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. 

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?

A week in Beijing. Students will visit historical sites, interact with Chinese students and experience Chinese culture with the British Council, who have over twenty years’ experience in running cultural exchanges with China.

Applications for 2019/20

Applications for the 2019/20 British Council Mandarin Speaking Competition are open: please complete the online application form by Monday 14 October 2019.

Please note: we are having issues with the application form loading in Chrome and some other browsers.  The form should work correctly in Internet Explorer and Firefox. We apologise for any inconvenience.


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.

Entering individuals

Please note: changes were made to all categories in 2018 - please read the terms and conditions fully.

The Individual Language Ability has three categories: beginner, intermediate and advanced, as well as two sub-categories: beginner plus and intermediate plus. Make sure you enter students into the right category for their level of learning. 

Students will need to prepare a two-minute presentation in Mandarin on a topic from the curriculum e.g. family and friends, school, home and pets, leisure time, festivals etc. The judges will then ask them two questions in Mandarin relating to their presentation and to translate three sentences from English into Mandarin.

Instead of sentences to translate, students in the intermediate and intermediate plus categories will be given a scenario in English which will require them to respond in Mandarin.

Students in the advanced category will also be given a sentence or phrase in Mandarin and asked to give a short impromptu speech starting with the sentence or phrase. 

Entering groups

For the groups category, five students from at least two year group and two individual language ability categories at one school need to prepare a performance in Mandarin. The performance should last up to five minutes and it could be a short song or a drama but it must have Chinese content and be related to China.  All members of the group need to participate equally and students must write the performance themselves. Scripts will be checked before the performance, and marks will be deducted where the script of a performance is clearly influenced by a teacher.

On the day of the competition, make sure you don’t prompt your students, it’s best to sit on the back row.  

Please read the guidelines for teachers for full guidance on how to prepare and the judging criteria 2019/20.

How to apply

Applications for the 2019/20 British Council Mandarin Speaking Competition are open: please complete the online application by Monday 14 October 2019.


Monday 14 October 2019: Application deadline.

Wednesday 20 November 2019: Regional Heat in Belfast

Tuesday 26 November 2019: Regional Heat in Glasgow

Tuesday 3 December 2019: Regional Heat in London (individual language ability only)

Monday 9 December 2019: Regional Heat in London ( individual language ability and group performances)

Wednesday 5 February 2020: Competition Final in London

Top tips for students

Preparing an entry as an individual

You need to give a two-minute presentation on a topic of your choice e.g. family and friends, school, home and pets, leisure time, festivals etc. The judges will mark on how well you communicate your presentation, your fluency of Mandarin, your use of vocabulary, grammar and your pronunciation. 


Your teacher will make sure you are entered into the right category for your level of learning. 

Preparing an entry as a group 

Your group must prepare a five-minute presentation together in Mandarin. The judges will mark the group on their communication, pronunciation, use of vocabulary and grammar. You also need to think about how the performance relates to Chinese culture as this category includes marks for cultural content. 


Also, make sure that all members of your group take part and that no one person has a bigger part than another.

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. 

Our top tips for all entrants

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 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.

You can also read our full guidelines for students.

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

Regional heats in Northern Ireland and Scotland are delivered in partnership with Confucius Institute at Ulster University and SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages.