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Research project

Aligning A-Level Mandarin Chinese to the Common European Framework of Reference CEFR

Project overview

Learning Mandarin Chinese is strategically important for the current and future generations of UK students (British Council, 2017). Along with the emerging recognition of the importance of grasping a modern foreign language in the post-Brexit era, there is a lack of understanding of how Chinese as a foreign language is aligned to a common benchmark of proficiency and how best to integrate the teaching, learning and assessment of Mandarin into foreign language curricula at post-secondary school level in the UK.

We will conduct a systematic investigation into the alignment of A-level Mandarin Chinese to the Common European Framework of Reference, using focus group interviews, quantitative standard setting exercises and corpus-based linguistic analyses. This research has the potential to link UK initiatives with the global teaching of modern foreign languages, including Mandarin Chinese, and to help develop shared international understanding of standards and proficiency levels.


Lead researcher

Dr Ying Zheng PhD

Associate Professor

Research interests

  • Psychometrics and test validation; Human scoring vs. machine scoring; Statistics in applied linguistics; Comparative Judgement in language testing
  • Mandarin exams in the UK school system, including A-Level and GCSE exams; Mandarin Chinese teachers’ professional development
  • Learner motivation and language teaching pedagogy; ESL/EFL learner characteristics and test performance
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Other researchers

Professor Roumyana Slabakova

Chair in Applied Linguistics

Research interests

  • Roumyana Slabakova's research is grounded in generative linguistic theory and explores the second language (L2) acquisition process. Her theoretical focus is the acquisition of grammatical structure and its interaction with meaning. She uses online and offline psycholinguistic methodologies to investigate the following theoretical issues: 
  • What is the linguistic nature of the bilingual and multilingual grammar?Are there some properties of language (e.g. words, sounds, sentence structure) that are easier to acquire than others (e.g. functional morphemes, grammatical meanings)? Are there are some properties, such as pragmatic universals, that will come for free in the grammar of the learner?Can lexical, phrasal and sentence meaning be acquired in the L2? How does the interface between form and meaning affect the L2 acquisition of meaning?What is the effect of the native language in the acquisition of a second language? What are the effects of the native and the second language in the acquisition of a third language?How does linguistic and processing complexity affect knowledge of meaning in the L2? How do children acquiring their native language and adult L2 learners compare in this respect?
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Research outputs