Sunday 08 February 2015


• Secondary school students from across the UK are set to showcase their language skills in the grand final of the HSBC/British Council Mandarin Chinese Speaking Competition

• The nationwide competition aims to encourage greater interest in Chinese language and culture – which is vital to the UK’s future prosperity

• Over 2,500 young people have entered the Mandarin Chinese Speaking Competition since 2003

A group of 108 talented secondary school students from across the country appear to be a step ahead in the global race, thanks to their Mandarin Chinese language skills.

HSBC predicts that China will become the world’s largest economy by 2050 (Source: HSBC Global Research, The World in 2050, by Karen Ward, January 2012), with young Brits showcasing their sought after linguistic abilities at today’s HSBC/British Council Mandarin Chinese Speaking Competition grand final in a bid to win a trip of a lifetime to China. 

As the number of students taking a GCSE in Mandarin remains small, the nationwide competition aims to encourage greater interest in Chinese language and culture – which is vital to the UK’s future prosperity. Chinese is already spoken by more than a billion people worldwide with China recognised as the world’s second biggest economy. However, official statistics show that only 3,132 students took a GCSE in Mandarin Chinese last year in comparison to 168,402 who took French and 93,028 students who took Spanish. The British Council’s Languages for the Future report in 2013 also showed that only 1% of UK adults can speak Chinese.

Now in its twelfth year, the national competition is aimed at students who are non-native speakers, who have started learning Mandarin Chinese recently. Since 2003, over 2,500 young people have entered the Mandarin Chinese Speaking Competition and it has helped inspire hundreds of young people to further their language studies - some going on to graduate in Mandarin Chinese. 

Regional heats were held in London and Newcastle in December 2014, with only the best making it through to the final at the British Museum in London. The youngsters come from 35 secondary schools across the country – from Brighton to Glasgow to Flintshire in North Wales.

They will compete in either the Individual Language Ability or Group Performance section. In the Individual section, contestants give a short presentation in Mandarin, translate sentences from English into Mandarin and are tested on their knowledge of China and Chinese culture. In the Group Performance section, groups of between four and six students perform a piece of drama in Chinese – involving imaginative performances and costumes. The judging panel will be made up of native and non-native speakers of Mandarin, from a variety of backgrounds.

As part of their prize, the ten winners will scale China’s Great Wall, explore Beijing's Forbidden City, and enjoy cultural activities with Chinese students at local schools.

Vicky Gough, Schools Adviser at the British Council said: “For the UK to continue to prosper in the global marketplace, we need more of our young people to develop their language skills to work confidently around the world and in multinational organisations here in the UK. With China now the world’s second biggest economy, a good understanding of Chinese language and culture will give young people the advantage they need to live in a global society and compete in a global economy – it is fantastic to see so many talented school students already choosing to learn Mandarin Chinese and bringing their skills to this competition.”

Lorraine Thomas, Senior Manager Global Education and UK Community Investment at HSBC said: “The competition highlights the importance of cross-cultural understanding and gives young people from the UK an opportunity to develop and improve their language skills. We are delighted to continue supporting the competition and encouraging young people to learn about China.”

The British Council and HSBC have joined forces to run the competition since 2003. The British Council builds relationships for the UK through English, Education and Culture programme, and already links thousands of pupils and teachers in the UK and China. Since 2000, HSBC has supported over 1,000 UK schools host teachers from China to help children learn more about the language and Chinese culture.

To help children across the UK celebrate Chinese New Year and learn more about Chinese language and culture, the British Council and HSBC have also just launched the ‘Year of the Sheep Primary Education Pack’ which has been sent to every primary school in the country. It is available online here: 

Notes to Editor

For more information about the competition, or to arrange interviews, please contact Kristen McNicoll in the British Council Press Office on 020 7389 4967 or

·         This year, Chinese New Year’s Day is on 19 February, and is the beginning of the Year of the Sheep. It is also sometimes known as the Year of the Goat or the Ram.

  • The schools in the final are:

Argoed High School, Flintshire; St Mary Magdalene Academy, London; Dulwich College, London; King Edwards VI Grammar School, Chelmsford; The Blue Coat School, Wavertree; Bohunt School, Liphook; Highgate School, London; Alexandra Park School, London; Christ Hospital School, Horsham; The King's School Canterbury, Canterbury; Hampton School, Hampton; Malvern College, Malvern; Dollar Academy, Dollar; The Edinburgh Academy, Edinburgh; George Heriot's School, Edinburgh; Ibstock Place School, London; Sevenoaks School, Sevenoaks; Halcyon London International School, London; Altrincham Grammar School for Boys, Bowdon; Sir Roger Manwood's School, Sandwich; Clifton College, Bristol; Archbishop Sentamu Academy, Hull; Ponteland High School, Ponteland; Brighton College, Brighton; Wellington College, Crowthrone; Chelmsford County High School, Chelmsford; La Retraite School, London; Kingsford Community School, London; St Helen's School, Northwood; St.Gabriel's School, Newbury; Our Lady's Convent High School, London; Oundle School, Peterborough; Highdown School and Sixth Form Centre, Reading; Benenden School, Cranbrook; Hillhead High School, Glasgow. 

·         The British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.


We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.


We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publicly-funded grant provides 20 per cent of our turnover which last year was £864 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, such as English classes and taking UK examinations, and also through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally. 


For more information, please visit: You can also keep in touch with the British Council through and


·         HSBC Bank plc

HSBC serves 16.1 million customers in the UK and employs approximately 43,500 people.  In the UK, HSBC offers a complete range of personal, premier and private banking services including bank accounts and mortgages. It also provides commercial banking for small to medium businesses and corporate and institutional banking services. HSBC Bank plc is a wholly owned subsidiary of HSBC Holdings plc.          


·         The HSBC Group

HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of the HSBC Group, is headquartered in London. The Group serves customers worldwide from over 6,200 offices in over 74 countries and territories in Asia, Europe, North and Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. With assets of US$2,729bn at 30 September 2014, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations.


·         HSBC Global Education Programme

At HSBC, we believe that education is key to prosperity. Education is the most significant focus of the Group’s community investment programme. Globally we invest US$50 million a year in education projects and thousands of HSBC employees get involved. Together, we help young people fulfil their potential by: providing access to education, developing life-skills and entrepreneurship, and promoting international and cultural understanding.