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The University of Southampton
The Confucius Institute

A podcast on perceptions of Mandarin teaching and learning in the South of England

Published: 2 November 2020

Recently “we have witnessed the emergence of departments of Chinese studies in some UK universities and the inclusion of modules of Chinese language and culture in others. At a basic education level primary and secondary schools have also dropped some second language traditionally in the UK system, such as Germany, to embrace Chinese as a foreign language in their curricula.” (a citation from the podcast) (The link of the podcast)

Under this circumstance, a research project with the topic of “The Emergence of Chinese as a Subject Language Among Young People in the UK” was conducted. It was led by Dr Adriana Patiño-Santos, Dr Ying Zheng and Jenny Lu from Modern Languages and Linguistics at the University of Southampton. The project was sponsored by the Confucius Institute at the University of Southampton. And the result of this research is displayed in an innovative method – podcast.

This podcast presents the narrated Chinese language learning experiences of a group of secondary school students and the significance Chinese plays in their academic lives. It also tells the teacher’s experience of becoming a professional Chinese language teacher and teaching GCSE Chinese in the UK. The fieldwork was conducted during the Spring of 2019 in a secondary school located in the South of England, which shows that the increased interest in Chinese is no longer limited to big cities in the UK.

The stories recount, amongst other things, the reasons young people have for learning Chinese:

“It is more interesting than the other languages that we learn in school. It was either French or Spanish and I didn't fancy doing either of those. So, I chose Chinese (Mandarin).”

When being asked “Why Mandarin?” One student answered:

“It's more useful, more people speak it. French and Spanish sounds a lot like English in some sense, so I feel like it is very different and try something different is good.”

Another answered:

“It can definitely offer a new experience compared to other subjects. That’s kind of what I was looking for”.

The resources teacher provided for students to learn and practise the language are beyond the school context, such as watching films and some selected TV programs in Chinese (e.g. the children's cartoon series Peppa Pig.)

The content of the podcast offers an account of the implications that teaching and learning Chinese hold for the daily lives of teachers, students and parents. It is a window onto how some of the decisions made by stakeholders beyond schools. That is institutions such as the Confucius Institute alongside the British Council and the Ministry of Education are implementing the protagonists of education practice.

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