Mandarin Chinese
As China develops into a world economic powerhouse, more and more people are interested in studying its official language. Over 1.3 billion people speak Mandarin Chinese in China, Singapore and Taiwan and in recent years there has been an increased demand for bilingual Mandarin speakers in the workplace.

Why learn Mandarin Chinese?

We introduced Mandarin Chinese into Eltham College Senior School in 2010. Exposure to the most widely spoken language in the world and to a language which is entirely different to all foreign European languages will not only provide a bold challenge but also great rewards for pupils. The ability to understand and communicate in Mandarin Chinese is a lifelong skill for education, employment and leisure in this country and throughout the world.

Aims of the Department

We aim to provide opportunities for pupils to appreciate different aspects of Chinese culture and to gain an understanding of how the Mandarin Chinese language is structured, manipulated and applied differently from pupils’ own language.

We also aim to help our pupils to develop their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills in Chinese through a variety of opportunities in their learning experience.


Mandarin is offered as an option to boys in Year 7.  Those selecting this language are split into two groups depending on whether they have studied the language before. In Year 7 they have two periods per week and in Year 8 and 9 they study Chinese for three periods per week. Over the years, pupils will learn to talk about a wide range of topics, including family, school life, holidays, food and drink, and so on. Cultural aspects are taught as an integral part of the lessons including the study of some Chinese traditions, Chinese festivals and much more.

Pupils who have continuously studied Mandarin in the Senior School can opt to do Mandarin Chinese for GCSE at the end of Year 9. We offer 4 periods of Mandarin Chinese per week for Year 10 and 11 pupils. Students will continue to develop all four linguistic skills using much more sophisticated vocabulary and sentences patterns. Pupils will also be able to employ a variety of structures in their speaking and writing tasks. There will be an increasing focus on building up their knowledge of Chinese characters, working towards meeting the GCSE requirements. The ability to read and write characters from memory will become very important. At the beginning of Year 11 pupils will be able to comfortably recognise at least 700 characters and write around 350 of those from memory.

We are following the Edexcel Exam Board GCSE course work and the main topics we are learning include:

  • Media and Culture

  • Sport and Leisure

  • Travel and Tourism

  • Business, Work and Employment

The Edexcel GCSE Exam structure is outlined as below:

  • Listening and Understanding in Chinese 20%

  • Speaking in Chinese (controlled assessment) 30%

  • Reading and Understanding in Chinese 20%

  • Writing in Chinese (controlled assessment) 30%


We organise a study trip to China every two years in October half term. It is open to Year 9 to Year 11 pupils who are learning Mandarin Chinese. During the nine-day trip, we visit three major cities in China: Beijing, Xi'an and Tianjin. We will also visit our partner school in Beijing and Tianjin where the pupils can interact with Chinese students and participate in cultural activities.

The trip to China will provide a fantastic opportunity for the pupils to use their Chinese language skills in many practical situations. By visiting many historical sites and interacting with Chinese students it will increase pupils' motivation and interest in their language learning. It is certainly a beneficial experience for pupils who will be preparing for their GCSE Chinese speaking and writing assessment. After a hugely successful study trip to China in 2014 October, the next trip will take place in October half term 2016. Please contact the Mandarin department for more information.


Mandarin Chinese is taught by:

Useful links

Chinese English Online Dictionary

BBC Learning Zone Broadband Class Clip