Experience China: Interview with Lars Kabel

Lars Kabel, head of classics and teacher of MFL at Old Swinford Hospital School, joined the Experience China teachers training course in Shanghai, back in 2016. Two years have passed since his return from the course, we asked Lars about his experience in Shanghai, and the further development of Mandarin in his school after his return.

Question 1: 你好 Lars, Can you tell us what prompted you to apply for the Experience China 2016?

My school had started offering extra-curricular Mandarin lessons in 2015. We employed a Mandarin tutor and the course was held in my classroom. I supported the teacher and the pupils, and also learnt Mandarin with them. I really enjoyed the experience and continued to study Chinese in my free time with the Pimsleur audio course, the Assimil reading and writing course as well as the Jin Bu text book for KS3. I also went to various adult classes. As it was difficult for the school to find tutors, I considered to continue the Mandarin Club myself. The Experience China course in Shanghai for UK-based teachers seemed an ideal preparation for this.

Question 2: What did you expect before you actually arrived in Shanghai for the course?

I was looking forward to learning Mandarin with other teachers with similar needs as mine and also the opportunity to use the language in real life situations. I was also hoping for cultural experiences which I could use in the future as a teacher of Mandarin.

Question 3: What was the learning experience like whilst in Shanghai?

It was great to hear spoken Mandarin by local Chinese and to see the characters everywhere. I enjoyed going into shops and experiencing life in China. Apart from the language classes, there were many cultural activities in the afternoon such as calligraphy, Tai Chi and a trip to the museum. There was a great camaraderie amongst us — British, Irish and Indian teachers. We were divided into two groups: beginners and advanced beginners.

Question 4: What impact has the course had on you and your teaching back in the UK?

I took over our Mandarin Club on my return and have taught it for two years. The highlight of both years has been a trip to a Chinese restaurant in the Chinese quarter in Birmingham where pupils ordered food in Mandarin. I have not stopped my own language studies, continued to work through the Assimil and Pimsleur self-study courses, went to a class and also had a private tutor.

Question 5: Could you tell us a bit more about the growth of Mandarin provision in your school?

My school applied to participate in the Mandarin Excellence programme and we were successful. From next academic year (2018/19), I will teach year 7 Mandarin in our main curriculum. I am grateful that I have this opportunity and I will of course continue studying the language on a daily basis. I also plan to attend an intensive course in China in the summer of 2019.

Question 6: Is there anything you would like to say to those who are taking part in the 2018 EC course?

Learning Chinese is a commitment and requires continuing attention after your return from Shanghai. If you enjoy learning languages and new cultural challenges, this course is an excellent opportunity to get you started.