China is expected to become one of the world's leading economies, so why are pupils still learning French6 rather than Mandarin7 in Britain8? For most students, there is little or no1. Despite predictions that it will dissapear as an international language, French dominates the timetables, followed by German9 and Spanish10. Exports to China are expected to quadruple by 201011 but most British schoolchildren are still not learning Mandarin.
In one school, however, about 150 students now learn some Mandarin, under the tuition of Linzi Pan, the fourth Chinese assistant to work in the school. The Chinese language assistants who make it to the country are fearsomely well qualified12.
In primary and secondary schools across the country there are about 30Chinese language assistants who not only contribute to language classes but also help to inject some idea of Chinese culture into the curriculum. Some students even get a 2 to visit China, thanks to the British Council's annual immersion courses for students in years 8 to 12, which give those travelling at least to weeks in a major Chinese city learning the language as well as seeing the 3 .
In England there about 100 state schools teaching Chinese, as well as many more independent and weekend schools. The secretary of the British Association for Chinese Studies is adamant13 that the country needs much more investment, especially for teacher training and professional development, before Chinese studies can be introduced across the curriculum.
Teachers report more interest in Mandarn than 10 years ago when people studied it because not only was it interesting but also rather exotic. Interest is now coming from all age groups, because of which evening-class provision across the country has shot up with many adults now learning the language for business 4 . It is very much about shifting British attitudes14. Historically, it has been the British Council that has promoted Britain in China but now we all ought to be making sure Britain is equipped to deal with China.
Adapted from: The Independent, online edition, 11 Mar. 2005.
In the phrase BY 2010 (ref. 11), BY is being used with the same meaning as in