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.

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 students. 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 students 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 students’ own language.

We also aim to help our students 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 students 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, students 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.

Students who have continuously studied Mandarin in the Senior School can opt to do Mandarin Chinese for GCSE course at the end of Year 9. We offer 4 periods of Mandarin Chinese per week for Year 10 and 11 students. Students will continue to develop all four linguistic skills using much more sophisticated vocabulary and sentences patterns. Students 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 new GCSE requirements. The ability to read and write characters from memory will become very important. At the beginning of Year 11 students will be able to comfortably recognise at least 700 characters and write around 350 of those from memory.

Areas studied

We are following the Edexcel Exam Board new GCSE Chinese (9-1) from 2018 and the main topics we covered include:

  • Identity and culture
  • Local area, holiday, travel
  • School
  • Future aspirations, study and work
  • International and global dimension

The new Edexcel GCSE Chinese Examination structure is outlined as below:

  • Paper 1: Listening and Understanding in Chinese—understand and respond to different types of spoken language 25%
  • Paper 2: Speaking in Chinese—communicate and interact effectively in speech 25%
  • Paper 3: Reading and Understanding in Chinese—understand and respond to different types of written language 25%
  • Paper 4: Writing in Chinese—communicate in writing 25%

Trips, activities and clubs

We organise a study trip to China every two years in October half term. It is open to Year 9 to Year 11 students who are learning Mandarin Chinese. During the ten-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 students can interact with Chinese students and participate in cultural activities.

The trip to China will provide a fantastic opportunity for the students to use their Chinese language skills in many practical situations. By visiting many historical sites and interacting with Chinese students it will increase students’ motivation and interest in their language learning. It is certainly a beneficial experience for students who will be preparing for their GCSE Chinese speaking and writing assessment. After hugely successful study trips to China in 2014 and 2016 October, the next trip will take place in October half term 2018.


  •  Ms M Su BA MA (Head of Mandarin)
  • Mrs A McCullough BA