Primary Schools – Why Mandarin?

Why Mandarin?

This generation of students have an opportunity to engage with China and Chinese in a different way from their parents and grandparents. China is much more part of their everyday lives in many ways: they will see “Made in China” on many of the things they encounter and use in everyday life; they see pop stars and sportspeople with Chinese character tattoos; they play computer games with heroes and villains from Chinese history and mythology; an English singer, Jessie J, has even won the Chinese version of “X-Factor”. They are free from many of the prejudices and preconceptions that have dogged Anglo-Chinese relations (on both sides) for many years, and have a more open and direct route to engaging with the richness of Chinese language and culture, ancient and modern.

Language and Culture

Chinese represents, in both its written and spoken forms, a manifestly different approach to language and communication to that encountered in European languages. All languages both reflect and affect the cultures in which they have developed; this interdependence is particularly apparent in Chinese and is a vitally useful tool in navigating the language’s perceived difficulties. The more aspects of Chinese culture students are exposed to, the better and quicker their understanding of the language will become. It is also becoming apparent that working with Chinese introduces new thinking skills to the students, which serve them in good stead across a range of other subjects. In addition, schools are reporting, anecdotally, that Chinese is a great leveller, and that students who are not thriving with some of the mainstream subjects, are often those who excel in Mandarin.


Dragon painting: Mission Grove Primary School in Walthamstow

With Primary Level students in particular, though this applies more widely also, it is the excitement of encountering a rich and fascinating culture that drives interest in learning the language.

Pure linguists are few and far between in KS1&2, but keen and enquiring minds are plentiful.

New to Mandarin?

We hope you enjoy this introduction to Chinese characters as much as we did…


    1. Read Case Studies on Mandarin Chinese in 3 UK primary schools
    2. Browse our Primary Materials page
    3. Subscribe to the free Mandarin Chinese Teaching e-forum

Next steps

If you are teaching or thinking of teaching Mandarin, we want to hear from you!

If you have any questions or you would like to contact us, please email us at