British parents want their children to learn Mandarin

by Ray Clancy on January 12, 2017

British people are not known for their widespread ability to speak languages other than English but new research shows that parents want their children to learn Mandarin Chinese.

It is named by parents as the most beneficial’ non-European language for their children to learn, according to new research released as part of the Mandarin Excellence Programme which was set up last year to help thousands learn the language by 2020.

011117-chinese-bibleSome 35% of adults with children under the age of 18 said Mandarin Chinese was in their top three when asked which languages they thought would be most valuable for their children’s futures.

When questioned specifically about Mandarin Chinese some 51% of parents said they thought that learning the language would boost their children’s career prospects while 56% saw it as a skill that would open their children’s minds to an ‘exciting and dynamic’ culture.

The results also show that 51% stated that they would like their children to have the opportunity to study Mandarin with 27% saying that they would actively be encouraging their children to learn the language.

And while the more traditional languages French, Spanish and German were favourites overall, picked in the top three by 57%, 54% and 40% respectively, Mandarin Chinese was considered the most vital non-European language for young people in the UK to speak, well ahead of Arabic and Japanese, both at 14%.

The Department of Education’s Mandarin Excellence Programme is the first language learning initiative of its kind in the UK and is being led by participating schools, supported by the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) in partnership with the British Council.

‘Over the last decade, our work in schools has inspired increasing numbers of secondary school pupils to take up Mandarin Chinese. This programme provides a real boost and unique opportunity for more motivated pupils to be on track towards fluency in Mandarin,’ said Katharine Carruthers, director of the IOE.

‘We are also developing new innovative teaching methods which will benefit the young people on the programme as well as the wider cohort of pupils learning Mandarin Chinese in our schools. The Mandarin Excellence Programme will undoubtedly help to further the UK’s relationship with China at all levels,’ she added.

According to Mark Herbert, head of schools programmes at the British Council, with the global economy becoming more interconnected and the drive to boost exports, language skills are increasingly vital for work and life.

‘Mandarin Chinese is one of the languages that matter most to the UK’s future prosperity. If the UK is to remain competitive on the world stage, we need far more of our young people leaving school with a good grasp of Mandarin in order to successfully work abroad or for businesses here in the UK. Learning Mandarin is also a fascinating process that brings a valuable understanding of Chinese culture,’ he explained.

Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, and is seen as important for young people in the UK to master in order for the country to remain globally competitive in the future. Secondary school pupils on the Mandarin Excellence Programme are studying the language for an average of eight hours a week over the course of the next four years, a significant increase on the one to two hours per week that most year seven secondary pupils currently spend studying a language.

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