Chinese Language Teaching in UK: Language experts call for recognition of Chinese teaching as a discipline
Language experts and professionals are urging more British schools to offer Chinese lessons. Our Zhang He learned about the need at a conference at Lancaster University.
in the 1950s, the Chinese language was only taught in four universities in the UK. That number has rapidly grown in recent years.
The UK government's Mandarin Excellence Program aims to get at least 5000 young people to achieve fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020.
SEAN XIE MANAGING DIRECTOR, CYPRESS BOOKS "In the UK, universities used to be the main place for learning Chinese. Now, besides universities, secondary schools hold Chinese language exams and some primary schools also offer Chinese courses. Many not only learn Chinese at school, but also learn it for business, travel or personal interest. So, a wide range of people are interested in learning Chinese."
ZHANG HE LANCASTER, UK "Speaking fluent Chinese would be beneficial to people when they communicate with one of the UK's largest trading partners, so there is an urgent need for more qualified Mandarin teachers in the UK's education system."
However, Don Starr, who has taught Chinese at Durham University since 1971, says there's still a lot more to be done.
DON STARR DIRECTOR OF STUDIES, DURHAM UNIVERSITY "Not enough teachers and a lot of teachers in the middle schools who can teach other languages but can't teach Chinese, so there is a problem from that point of view. We either need to retrain the teachers or take on extra teachers."
The British Chinese Language Teaching Society says there are still barriers for Chinese learning and teaching in the UK.
The status of Chinese teaching as a discipline is not well recognized. For instance, some teachers are still on fixed-term contracts or are even paid hourly.
WANG WEIQUN CHAIR, BRITISH CHINESE LANGUAGE TEACHING SOCIETY "Chinese could be one of the most important foreign languages in the UK but unfortunately, no matter whether in the UK or in China, Chinese teachers' status and also teaching Chinese as a second language as a discipline, its status is not very high so far. Therefore, we wish we could be united and improve the status of this discipline."
Many believe teaching Chinese as a foreign language is a science and it could be developed as a well-recognized discipline in the future. Zhang He, CGTN, Lancaster.