Mandarin language is important not just because it is the way the Chinese world communicates, but because it is first and foremost the way in which the Chinese world thinks.
Ever since Dulwich College Shanghai opened in 2003, we have always put a strong emphasis on knowing and appreciating the language and culture of our host country. The focus of our Mandarin programmes is thus not just on how fluently our students can express themselves in Chinese, but rather on them being able to understand the “world” as it is – where people think in ways as fundamentally different as English and Mandarin—and to navigate that world effectively without hesitation. Only then will our students be able to build bridges between people of any nation.
We offer multiple learning pathways to students of all ages and abilities — from native Mandarin speakers to second language learners to absolute beginners who might be learning Mandarin as their third or fourth language. Our programme not only provides a foundation for young language development, but also uses innovative technology and produces outstanding student IB exam results.
As early as Year 1 and 2, students learning Mandarin as a Foreign Language (MFL) have access to the innovative Wohui Mandarin programme, meaning “I Can.” Conceived and developed in DCSPD, the programme gives MFL students opportunities to actively use the language and to navigate real-world scenarios. Spoken and written language are learned in parallel but independently of each other, maximising students’ progress by allowing them to focus on one new thing at a time. Furthermore, “Wohui follows the unique characteristics of the Chinese language,” explains Ms Parker who pioneered the development of the curriculum. “Characters are introduced in terms of their simplicity and their frequency of use, thus enabling students to rapidly build up a useful and powerful bank of characters with which to make sense of the Chinese world.”
The programme is supported by an online platform that puts learning in the hands of students and empowers teachers and parents to support them on their learning journeys. In the words of Professor Hu Wenhua from Fudan University, this “encourages students to become strong independent learners" and enables teachers to “work more effectively in the classroom.” Ms Parker adds that with Wohui teachers are better able to “identify and help solve problems encountered by their students, pay more attention to individual needs and provide detailed feedback in a timely manner.”
Mandarin A (CNL)
Students in this pathway acquired Mandarin as their first language at home and/or in schools where Mandarin was the instructional medium. English is typically their second language. Their home environment is typically Mandarin speaking.
Within the pathway, the classroom language used by both teacher and students is Mandarin. The focus for students is to further develop their skills of analysis and evaluation using a variety of Chinese literary texts, and to develop their practical and creative writing skills. Students in this pathway are strongly suggested to read sufficient Chinese books, magazines and newspapers to reinforce their literature comprehension skills. Students following this pathway will normally take IGCSE Chinese as a First Language and IB Chinese A Language and Literature or Literature for their exam courses.
Mandarin B (MSL)
This pathway is for heritage students who have been living out of China (or other areas where Chinese is used as an official language) or non-heritage students who have been living in China and learning Mandarin for a long time. These students are able to carry out communication tasks that are age-appropriate, but may not be fully functional in their literacy skills in Mandarin. About 90% of the classroom instructions and languages used by the teacher are in Mandarin. The focus for students in this pathway is to develop their reading and writing skills, so that they are able to understand and analyse increasingly complex written and spoken materials and assess subtleties of the language in a wide range of forms and styles. Students following this pathway normally take IGCSE Chinese as a Second Language and IB Chinese B standard level or high level exam courses.
Mandarin C (MFL)
This pathway is for non-native/non-heritage students. From an initial stage, the course places a greater emphasis on functional skills in listening, speaking and reading, while students in this pathway use the Wo Hui Mandarin approach and website resources to support their learning. It is recommended that students practise the skills learnt in the classroom within the wider community and in authentic language usage settings. Students following this pathway normally take IGCSE Chinese as a Foreign Language or GCSE Chinese, and IB Chinese B standard level or Chinese ab initio exam courses.
Dual Language Learning in DUCKS
In DUCKS, Dual Language learning is a fundamental part of our student development. Our approach is based upon a range of recognised theory about how children learn language and has been developed through in-depth academic and action research by our own leaders and teachers. The programme exposes young learners to English and Mandarin in their natural learning context throughout the day rather than just through formal language opportunities. By providing an environment rich in learning opportunities, with one teacher focusing on English and a second on Mandarin, young children gain the confidence to use language with meaning rather than just through imitation.