Mandarin (St Katharine’s Study)

The one-year Mandarin course provides plenty of opportunities for you to apply knowledge independently and creatively. You will develop your abilities to interact effectively with Mandarin speakers and engage critically with a variety of texts, literature and films. The course consists of 50% language and 50% culture. You will have four lessons a week.

Why choose Mandarin?

Learning Mandarin and having an awareness of Chinese culture is a valued skill in many different fields such as business, arts, economics, literature, politics and history. Mandarin has relatively simple grammar, making it easier to learn independently than many people may think.

Topics studied

Language (50%)

  • Simplified Chinese characters (as used in mainland China) and Hanyu Pinyin: PowerPoint, textbook,
  • Worksheets, presentation, conversations, online resources and Mandarin learning apps
  • The four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) will be covered throughout the course. You will learn how to type Chinese characters as well
  • Course book: New Practical Chinese Reader Textbook 1 (2nd edition)
  • ISEB Mandarin Assessment Level 1 vocabulary and grammar: PowerPoint, translation, online practice papers and games. The one-hour ISEB Mandarin Level 1 online assessments consist of three parts: listening, reading and writing tests
  • Access to online resources and learning platforms: Quizlet, Memrise, Kahoot, Du Chinese, GoChinese, Chineseinflow, BBC Language – Chinese Mandarin and BBC Bitesize Mandarin

Culture (50%)

  • Topic 1: Social issues and trends, political and intellectual culture – Chinese New Year school trip, group presentation and independent research
  • Topic 2: Chinese art, crafts, Taichi and music – virtual tours, presentation, show and tell, group work and mini projects
  • Topic 3: Regional cuisines – researching eight regional cuisines, presentation, trip to a Chinese restaurant in Oxford and Chinese food cookery experience
  • Topic 4: Chinese literature (ancient and contemporary) and films – discussion and presentation


You will be assessed on your abilities to communicate and interact effectively through discussion and oral presentations. The independent research project will also allow you to demonstrate your understanding of Chinese culture and critical thinking skills.

“I really enjoyed the Mandarin course! It added variety to my lessons, outside A level subjects, and helped me to maintain my language skills. I recommend Mandarin as it’s a great opportunity to learn about some cultural aspects of China as well as to develop a useful skill.”
“I have really enjoyed studying the Mandarin course this year as I have been able to learn about so much Chinese culture as well as beginning to develop the language. It is a great break from my A level subjects and really helps me to maintain my language skills.”
“I have enjoyed learning Mandarin this year as it given me the opportunity to further my interest in foreign languages as well as learn about aspects of Chinese culture in fun lessons that are completely different from my A level subjects.”

Taking it further

You will be able to take ISEB Mandarin Assessment level 1 assessments by the end of the studies if you wish to have a qualification, although this is not mandatory. Language centres at some universities provide beginner, intermediate and advanced Mandarin courses. You can also choose Mandarin as your main subject (usually involving one year in China) at universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, Warwick and SOAS.

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