Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese

Head of Department – Mrs V.K. Allen

Mandarin Chinese has been taught at TBGS since 2006 and offers a wide range of levels focusing on both language and culture. China is a country which is changing rapidly and whose economy is growing steadily. With more and more Chinese nationals travelling overseas, and more and more businesses trading with China, Mandarin will prove to be an extremely useful tool now and in the future.

Furthermore, the academic challenge of learning a new, non-Roman script language will stretch all students’ way of learning, way of thinking, and help them to think more deeply about the world around them, including their own culture. Learning languages opens so many doors into one’s own thinking and experiences, and also creates new opportunities for the future.

Regular Events and Language Assistants

We are very fortunate to have a Chinese language teacher come to join us from October to July each year. They are Chinese native speakers who fully qualified teachers in China, and will specialise in teaching Mandarin Chinese to non-native learners. They are sponsored by the Chinese government and take a full part in school life.

We run a weekly study session for students of Chinese and Japanese. Each Friday there is a lunchtime session for anyone needing support with their studies. Look out for the Hanyu Helper reminder on the bulletin.

In addition to study in the classroom, we also hold a number of events each year:

  • Chinese New Year day for all Year 8 students of Chinese – a carousel of activities introducing events and traditions that happen in Chinese communities across the world during this celebration period (January/February)
  • International Market – selling various international food and drink from all of the language areas taught at TBGS (November)
  • China Trip – a two week trip to China, open to students of Chinese in Years 10, 11 and 12. The trip takes place in July each year, visiting Beijing and one other city (decided by our hosts). Information letters are handed out in lessons in September each year.


Year 8 (CME 1)

In Year 8 we provide an introduction to the Chinese language and culture. All four skills are taught simultaneously to encourage students to become familiar with the reading and writing of characters from the outset. Pinyin (romanisation) will be used to support learning.

The following topic areas are covered:

  • Personal information (name, greetings and social pleasantries);
  • Number work (age, dates, birthdays, measure words);
  • Countries, languages and nationalities (including place of residence);
  • Dictionaries skills (paper and online versions);
  • Family (measure words, alternative question formats);
  • Education and employment;
  • Chinese festivals (Spring Festival);
  • Past, present and future tenses.

By the end of Year 8 an average student is expected to be able to read 60 characters and write between 30 and 50 individual characters (level 4). An exceptional student will be able to read up to 150 characters and write up to 100 characters (level 5+).

Year 9 (CME 1 & 2)

In Year 9 students will build on their Year 8 work, continuing to use characters wherever possible and becoming less reliant on the use of pinyin. Students will be taught more complex grammar and be expected to use it wherever possible.

The following topic areas are covered:

  • Continents and the ability to speak languages;
  • Employment and places of employment;
  • Travel and transport (including time; the comparative and the superlative);
  • Hobbies, sports, music and the arts;
  • Chinese festivals (Dragon Boat festival).

By the end of Year 9 an average student is expected to be able to read 100 characters and write between 50 and 100 individual characters (level 5). An exceptional student will be able to read up to 250 characters and write up to 150 individual characters (level 6+).

Additional notes: in the Summer term of Year 9 the class splits into two groups, yet remaining with the same teacher:

Group A will consist of the pre-GCSE group who will make a head-start on the grammar and topics required for AQA GCSE Chinese.

Group B will consist of those who have elected not to continue Chinese in KS4. This group will use their existing knowledge of Chinese to complete the OCR ASSET qualification Breakthrough Chinese, levels 1-3. All pupils in this group complete level 1, most complete level 2, some complete level 3.

GCSE Examination Board: AQA

– following the new AQA GCSE Mandarin Chinese course, first examined in Summer 2019

The exam comprises of four parts: Listening; Speaking; Reading and Writing. There are translation elements in both the Reading and Writing papers. All papers are taken at the end of Year 11.

Year 10 (AQA GCSE Textbook 1)

Building on the foundations of KS3, students will continue to work through the following topics in all four skill areas:

  • Hobbies
  • Around town, modes of transport and directions
  • Family
  • Education and the world of work
  • Shopping and money
  • Describing people (physical description and personality)
  • Food and drink
  • Daily routine, time and the school day
  • Holidays, weather and Chinese-speaking cities (Shanghai, Xi’an and Taibei)

We will also read a selection of Chinese poetry and short pieces of prose in Chinese. By the end of Year 10 students will be able to write 225-330 characters.

Year 11 (AQA GCSE Textbook 2)

Further topics that will be covered this year will include:

  • The environment
  • Media and new technology
  • Charity work and volunteering
  • Work experience
  • Lifestyle, healthy eating and exercise
  • Future plans
  • Further Chinese-speaking cities such as Singapore, Beijing and Hong Kong

By the end of Year 11 students will be able to write 350 – 400 characters from memory.

For further details on the exam specification, please click on the link attached:


In the Sixth form, there are two pathways open to students.

If students have never studied Chinese before or have only studied it in Year 8 and 9, they may take the IB Mandarin Ab Initio course. This runs over five terms and aims to bring students’ language levels up to the equivalent of post-GCSE. As this is a beginners’ course, this option is not open to native or semi-native speakers or students who have studied Mandarin at GCSE.

The above course is also available in a Japanese language option.

If students have studied GCSE Mandarin, then they are able to study the IB Mandarin Standard Level course. This runs over five terms and expands the students’ knowledge of Chinese language and culture.

Students who are native speakers of Chinese or Japanese are not permitted to take the above courses, and must instead take their native language as the Language A if they wish to study it as part of their IB course.

   IB information for Chinese and Japanese Ab Initio courses – 2018


   IB information for Chinese SL course – 2018


Future Careers

There are very few careers which are not enhanced by the ability to speak a foreign language. Previous students have used their language ability in business, teaching, engineering, PR, and law to name a few. Many employers are impressed by the ability to learn a hard script language such as Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Arabic or Russian as it provides an insight into the resilience and the determination of the student concerned. These traits can be useful tools in themselves, or can provide a springboard for organisations to send individuals on more specific language-learning courses to fully familiarise themselves with the technical language of the business concerned.