Ni Hao Zhong Guo

By Anabela Mok 2022-07-10 20:35:43

Growing up in Shanghai means being asked “What was it like growing up in China?” for the rest of your life. For many, its relatively the same as their home countries, for others they don’t know the difference of another experience.


The life of an international kid can feel rootless in some ways, but learning the local language can be a grounding source, and will help in future careers if they want to stay and live here after graduation.


Diverse language ability is often cited as a top reason for living a life abroad. International schools offer Mandarin in their curriculum, with most making local language classes mandatory.



Concordia International School Shanghai

Jenny Yuhong Tang, Director of Mandarin

Can you describe your Chinese program?

Concordia offers a rigorous and varied Mandarin curriculum from Pre-School to Grade 12. Multiple levels of Mandarin courses are offered to meet students’ needs and language development levels. We prepare students to be effective communicators.


How is your program structured?

The Mandarin program values the unique features of the Chinese language and matches the cognitive development of our students. We offers two pathways for students: Chinese Language & Literature (CLL) and Chinese Language & Culture (CLC).


The CLL pathway is designed for students with substantial exposure to Mandarin or for those who use Mandarin as a primary language at home. While the CLC pathway is designed for students with varying degrees of exposure.

How is it different between native and non-native speakers?

The focus of the CLL pathway is to enhance learners’ literacy development, and appreciatation for the functionality and aesthetics of the language. This pathway equips students to use Mandarin as a vehicle for expressing thought, creativity, and analysis, and for engaging in both social and academic interaction.


The CLC pathway helps students acquire communication skills and cultural awareness by interweaving the study of language and culture.


What opportunities do students have to showcase their Chinese?
At Concordia, we celebrate our students’ achivements in many ways. Student work is consistantly displayed inside and outside classroom. We also encourage and support students who wish to submit their work to various local and and national Chinese language and culture events and competitions.



Shanghai Community International School

Ingrid Han, Grade 11

Could you describe your Chinese proficiency?

Starting from primary school at SCIS, I learned to read, write, and speak Chinese accurately and was able to learn more through different texts and topics. With Chinese being my mother tongue, I am constantly exposed to this language outside of school, using it with family. Using Chinese has helped me make some of my closest friends. Furthermore, living in China increased the opportunities I have to use this language, strengthening my oral and critical thinking skills. I am currently studying Chinese in the IB Chinese B course. With these experiences, I can confidently say I am native and fluent at Chinese, being able to speak, listen, read, and write.


Why did you decide to study Chinese?

Learning Chinese at school was a decision made by my parents. They wanted me to have more experience and understanding about my culture and native language.


As time passed, I became familiar with this language and more intrigued which resulted in me deciding to continue studying. I made this choice mainly because Chinese was a language that I thought to be very useful, not only in my home country and current surroundings, but worldwide as well.


As a native speaker, I was constantly learning this language in my daily life, but by studying Chinese I could understand it more. Not only could I learn about different books and stories, I could also follow trends. Following social media, I could understand meanings of words used in a different context, which has brought me entertainment and realization as to how much a language can adjust to the society.


When I graduate or move to a different country, having in-depth knowledge about Chinese can allow others to understand more about my culture. Sharing this knowledge with others would give me a sense of accomplishment, being able to understand a language fully and teach others about this language too.

What opportunity does your school provide in furthering your Chinese?

SCIS provides a variety of classes ranging from beginner to experienced. Because I am a native speaker, I went into the experienced and language and literature courses.


We also had opportunities to join competitions such as writing or public speaking to further enhance our skills and broaden our knowledge.


There are many chances to learn Chinese such as the Chinese New Year activities. There would be acrobatic and traditional theatre performances, as well as calligraphy.


How does your home atmosphere support your growth?

My home atmosphere has allowed me to maintain regular contact with the language, using it to communicate with family and people around me. My family has also provided a private tutor to aid me in writing and using effective word choice. These chances to use Chinese outside of school were crucial to strengthen my understanding since I was applying it to my daily life.


Yew Chung International School of Shanghai

In addition to daily language lessons, students in Years 1 - 9 take Chinese Culture class every week. The learning integrates History, Geography, Literature, Art and Music, and traditional festivals, adding meaningful context to the language. Students are exposed to the culture of their host country through activities and learning opportunities which helps them appreciate the deeper meaning of the culture and enhance their character and cultural literacy.


How is the program structured?

The Chinese as First Language (CFL) program starts with Year 1 students confidently engaging with literature and listening, speaking and reading, and writing activities. By Year 3, students can recognise over 1,100 characters. They will master character strokes, stroke order, frequently used radicals, and pinyin. Year 6 students can recognise over 2,500 characters and verbally express themselves smoothly. Students will write confidently and utilise a variety of styles and rhetorical devices. Year 9 students will be self-directed learners who can express ideas and opinions in a logical sequence. Year 11 students can analyse and compare literary texts. Students will have developed the confidence to communicate their thoughts and opinions logically in Chinese.


Chinese as Additional Language (CAL) is divided into nine levels according to age and Chinese ability. The final stages of CAL focus on students’ ability to speak coherently and fluently and participate in discussions on topics related to ideas they are learning in other courses. Students will understand original texts, give detailed written descriptions, and read short literary texts. At this stage, they will possess a deep understanding of Chinese culture, cross-cultural competence, an international perspective, and the essential concept of being a global citizen.


What opportunities do students have to showcase their Chinese?

YCIS holds various speech and writing contests so students can demonstrate their public speaking ability and knowledge of China and its culture.


Students are required to do a Chinese Studies Inquiry Project every semester. Students will hold an exhibition to showcase their learning through interactive display, performance, or debate.


Shanghai French School (LFS)

The International Chinese Stream (SIC) is a unique linguistic, cultural and scientific curriculum. from K1 until Grade 12. It allows students to study Chinese language, literature, culture and mathematics in Chinese. It comes on top of the general French curriculum and allows students to reach a remarkable level of skills and knowledge in Chinese.


How is the program structured?

In primary school, language, mathematics, arts, science, history, and geography are taught in Chinese. In secondary, the focus is on Chinese language and literature, mathematics and arts. This curriculum gives our students the capacity to reach a formal level of language, both oral and written. It is a strong pillar to develop intercultural skills. Students from LFS progress continuously thanks to a dedicated teaching program (six hours of Chinese per week in primary school and up to 8.5 hours in secondary school) as well as a language environment. Their oral and written level allow them to evolve easily in higher education as well as a professional environment in Chinese.


How is it different between native and non-native speakers?

The SIC is aimed at students and families who have a long-term project with China. It requires a full investment from the students and their families in order to succeed in the best way. Whether it is in primary or secondary, our school welcomes in many SIC students who have at least one parent with Chinese as the mother tongue and does not separate native and non-native speakers for the best integration of all. At the Shanghai French School, the prerequisite to enter an international stream is the mastering of French language.


What opportunities do students have to showcase their Chinese?

There are many opportunities for our students to showcase their skills through various pedagogical projects: arts and history exhibitions in school, theatre performances in Chinese, celebration of Chinese festivities, Chinese traditional artcraft, taking part in Chinese language contests. Shanghai French School is also a certification center for YCT and HSK.

German School Shanghai

It is essential for the students to have a degree of fluency in Chinese both as a matter of gratitude towards our host country and an education in diversity.


The Deusche Schule Shanghai Hongqiao campus offers Chinese lessons to all students. Chinese can be chosen as a third foreign language starting in Grade 10. Students not only learn Chinese language, but also gain knowledge about the culture, traditions and society.


In Yangpu campus, Chinese is taught separately by grade and differentiated for fluency. The aim is after Grade 5, students have solid listening comprehension and communicate at ease in daily topics. Advanced Chinese is also available as an Abitur (German HS diploma) subject.


How is the program structured?
Grade 1 and 2 offer three levels with 120 min of classes per week. Starting from Grade 3 four levels are offered. In Grade 3 and 4 all levels enjoy 150 min of lessons per week.


In lower secondary school (Grade 5 to 9) beginners attend 180 min of Chinese classes each week, intermediate and advanced learners attend 90 min.


Starting in higher secondary school (Grade 10 to 12) Chinese can be chosen as a third foreign language with 180 min of lessons per week. The aim after Grade 12 is HSK 3 to 6, depending on the level started.


How is it different between native and non-native speakers?

The focus for non-native speakers is speaking and listening. A basic set of characters, with attention to stroke order, is taught. New content is taught via characters with pinyin transcription. The focus for native or near native speakers is enabling them to read and write according to their level.


What opportunities do students have to showcase their Chinese?

On “Chinese Day” primary students perform songs, short plays or recite Chinese classics. Grade 6 students prepare wallpaper for the hallways. The 8th graders write articles and compile a magazine called “Hi Shanghai”. The advanced classes do this in Chinese. Moreover, students perform music with different Chinese instruments.


Shanghai American School

Nikita, Grade 9

Could you describe your Chinese proficiency?

I passed HSK 4 in the previous grading system, and I’m aiming to score much higher now. My speaking ability and vocabulary keep improving as I take more classes here at SAS. My goal is to be able to read more Chinese literature.


Why did you decide to study Chinese?

Since she was young, my mom has been super interested in China, its culture, and language and that influenced me a lot. At first, I had to learn Chinese because it was compulsory in school. But as it’s such a deep language, the more I learned, the more I fell in love with it. So, I decided to continue with it over other choices like French or Spanish. It’s motivating to be able to say you can speak a language like Chinese.


What opportunities does your school provide in furthering your Chinese?

Right now, I’m at the intermediate Chinese level. Our high school lessons let us practice language about different topics such as sustainability. After learning words and grammar in class through reading, essay writing, and discussion, we get to put the language into action through activities like designing Chinese posters to encourage recycling or learning traditional crafts. I’m excited to go into advanced classes next year, as they have full-on debates and presentations in Chinese.


How does your home atmosphere support your growth?

We don’t speak in Chinese very often at home, but SAS provides resources I can take home, including reading comprehension books that I really enjoy. I aim to get in speaking practice whenever possible! I recommend getting out there and talking, even if all you’re doing is ordering food. It makes a huge difference!


Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong

Shining Yang, Senior School Head of Mandarin


Can you describe your Chinese program?

Our aim is to cultivate students’ knowledge of and appreciation for the Chinese language and culture. Chinese learning has been a priority for our College and is compulsory until Year 9. After that we support our students’ further Mandarin learning through the IGCSE and IB Diploma Programme with many students going on to obtain dual language diplomas.


How is it different between native and non-native speakers?

We have three Chinese pathways. The Chinese Native Language pathway is for heritage learners whose first language is Mandarin. The focus is to develop advanced analytical skills using literary texts, writing skills, and critical thinking. We also have a language pathway for heritage students who first language isn’t Mandarin or who haven’t studied it in awhile. The focus is on reading and writing to understand complex material and the subtleties of language. The Mandarin as a Foreign Language pathway is for newcomers. The course focuses on developing functional listening, speaking, and writing skills and applying them within authentic language settings.

What opportunities do students have to showcase their Chinese?

Our annual Lunar New Year assemblies feature performances and student hosts. There are Co-curricular Activities from traditional musical instruments such as guqin to the annual Chinese literary magazine Dexin to service outreach within the community. Students also take part in a number of competitions within the College and in beyond.


Wellington College International Shanghai

Although English is the official language of the curriculum, Chinese is taught as a core subject. After Prep School, Wellingon College International Shanghai offer it as a first, second or foreign language through IGCSE and then IB Chinese A, Chinese B and a Mandarin ab initio course.


How is the program structured?

Besides the structured curriculum, we also have Chinese Cultural Studies designed for Year 7 - 9 pupils with native or near-native language ability. The course helps pupils form a complete understanding of Chinese culture, improve their language skills (especially reading and writing), critically reflect on modern and traditional Chinese societies and develop strong cultural awareness, which will lay a solid foundation for the study of IGCSE Chinese First Language and IB Chinese A Language and Literature.


How is it different between native and non-native speakers?

From Year 1 to 13, Chinese First Language, Chinese Second Language and Mandarin Foreign Language are taught at the same time. We assess performance and place pupils on the appropriate path. Unlike subjects such as maths and science, we have no guarantee that children of the same age will be at the same level of attainment.


What opportunities do students have to showcase their Chinese?

Traditional Chinese festivals provide enriching activities throughout the year. The school organises singing and writing competitions as well as clubs for debate or dance. We also publish an annual magazine called The Chinese Book of Wellingtonian Language.


Harrow International School Shanghai

Elaine C, Year 10


Could you describe your Mandarin proficiency?

I’m interested in masterpieces such as “Records of the Grand Historian” and Zizhi Tongjian, as I enjoy learning about historical events and figures. I often read contemporary writers to broaden my horizons. For instance, “Diary of a Madman” by Lu Xun, “The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo” and “The Importance of Living” by Yutang Lim, are my favorite books. I also have the opportunity to read and understand classical Chinese.


Why did you decide to study Mandarin?

Chinese is my mother tongue and I feel obliged to learn it. Ever since I was a child, I recited ancient poetry, however, I did not try to understand the background. When I learned the Song Dynasty poem by Su Shi I was shocked and touched by its elegant vocabulary, and the poet’s open, optimistic mindset. I was eager to understand the background and curious about the writer. I think the charm of learning ancient poetry is that a poem written in a certain time can echo one’s emotions exactly.

What opportunities does your school provide in furthering your Chinese?

The topics in class involve all aspects of our lives, discussions on family and friendship, thoughts from philosophers, and choices about life and personal qualities. We also focus on classical Chinese to learn, recite, and master content, function words, and sentence patterns. It helps me understand content when I read classical works outside class. In our Extracurricular Extended Learning we read the book “The Legend of the Hulan River”. During traditional festivals, we learn related knowledge, studying Qu Yuan on Dragon Boat Festival.


How does your home atmosphere support your growth?

My parents always encourage me to dive deep into Mandarin learning, since they feel it is important to understand our traditions.