Mandarin test debuts nationwide

Updated: 2011-12-26 08:05

By Li Yao and Wang Hongyi (China Daily)

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Du Jun, who helped organize the test at Nankai University in Tianjin, said 240 people sat the exam.

"We invited applications on Dec 15. The next day, the 200 slots for university students were all taken. Students were eager to have their Chinese level assessed and try new things," Du said.

While it is not mandatory to go through a Chinese course in most universities, it is so in Nankai University. "The HNC test results will help us improve the Chinese teaching system and potentially help our students in the job market," she said.

Yin Lirui, 19, a first-year student majoring in tourism English at Beijing Youth Politics College, took the HNC Level 5 exam but regretted that she did not have time to make better preparations.

"If I can take a makeup test in the future, I will try harder. An HNC certificate will help me find jobs as a tourist guide," she said.

In Shanghai, more than 600 people, mostly university students and civil servants in judicial and public security departments, took the exam.

"The country almost has a crisis in its language. Now students spend much time learning English. More and more foreign languages have already entered into Chinese people's daily lives," said a woman surnamed Wang, who graduated with Chinese major, and was working as a secretary in a State-owned company.

"Perhaps the Chinese language ability test could rekindle the enthusiasm for learning Chinese in young people," she said.

Chao Zongqi, a professor of Chinese at East China Normal University in Shanghai, said the new HNC test was the government's response to longtime public concern about Mandarin being neglected because of the appeal of English.

"Most college students are enthusiastic about getting tested on their English and pay little attention to their native language skills," Chao said.

One of the reasons why the HNC was evolved was because employers often demanded an official certificate to gauge the applicants' communication skills in Mandarin. This was particularly relevant to those seeking opportunities in civil service, at public institutions, in the customs and public relations, Chao explained.

"The HNC certificate will come in handy for those seeking jobs in tutoring Chinese and Chinese writing. It would reassure parents that their kids were in good hands," said Han Peng, 27, owner of an after-school tutoring center in Shijingshan district, Beijing.

According to the 2010 report on language situation in China issued by the Ministry of Education in May, Chinese students were found to have poor writing and other practical skills in Mandarin. The report cited a survey polling college students in Beijing, which showed 30 percent had failed in a mock HNC test.