students in costume
Students performing at the competition final  ©

Malcolm Harris 

A great, fun opportunity for students to practise and improve their Mandarin Chinese language skills. 

The British Council is pleased to announce that a digital Mandarin Speaking Competition will take place in a series of online events. The competition provides a great opportunity for secondary school students to practice and improve their Mandarin language skills.

Taking part in the competition:

  • increases students’ motivation for learning the language
  • develops vocabulary and improves pronunciation
  • raises confidence for oral examinations
  • encourages students to interact with their classmates
  • inspires students to discover more about Chinese culture.

What is the prize?

In past years, a trip to China was the prize for the winners of this competition. Unfortunately that will not be possible this year, due to COVID-19. But we are working with our partners on an idea for an intriguing alternative prize.

Applications for 2020/21

The application process will open in early January 2021 when full details on eligibility, criteria, guidelines and safeguarding procedures will be communicated on this website.  


The competition is open to UK, Channel Island and Isle of Man secondary schools (including sixth form and further education colleges) and entrants must be non-native speakers of Mandarin Chinese.

Students in the competition may not:

  • have a native Chinese* speaking parent or be from a Chinese* speaking household; (*any Chinese language/dialect)
  • have spent more than a total of two years in a country where Chinese* is an official language. (*any Chinese language/dialect)
  • have spent more than a total of 30 days in a Chinese* speaking country per year since beginning their Mandarin studies (*any Chinese language/ dialect)
  • have previously been the winner (or the runner-up awarded the prize if the winner could not take it) in any category of the Individual Language Ability or Group section.



The Beginner category is open to students who started learning Mandarin Chinese on or after 1 September 2019 (August 2019 for students in Scotland). Beginner category students with over 3 hours of regular Mandarin classroom hours per week will be placed in the Beginner Plus sub-category.

The Intermediate category is open to students who started learning Mandarin Chinese between 1 September 2017 and 1 September 2019. (August 2017 and 2019 for students in Scotland). Intermediate category students with over 3 hours of regular Mandarin classroom hours per week will be placed in the Intermediate Plus sub-category.

The Advanced category is open to students who started learning Mandarin Chinese before 1 September 2017. (August 2017 for students in Scotland)

This year, all group performances will be submitted in pre-recorded video format with a deadline of 22nd March 2020. Guidelines for the group video performances, as well as judging criteria, will be available online here by 12 February 2021 latest. The performance should last up to three minutes and it could be a short song or a drama but it must have Chinese content and be related to Chinese culture.  All members of the group need to participate equally and students must write the performance themselves. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year the groups should not be mixed categories, but rather be formed within school year-group bubbles. 

Please read the terms and conditions fully prior to submitting your application form.

How to apply

Please fill out an Expression of Interest form by 18 December 2020. This will help the team prepare for the new format.


Full applications will be open on 11 January 2021. The online application will be available on this website, with a closing date of 12 February 2021.


11 January – 12 February 2021: Applications open.

22 March 2021: Group Video entry submission deadline.

22 – 26 March 2021: Individual Heats week.

26 – 30 April 2021: Individual Finals week.

17 – 21 May 2021: Live winners announcement and celebration event.

Our top tips for entrants

What is an entry?

Your entry can be traditional or modern, but it should be something which is uniquely Chinese, related to Chinese culture or China. You also need to write it yourselves without help from your teacher. 

Pay attention to tones and correct stress patterns - The competition rewards ability to communicate in Mandarin. And communicating effectively means getting your tones and stress patterns broadly right - that goes for vowel and consonant sounds too.

Stick with a language level with which you feel comfortable - It’s easy to be tempted to show off by including advanced vocabulary. You are encouraged to be a bit adventurous but the more ambitious you are, the more difficulty you’ll have using the words when questioned. Make sure you are saying things that you understand. 

Don't memorise too much - For the Individual Language Ability categories, the judges are looking for students who can use the language to talk about topics without sounding too rehearsed.

On the day of the online performance

Don't panic when you make a mistake - We understand that you will be nervous on the day. The odd tone mistake won’t be penalised so remain calm and carry on if this happens to you.

It’s also an important part of your preparation to make sure you have read the judging criteria. Check the downloads at the bottom of this page for updated guidance related to competition entrants (to be uploaded in January).

For enquiries please call our customer services team on 0161 957 7755 or email