Mandarin Chinese

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.

Established at Gresham’s in 2011, the Chinese department has flourished. The aims for students learning Mandarin are broadly threefold:

  • To gain an understanding of Chinese language, culture, and society
  • To achieve requirements for public exams
  • To acquire effective language foundations to participate in the global economy

For students engaged with learning Chinese, the process necessarily examines their capacity for patience, dedication, and perseverance. Effort and resilience are supported and rewarded by the inherent fascination which Mandarin learning procures. Qualities involved in this inspiring journey become easily transferable to benefit other academic disciplines and the personal attributes of students. We are delighted to provide Mandarin teaching from two native Chinese teachers with an authentic traditional background accompanied by a contemporary understanding of learning and teaching internationally.

Mrs Chunlian Greenfield from Sichuan province was trained as a teacher in the IOE in London and has worked in leading schools including Abingdon School, Reading School and Epsom College in Malaysia.

Mr Albert Chen comes from Jilin province. Following a successful two-years teaching period in Thailand, he comes to Gresham’s, through the British Council and Hanban Chinese partnership programme.

Lower School

In Year 9, students who choose to do Mandarin 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 in Year 10 can choose to continue studying Mandarin. By the end of Year 11, they will take Chinese at GCSE.

Sixth Form

Lower 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. (For those students who wish to study Mandarin Chinese at Sixth Form they need to achieve a minimum A grade at GCSE to be eligible to study the IB B SL course). We also offer A level Mandarin Chinese courses to native Chinese students.


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 (students will be taken to 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.