Talking the talk

Updated: 2015-11-20 08:06

By Riazat Butt and Cecily Liu(China Daily Europe)

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Talking the talk

A Confucius classroom at Brighton College, which is the first in Britain to make Mandarin a compulsory subject. Cecily Liu / China Daily

In the UK this year, there are 3,099 Chinese A-level students, compared to 10,328 for French and 8,694 for Spanish, and 3,710 GCSE Chinese students, compared with 157,699 for French and 90,782 for Spanish.

In addition to young students, Mandarin learning has become popular among working professionals who do business with China, and the London School of Economics' Confucius Institute leads the provision of Mandarin courses tailored toward this population.

"We have received very positive feedback from students and organizations we have worked with such as HSBC, JP Morgan, PWC and EY," says Nick Byrne, director of LSE Language Centre.

"We have provided a great platform to let business communities in London and LSE members know more about China via Chinese language study, cultural talks and cultural events. The scholarships opportunities managed by us have also allowed lots of learners supported by us to study in China."

Some European countries are following the UK's footsteps in encouraging Mandarin learning.

"In Germany we have Chinese as a real high school subject in about 80 schools," says Andreas Guder, of the Institute of Chinese Studies at the Free University of Berlin, who is also president of the Association of Chinese Teachers in German Speaking Countries.

About 5,000 German students are learning Chinese, Guder says. "We have about 20 universities where you can study Sinology or Chinese studies. That will give you a high command of Chinese."

In France, modern languages are mandatory at primary and secondary school levels. Reforms introduced between 2010 and 2012 reinforced the learning of foreign languages in all high school classes to ensure that every student leaving high school is proficient in at least two modern languages, France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says.

Chinese is the fifth-most widely taught language in France; it was studied by 41,000 French secondary education students and 17,000 higher education students in 2013-14, the ministry says.

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