A-level Chinese now more popular amongst students than German

A-level Chinese now more popular amongst students than German

Last year, SOAS Blogs reported on a study commissioned by the British Council that showed that both Mandarin and Arabic were crucial languages to ensuring the UK enjoyed a prosperous future and remained globally relevant post-Brexit.

It would appear that students at secondary schools across the United Kingdom have been quick to grasp that fact – and plan accordingly.

A-level Chinese saw a rise of 8.6 per cent in entries compared to 2017. The increase means it has become more popular than German, with 3,334 students taking the subject this year compared to 3,058 students who sat exams in the European language .

The up-surge is all the more striking as it comes at a time when students are moving away from taking modern foreign languages as a full A-level.

Director of the SOAS China Institute Professor Steve Tsang said:

“It is of course encouraging and positive that Mandarin is now among the most popular languages at  schools.  It will be good for the UK to have more young people competent in foreign languages, in particular in the language of the second largest economy of the world.  Efforts by long standing leaders in the study of China, its language and culture like SOAS are finally bearing fruit, but this almost certainly also reflects a wider recognition of the rising importance of China to us in the UK.”
“What the data does not show is the ethnicity of students who take Mandarin at A level.  A significant number or percentage would be students of Chinese heritage and some of them would have benefited from speaking the language at home.  There is no reason why this should not be encouraged, but more work and resources will need to be devoted to promote the study of Mandarin at our schools, in particular to pupils who have no Chinese heritage.  Experience in leading centres for Chinese Studies like SOAS show that non-native speakers of Chinese can learn to speak to native speaker standards, just as effectively as with any European language.  With Mandarin now more popular than German in schools, there is much to be said about building on the momentum to encourage more pupils to learn Mandarin and about China.  Any of those who have achieved good results in A level Mandarin should explore SOAS for undergraduate study, as it offers not only Mandarin but also the full range of disciplinary training in the humanities and social sciences.”

Dr Nathan Hill, Head of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, said:

“China’s economic growth over recent decades, its growing importance as a major political power in international affairs, its relationship with Hong Kong, along with increased contact between China and the West, has seen a corresponding rise of interest amongst Western audiences to travel to, or learn about the cultural and social life, of the region.  Yet, despite such increasing familiarity, and the motivation to learn about the rich diversity and dynamism of present day or pre-modern literary, religious, artistic and philosophical cultures, many stereotypes remain about China and Taiwan, their cultures and their languages. Our degrees aim to shatter these stereotypes, to allow you to master the languages, and to gain a deep and comprehensive understanding of the historical development of the cultures of China, Taiwan and Tibet and their place in the modern world.”

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