examination.
All pupils who have completed one year of Mandarin learning course, will be able to have opportunity take external YCT examination. The HSK/YCT (Chinese Proficiency Test) is an international standardised Chinese Language test which measures the ability of non-native speakers such as foreign students and overseas Chinese.
During the Sixth Form students who choose to do the IB Diploma have the option to take Mandarin at different levels (ab initio, IB SL/HL). IB Mandarin is a challenging and effective programme that by the end of the two-year course, students will have a sound knowledge of Mandarin and a deeper intercultural understanding.
Pre-U Chinese is also offered as a stepping stone for Sixth Formers who wish to take their study further. The majority of pupils who study Pre-U Chinese at Gresham’s go on to pursue a degree in Chinese Studies or a related subject area. Whilst native speakers of Chinese are encouraged to take A level examinations.
Events and Trips
Every year, it has become a tradition at Gresham’s to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Activities include cooking (their own authentic Chinese dishes), eating (at a Chinese restaurant), or joining the Chinese students at the New Year hot pot party.
Trips to China have been organised for students to help them learn more about the Chinese culture and language. Previously, as part of an overseas programme, students received 20 hours of Mandarin lessons and travelled to Beijing and Xian to visit schools and historical sites such as the Great Wall of China, the Summer Palace, the Terracotta Warriors, and local villages and markets. They also took part in cultural activities such as tai-chi in the morning, played Chinese musical instruments and extended the cultural immersion programme by singing a Mandarin song to an audience of more than 500 people which was broadcast on China’s national TV. Gresham’s China Tour 2020 will be the next trip.