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Mandarin, commonly known as Chinese or Mandarin Chinese, is a group of languages mainly spoken across China. While the language varies a lot across China, the most commonly taught form is Standard Chinese or Standard Mandarin Chinese whose pronunciation is based on the Beijing dialect.
With Mandarin being the most spoken language in the world (at least in terms of native speakers), a lot of students are interested in learning it either at school, university, or in their free time.
Let's see why you should learn Mandarin Chinese, what aspects of the language are being taught in school at GCSE, the challenges that most students face when learning Mandarin, and how you can take your language learning further with private Mandarin tutors.
As we mentioned, Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers and is the second most common language spoken when considering those who also speak it as a second language.
Mandarin Chinese is often touted as one of the most important languages to learn and with so many speakers and the meteoric rise of China's economy in recent decades, learning Mandarin Chinese can be hugely beneficial for those looking to learn a language for their career.
In addition to the career benefits, learning Mandarin Chinese also comes with all the benefits of learning a foreign language. The experience of learning a language is challenging but rewarding and students who learn a foreign language are better at decision making and multi-tasking and have improved memories.
Similarly, learning a foreign language like Mandarin Chinese also teaches you a lot about other cultures and gives you a better understanding of the world and makes you more empathetic.
As you can see, there are plenty of great reasons to study a foreign language and Mandarin Chinese in particular.
It's not all fun and games, though. Learning any foreign language is difficult and Mandarin Chinese happens to be one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn.
Firstly, reading the language is probably one of the first hurdles that students will have to overcome. While English and a lot of European languages use the Latin Alphabet, Mandarin Chinese makes use of characters; symbols which represent entire words and concepts and provide no indication of how they should be pronounced.
Mandarin Chinese is also a tonal language. This means that changing the pitch when speaking can also change the meaning of words. There are four main tones in Mandarin Chinese and you need to learn which tone every word uses to pronounce it correctly.
Mandarin Chinese speakers have a good ear for tone and students will need to learn how to replicate each tone and correctly use the tones when speaking. If you've never studied music before, this can be incredibly challenging.
In recent years, many GCSE students are moving away from traditionally taught languages like French, German, Italian, and Spanish and opting to study languages like Mandarin Chinese.
Much like the other languages taught at GCSE, Mandarin Chinese GCSE students will focus on listening, speaking, writing, and reading. Similarly, they'll learn about China, the Chinese language, and Chinese culture.
It's a good introduction to the language but if you want to study Mandarin, you'll need to think about continuing your studies beyond GCSE. There are still very few schools offering Mandarin Chinese as an option at GCSE despite increased demand for it. Don't worry, though! There are always private tutors to help students with their Chinese.
As we said, learning a foreign language can take a long time and it might take years of study before you feel comfortable in the language. Even if you have the chance to study Mandarin at school, you'll only get a few hours a week and a language as challenging as Chinese needs to be practised every day to gain fluency.
Private tutors can help students improve their level in Mandarin. Tutoring is a cost-effective way for students at school and university to gain experience using the language. Similarly, private tutors can help those looking to learn a new skill for work or to change careers.
It's never been easier to find a Mandarin tutor in the UK. While most of the tutors can be found in London, there are Chinese language tutors all over the country. Just search for a Mandarin Chinese tutor on Superprof and you'll see what we mean.
If you live in a large city or somewhere with a university, you'll probably be able to find Mandarin tutors or university students offering Mandarin tutorials.
Of course, there tend to be fewer Mandarin tutors in smaller towns but thanks to the internet, you can also get tutoring online from native speakers all over the world. Armed with a webcam and a stable internet connection, anyone can learn any language from anywhere in the world!
The UK has a significant Chinese population and the first Chinese immigrants started to arrive in the early 19th century. While the earliest immigration mainly involved Cantonese people, who are more likely to speak Cantonese than Mandarin, larger numbers of immigrants from mainland China, where Mandarin is more common, started arriving in the 1980s. As a result of these waves of immigration, Cantonese is the most popular Chinese language spoken in the UK and is more widely used than Mandarin.
Chinese people make up around 0.5% of the population of the UK but around 5% of the non-white population. These numbers also include people who were born in the UK but are of Chinese ethnicity.
Unlike other ethnic minorities in the UK, Chinese people are quite evenly distributed across the UK though there are several cities with significant populations such as Birmingham, Brighton, Cambridge, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, and London. Students in these cities will probably have less trouble finding a Mandarin Chinese tutor, too.