• 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: www.britishcouncil.org/schoolsonline