“A good opportunity is seldom presented, and is easily lost.” - Chinese Proverb
In recent years, the numbers of students choosing to study Chinese has greatly increased. In fact, last year was the first year that more students chose Mandarin A Level than German A Level. While Chinese is actually a range of languages and dialects, when we say "Chinese", we're referring to the largest and most common variant, Mandarin Chinese.
Since China has the world's largest GDP and Mandarin Chinese is the most common language in the world, there are a lot of great reasons for learning Mandarin.
So where exactly can you learn Chinese in the UK?
Which are the best places to learn Mandarin?
In this article, we’ll show you what your options are and the benefits of each.
Groups for Learning Chinese
Why should you consider learning Chinese with a Chinese cultural group?
There are a number of great reasons to learn Mandarin with a Chinese group or association:
- An introduction to Chinese characters and language.
- Chinese writing.
- Traditional Chinese painting.
- Different Chinese regional languages like Cantonese and Wan as well as Pinyin.
Generally, groups offer a good mix of learning Mandarin and:
- Private Chinese tutorials for quickly learning to read and write in Chinese.
- Practical workshops for practising listening and speaking in Chinese.
- Generally speaking, you have to pay a small membership fee for cultural groups.
As you may have guessed, there are far more options in London and larger cities than there are in the country. Here are a few groups, resources, and places that you can learn Chinese that you should consider paying a visit:
- Little Mandarin Classes
- Bubbly Chinese
- Link Chinese Academy
- Chinese Learning Centre
- The Open University
- SOAS University of London
- Practical Mandarin
- EdX Mandarin for Business
Find out what you need to know before your first Mandarin lessons!
Why Choose a Private Chinese Language School?
There are a number of reasons against making this decision:
- Firstly, tuition isn’t always very affordable and you can pay several hundred pounds for a semester of classes.
- The timetable isn’t necessarily flexible and if you can’t make that lesson at 4 in the afternoon, it mightn’t be for you.
- In some cases, these places aren’t accessible by public transport and you’ll need a car or a lift in order to get there.
However, having studied at a private language school will look good on your CV. It’s also a great way to learn Mandarin quickly from experienced and qualified Chinese teachers.
Join the discussion: why should Britons learn Chinese?
Learning Chinese in Schools or Universities
In the UK, there are 141,000 native Chinese speakers.
Would your child like to be able to speak to them?
The fact that Chinese is the world’s second language and has nearly a billion speakers is a pretty good argument for learning it for both personal and professional reasons.
When it comes to language learning, it’s better to start young. A beginner will learn some common phrases, essential Chinese vocabulary, Chinese grammar, pronunciation, tones, and how to write these famous Chinese characters.
There are very few schools in the UK offering Chinese lessons. Schools tend to include Chinese culture in their lessons since culture and language are inextricably linked, as well as phonetics and calligraphy. Children really enjoy learning the Chinese alphabet!
Children can start learning Chinese at any age.
- In primary school
- In secondary school
- For GCSE
- For A Level
Generally speaking, most Chinese classes will cover aspects such as:
- How to correctly pronounce Chinese vocabulary
- Learning about Chinese culture, history, such as the origins of the Great Wall of China, and everyday life in modern China and other Chinese speaking countries.
- The Chinese writing system and Chinese characters.
- Speaking Chinese and having a conversation in their new language.
Not only can children learn Chinese at GCSE and A Level, but it’s also recommended that they do! If they want to learn even more about Mandarin Chinese, consider looking for private Chinese tutors to help them.
Chinese at Key Stage 3
Key Stage 3 is when a child is in year 7, 8, and 9, or aged between 11 and 14. This tends to be the age where students will learn basic concepts of Mandarin Chinese. Don't expect them to be conversing in Chinese just yet as learning Mandarin is one of the most difficult things for an English native speaker to do.
You can quickly boost your child's Mandarin skills with the help of a private tutor...
Chinese at Key Stage 4 and GCSE
Key Stage 4 includes the two years where children study their GCSEs. At this level, schools will have less freedom in what they teach students as they'll have to ensure they're all learning everything they need to know for their exams.
Chinese at A Level or Key Stage 5
Studying Chinese at A Level is a great idea for students who've already passed their GCSE or those who are interested in learning Chinese at university either on a language course or international business course.
Chinese at Sixth Form or College
Since Chinese isn't the most common subject at A Level, it mightn't be offered at your school's sixth form and you may have to attend a college instead. Depending on your circumstances and your other A Level choices, you'll have to decide in some cases whether or not it's worthwhile attending a sixth form or college that's worse than your first choice just because it offers Chinese at A Level.
Chinese at University
There are a number of universities around the country offering both undergraduate degrees and postgraduate degrees in Mandarin.
Undergraduate courses are either modern language courses with Chinese, Chinese degrees, or Chinese Studies degrees. There are also a lot of business and international business degrees that offer Chinese as an option, too.
Most postgraduate courses are in translation and interpreting, but there are also courses in Chinese cultural studies.
Universities offering Chinese undergraduate and postgraduate degrees include:
- University of Bath
- University of Birmingham
- University of Cambridge
- Cardiff University
- University of Central Lancashire
- Durham University
- University of Edinburgh
- Heriot-Watt University
- King's College London
- London School of Economics
- University of Manchester
- Newcastle University
- University of Nottingham
- The Open University
- University of Oxford
- Queen's University Belfast
- School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
- University of Wales Trinity Saint David
- University of Warwick
- University of Westminster
Teaching Yourself Chinese
While a lot of Chinese learning takes place in schools, there's nothing stopping you from learning a language outside of compulsory education or a university. In fact, you can learn Chinese online thanks to great resources like YouTube channels, blogs, and websites.
If those options aren't for you, you can also enlist the help of a private Chinese tutor to help you. They can help you learn to speak, read, write, and understand Chinese while focusing on exactly what you want to learn. After all, there isn't a syllabus for you to follow!
I found a great tutor for my Mandarin courses London through Superprof!
The Best Private Chinese Tutorials
Whether you want to study in China, live in China, or just learn to speak Chinese, there’s nothing better than private Chinese tutorials for learning how to speak the language. You’ll be able to focus on learning new vocabulary, reading and writing Chinese, and developing an understanding of the local culture.
While Chinese might seem easy for native speakers, you’ll need to spend at least 300 hours studying the language before you’ll be anywhere near ready heading off to China!
There are tonnes of advantages of private Chinese tutorials:
- You can go at your own speed
- You get to choose when and how often you have your private tutorials.
- You also get personalised feedback
- You get lessons that are tailored to you.
This begs the question of exactly how you can find the perfect Chinese tutor for you. Firstly, you need to focus on your needs (preparing for an exam, absolute beginner, applying to university, etc.) to find the ideal tutor for you.
Once you’ve worked this out, you can start looking for your perfect private tutor in a number of different places:
- Notice boards in local businesses and community centres.
- Sites like Superprof where you can search for local private Chinese tutors.
- Word of mouth.
Finally, keep in mind that the cost of private tutorials can vary greatly depending on where you live, how long the courses are, the tutor’s experience and qualifications, and the type of lessons you’re getting. For example, the average cost of a Chinese tutorial in London.
So are you ready to start learning Chinese?
If so, consider the different options available to you, why you want to learn Chinese, your budget, and your timetable, and then decide exactly how you can learn this wonderful language.