How hard is GCSE Mandarin Chinese to learn in one year (for Westerners)

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luke
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Unnecessary intro you can skip if you want
Hi all, I've been posting a lot in the language forum recently, you might have seen my post about what languages I could learn in a year for GCSE. I've completed my Spanish GCSE early and got an A* and am expected an A in GCSE French (2 year course, completing June 2012). I want to take another language as languages have always been my strongest point. I can't take German or Italian and there aren't any good textbooks for Russian or Japanese, and Portuguese won't stand out if I've already took Spanish. I think my best bet is to take GCSE Chinese.

The real thing
Chinese is a great business language of the future and having some knowledge of it will look great on a CV. There are good GCSE textbooks out there too unlike other non FG&S. languages, although I know Mandarin has a reputation of being one of the hardest languages to learn.

Is the GCSE easier in terms of range of vocab/grammar because of this? (Obviously not easier in terms of how easy it is to get a good grade)

Would I be able to get an A/A* in one years tuition?

Is there any native English speakers that have took Mandarin and can comment on the difficulty?
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Maixiu
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I just got my GCSE results last week and got an A*. I have to admit that my case is a bit different than yours because I've been studying Chinese since Year 7. However, what we learned at GCSE level didnt really build on what we had learned in the previous years: in actuality, the exams were easier than what we had dealt with before.

Because of the fact that you have to learn characters, the content of the course is a lot less comprehensive than other language GCSEs (using my GCSE in Spanish for comparison). Plus, Chinese grammar is by far simpler than the likes of English (no verb tenses etc.). The only major problems are writing and speaking (due to the tonal nature of the language). That said, you probably won't even have exams in those areas because of the advent of controlled-assessments and even then marks are pretty lenient (I got 100% in all of them and I know I fecked up a few times!).

To conclude, I reckon you could hack it. You obviously have an aptitude for languages and anyway: after the first year of the GCSE course I was easily at A* standard. If that didn't make you feel better, maybe this will: 46% of Chinese students in our school got A* this year!
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conzag123
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I did Chinese GCSE in 2 years and got an A* and that was last year. It should be doable in one year as the writing and speaking are now coursework based I think, making them easier than before because I had to learn so many characters and Chinese phrases for whatever I could be asked! If you have a natural aptitude for languages, go for it, otherwise opt for something easier as I can't imagine it being easy in one year, though like I said I think speaking and writing are now coursework based, which means you can virtually prepare off by heart in advance (as I did with my Italian GCSE, which I did this year in one year and also gained and A*)
Maybe do a short course GCSE in reading and listening - I believe Edexcel offer this? That would be more feasible given the one year time span

GOOD LUCK
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sulaimanali
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Hi Luke,

I am currently studying in Year 8 (aged 12) in Slough Grammar School in England & I have been learning Chinese (Mandarin) since Year 7 in September 2011 up till now 2013 May & I have also decided to take GCSE Mandarin instead of Spanish. It was a very tough decision to make as I had to choose between 2 languages: Spanish & Mandarin. These were 2 languages I had never studied before and never thought I was and actually I am happy and proud that I have got to learnt 2 such amazing languages in my younger life - school education. In Year 7, when I was taught these languages and my friends + class were also taught, I had decided that I would DEFIANTLY take Spanish as it was easier than Mandarin. But then in Year 8, I found out that I had to decide my GCSE options and pick one of the 2 languages. In Year 8, Spanish got very boring and I hated it so much, and I didn't want to take it after that as we had to learn boring things such as Grammar, Punctuations, Tones and tenses like Preterite and etc, so my only other option was to pick Mandarin. I even consulted my friends, family, teachers and everyone for my decision. I picked my options in early 2013. My friends said pick Mandarin, but some of them said Spanish. My mother said pick Spanish as it would be easier and my brother said the same. My dad said I should pick what's easy for me. So I consulted my Mandarin teacher and she said Pick Mandarin also because I thought about picking it and my friends said. Therefore, I picked GCSE Mandarin and from March 2013 onwards to now, I have put my utmost efforts into learning Mandarin and I have put in confidence and interest in the language and it seems really easy and fun now. In Year 7, I started as a Level 1 then by next September in year 8 I was on level 4=, so I jumped 3 whole levels and 1 sub - level, in 1 year... see, how easy that is... and now in 9 months I am currently on a Level 6-. I got an award for outstanding improvement in my Mandarin Exam. I recommend you taking Mandarin and if you have non - stop Mandarin tuition, you are able to get an A*.
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Stanners95
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I would assume it's a bit late, but I've done 4 MFL GCSE's (Spanish, Chinese, German and Italian) and I would definitely say that Chinese has been the most useless to me. In terms of content, Chinese is by far the least rigorous and I don't feel I know any of the language (I got A*'s in all of them, so I'm 'meant' to be equally good at them all). The other three languages gave me a solid grounding to learn more, while in itself offering enough content for me to be able to hold a albeit basic conversation with a person who can speak that language. I guess it depends on what you want though, if you want an A* easily... Chinese is the most attainable as the exams are pretty much multiple choice (Y)
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VenkatPadman
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Hello Luke, I am Venkat. I have join Slough Grammar School just two months ago and have been doing Mandarin as a fresh person while everyone in my class have been doing it for one year. It's no big deal, in just two months, I have got a 5 plus!
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Катя
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(Original post by Stanners95)
I would assume it's a bit late, but I've done 4 MFL GCSE's (Spanish, Chinese, German and Italian) and I would definitely say that Chinese has been the most useless to me. In terms of content, Chinese is by far the least rigorous and I don't feel I know any of the language (I got A*'s in all of them, so I'm 'meant' to be equally good at them all). The other three languages gave me a solid grounding to learn more, while in itself offering enough content for me to be able to hold a albeit basic conversation with a person who can speak that language. I guess it depends on what you want though, if you want an A* easily... Chinese is the most attainable as the exams are pretty much multiple choice (Y)
Chinese GCSE, multiple choice? Wha?

Did you do the foundation paper?
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username1689987
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(Original post by Катя)
Chinese GCSE, multiple choice? Wha?

Did you do the foundation paper?
I think the highest grade you can get on a foundation paper is a C. I think it must have been higher
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Kaylaleigh
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It depends why you want to learn it. If it's from a business perspective, stop there; the reality is most Mandarin speakers can speak English better than you will ever be able to speak Mandarin. If it's something you are genuinely interested in, go for it!

I did it for a little bit, worst decision ever - I was stuck doing it for a year and hating it. I couldn't differentiate tones, the writing system is hard and you will spend more time on that than actual content.

Whereas with a language such as French etc, you will get a lot further, much quicker. Any language looks good on a CV, don't make it harder for yourself for the sake of it.
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sulaimanali
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Hi Luke,
I'm sulaimanali writing again after 2 years! Its way late for the reply, but oh well - I'll still be writing. Ah - there's been a lot of difference. I have improved massively in my Mandarin GCSE. I am currently a Year 10 pupil, heading into year 11 in September. School just finished today! At the beginning of Year 9 I began at an E+ and I got my report yesterday and I have landed on an A- in just 2 years of the course! I am super-duper happy. As an English native speaker, I think mandarin GCSE is easy! Everyone thinks it is hard, but trust me, its not. My school is Upton Court Grammar and we follow the Edexcel GCSE Chinese course. I was surprised at how easy the course is made for us! At first, it may seem difficult, but it gets easier and easier. With tuition, anyone should be fine. I was thinking about getting tuition but I didn't. I did everything by myself and achieved a lot of high grades in Mandarin. With that said, part of the reason is due to my efforts, but also due to the strategies by my class teacher, Puchan Liao, by providing revision sheets for the vocabulary and giving tips/hints/resources that aided me a lot.
If you are genuinely interested, go for it! of course there are many advantages to taking it, but if you're one that doesn't have an extremely good memory or patience, then it may be somewhat difficult. Over time, you'll be able to develop different skills and tricks to tackle problems that crop up. Obviously an A* or even an A and perhaps in the worst case, a B will look impressive on your CV/marksheet for GCSE.
I even got the subject hero award for Chinese several times for improvement and effort in the subject! I recently had a few exams for it. In my first writing controlled assessment I achieved 24/30 = 80%, equivalent to an A. I then got (24/25)/30 which is also equivalent to an A. If you double the 24 mark (as for your final grade, 2 controlled assessments of writing go forward and 2 controlled assessments of speaking go forward) then the mark is 80% overall, equivalent to an A*. In my mock exam (end of year 10), I got 33/40 = 82.5% which was an A* in my listening and I got 26/40 = 65% in my reading which was a B. The overall average for my mock was then 59/80 = 74% which was an A. Continuing with this approach, I am guaranteed and estimated an A/A* in my final.
As you can see, its not that hard - all it needs is patience, practice, commitment, effort and interest. The writing and speaking controlled assessments are not difficult - the writing only needs 100-150 Hanzi characters correctly written to get an A or A*. If you just want to pass it atleast, to get a C you need 100-150 with it being dodgy with tons of mistakes! 30 Hanzi/words are allowed with a dictionary! Now it can't get any easier/harder. The speaking needs to be 6 minutes long, 3 minutes for speaking yourself and 3 minutes of questions, if your task will be a presentation and discussion based. All this applies to the Edexcel GCSE Chinese course. Then the listening and reading are on the final GCSE day and they together make up 40% of the total marks whereas the speaking and writing make up a total of 60% together. Listening = 20%, Reading = 20%, Speaking (2 exams) = 30%, Listening (2 exams) = 30%. And the listening and reading are 80% multiple choice!
I hope all this long information and data helps a lot to you and other people who are interested in pursuing GCSE Mandarin.
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lindsaylee2002
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(Original post by sulaimanali)
Hi Luke,
I'm sulaimanali writing again after 2 years! Its way late for the reply, but oh well - I'll still be writing. Ah - there's been a lot of difference. I have improved massively in my Mandarin GCSE. I am currently a Year 10 pupil, heading into year 11 in September. School just finished today! At the beginning of Year 9 I began at an E+ and I got my report yesterday and I have landed on an A- in just 2 years of the course! I am super-duper happy. As an English native speaker, I think mandarin GCSE is easy! Everyone thinks it is hard, but trust me, its not. My school is Upton Court Grammar and we follow the Edexcel GCSE Chinese course. I was surprised at how easy the course is made for us! At first, it may seem difficult, but it gets easier and easier. With tuition, anyone should be fine. I was thinking about getting tuition but I didn't. I did everything by myself and achieved a lot of high grades in Mandarin. With that said, part of the reason is due to my efforts, but also due to the strategies by my class teacher, Puchan Liao, by providing revision sheets for the vocabulary and giving tips/hints/resources that aided me a lot.
If you are genuinely interested, go for it! of course there are many advantages to taking it, but if you're one that doesn't have an extremely good memory or patience, then it may be somewhat difficult. Over time, you'll be able to develop different skills and tricks to tackle problems that crop up. Obviously an A* or even an A and perhaps in the worst case, a B will look impressive on your CV/marksheet for GCSE.
I even got the subject hero award for Chinese several times for improvement and effort in the subject! I recently had a few exams for it. In my first writing controlled assessment I achieved 24/30 = 80%, equivalent to an A. I then got (24/25)/30 which is also equivalent to an A. If you double the 24 mark (as for your final grade, 2 controlled assessments of writing go forward and 2 controlled assessments of speaking go forward) then the mark is 80% overall, equivalent to an A*. In my mock exam (end of year 10), I got 33/40 = 82.5% which was an A* in my listening and I got 26/40 = 65% in my reading which was a B. The overall average for my mock was then 59/80 = 74% which was an A. Continuing with this approach, I am guaranteed and estimated an A/A* in my final.
As you can see, its not that hard - all it needs is patience, practice, commitment, effort and interest. The writing and speaking controlled assessments are not difficult - the writing only needs 100-150 Hanzi characters correctly written to get an A or A*. If you just want to pass it atleast, to get a C you need 100-150 with it being dodgy with tons of mistakes! 30 Hanzi/words are allowed with a dictionary! Now it can't get any easier/harder. The speaking needs to be 6 minutes long, 3 minutes for speaking yourself and 3 minutes of questions, if your task will be a presentation and discussion based. All this applies to the Edexcel GCSE Chinese course. Then the listening and reading are on the final GCSE day and they together make up 40% of the total marks whereas the speaking and writing make up a total of 60% together. Listening = 20%, Reading = 20%, Speaking (2 exams) = 30%, Listening (2 exams) = 30%. And the listening and reading are 80% multiple choice!
I hope all this long information and data helps a lot to you and other people who are interested in pursuing GCSE Mandarin.
(Original post by sulaimanali)
Hi Luke,
I'm sulaimanali writing again after 2 years! Its way late for the reply, but oh well - I'll still be writing. Ah - there's been a lot of difference. I have improved massively in my Mandarin GCSE. I am currently a Year 10 pupil, heading into year 11 in September. School just finished today! At the beginning of Year 9 I began at an E+ and I got my report yesterday and I have landed on an A- in just 2 years of the course! I am super-duper happy. As an English native speaker, I think mandarin GCSE is easy! Everyone thinks it is hard, but trust me, its not. My school is Upton Court Grammar and we follow the Edexcel GCSE Chinese course. I was surprised at how easy the course is made for us! At first, it may seem difficult, but it gets easier and easier. With tuition, anyone should be fine. I was thinking about getting tuition but I didn't. I did everything by myself and achieved a lot of high grades in Mandarin. With that said, part of the reason is due to my efforts, but also due to the strategies by my class teacher, Puchan Liao, by providing revision sheets for the vocabulary and giving tips/hints/resources that aided me a lot.
If you are genuinely interested, go for it! of course there are many advantages to taking it, but if you're one that doesn't have an extremely good memory or patience, then it may be somewhat difficult. Over time, you'll be able to develop different skills and tricks to tackle problems that crop up. Obviously an A* or even an A and perhaps in the worst case, a B will look impressive on your CV/marksheet for GCSE.
I even got the subject hero award for Chinese several times for improvement and effort in the subject! I recently had a few exams for it. In my first writing controlled assessment I achieved 24/30 = 80%, equivalent to an A. I then got (24/25)/30 which is also equivalent to an A. If you double the 24 mark (as for your final grade, 2 controlled assessments of writing go forward and 2 controlled assessments of speaking go forward) then the mark is 80% overall, equivalent to an A*. In my mock exam (end of year 10), I got 33/40 = 82.5% which was an A* in my listening and I got 26/40 = 65% in my reading which was a B. The overall average for my mock was then 59/80 = 74% which was an A. Continuing with this approach, I am guaranteed and estimated an A/A* in my final.
As you can see, its not that hard - all it needs is patience, practice, commitment, effort and interest. The writing and speaking controlled assessments are not difficult - the writing only needs 100-150 Hanzi characters correctly written to get an A or A*. If you just want to pass it atleast, to get a C you need 100-150 with it being dodgy with tons of mistakes! 30 Hanzi/words are allowed with a dictionary! Now it can't get any easier/harder. The speaking needs to be 6 minutes long, 3 minutes for speaking yourself and 3 minutes of questions, if your task will be a presentation and discussion based. All this applies to the Edexcel GCSE Chinese course. Then the listening and reading are on the final GCSE day and they together make up 40% of the total marks whereas the speaking and writing make up a total of 60% together. Listening = 20%, Reading = 20%, Speaking (2 exams) = 30%, Listening (2 exams) = 30%. And the listening and reading are 80% multiple choice!
I hope all this long information and data helps a lot to you and other people who are interested in pursuing GCSE Mandarin.
Thank you so much! I know it's a bit late for the asker to reply as s/he is probably in college now (I'm assuming) but that honestly helped me so much! I'm currently in year 9 and I'm going to be doing my Mandarin GCSE's early in year 10, and I was horrified! Was I going to fail, will I get an A, I was all over the place haha. But thank you so much for that.
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sweetstars
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(Original post by sulaimanali)
Hi Luke,
I'm sulaimanali writing again after 2 years! Its way late for the reply, but oh well - I'll still be writing. Ah - there's been a lot of difference. I have improved massively in my Mandarin GCSE. I am currently a Year 10 pupil, heading into year 11 in September. School just finished today! At the beginning of Year 9 I began at an E+ and I got my report yesterday and I have landed on an A- in just 2 years of the course! I am super-duper happy. As an English native speaker, I think mandarin GCSE is easy! Everyone thinks it is hard, but trust me, its not. My school is Upton Court Grammar and we follow the Edexcel GCSE Chinese course. I was surprised at how easy the course is made for us! At first, it may seem difficult, but it gets easier and easier. With tuition, anyone should be fine. I was thinking about getting tuition but I didn't. I did everything by myself and achieved a lot of high grades in Mandarin. With that said, part of the reason is due to my efforts, but also due to the strategies by my class teacher, Puchan Liao, by providing revision sheets for the vocabulary and giving tips/hints/resources that aided me a lot.
If you are genuinely interested, go for it! of course there are many advantages to taking it, but if you're one that doesn't have an extremely good memory or patience, then it may be somewhat difficult. Over time, you'll be able to develop different skills and tricks to tackle problems that crop up. Obviously an A* or even an A and perhaps in the worst case, a B will look impressive on your CV/marksheet for GCSE.
I even got the subject hero award for Chinese several times for improvement and effort in the subject! I recently had a few exams for it. In my first writing controlled assessment I achieved 24/30 = 80%, equivalent to an A. I then got (24/25)/30 which is also equivalent to an A. If you double the 24 mark (as for your final grade, 2 controlled assessments of writing go forward and 2 controlled assessments of speaking go forward) then the mark is 80% overall, equivalent to an A*. In my mock exam (end of year 10), I got 33/40 = 82.5% which was an A* in my listening and I got 26/40 = 65% in my reading which was a B. The overall average for my mock was then 59/80 = 74% which was an A. Continuing with this approach, I am guaranteed and estimated an A/A* in my final.
As you can see, its not that hard - all it needs is patience, practice, commitment, effort and interest. The writing and speaking controlled assessments are not difficult - the writing only needs 100-150 Hanzi characters correctly written to get an A or A*. If you just want to pass it atleast, to get a C you need 100-150 with it being dodgy with tons of mistakes! 30 Hanzi/words are allowed with a dictionary! Now it can't get any easier/harder. The speaking needs to be 6 minutes long, 3 minutes for speaking yourself and 3 minutes of questions, if your task will be a presentation and discussion based. All this applies to the Edexcel GCSE Chinese course. Then the listening and reading are on the final GCSE day and they together make up 40% of the total marks whereas the speaking and writing make up a total of 60% together. Listening = 20%, Reading = 20%, Speaking (2 exams) = 30%, Listening (2 exams) = 30%. And the listening and reading are 80% multiple choice!
I hope all this long information and data helps a lot to you and other people who are interested in pursuing GCSE Mandarin.
Wow! You must have finished then. What did you get? And did your school already provide the Edexcel GCSE Chinese? Or did you apply somewhere else? I want to take Chinese as it it my native language but I never got to learn it because I was born in the UK. My school doesn't offer the course but where would I be able to get it? Thanks!
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sweetstars
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(Original post by lindsaylee2002)
Thank you so much! I know it's a bit late for the asker to reply as s/he is probably in college now (I'm assuming) but that honestly helped me so much! I'm currently in year 9 and I'm going to be doing my Mandarin GCSE's early in year 10, and I was horrified! Was I going to fail, will I get an A, I was all over the place haha. But thank you so much for that.
Hey! I hope you did well! Would you mind telling me your experience? Did your school offer Chinese? If not, could you tell me where you got it from?
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