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New Post 20-6-2009 20:56
  shuai
1199 posts
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First Mandarin teachers hailed as breakthrough for languages 

First Mandarin teachers hailed as breakthrough for languages

The growth of Chinese culture and language learning in Scottish schools was given a significant boost yesterday with the unveiling of the first staff who will be qualified to teach Mandarin.

Six trainee teachers were paraded at a ceremony at the headquarters of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) in Edinburgh.

When they complete their studies in July, and are registered to teach, the group will take up posts in schools which host some of the eight Confucius classrooms that have been set up across Scotland.

The move has been prompted by the growing importance of China in the international marketplace.

Mandarin is spoken by more than one billion people, almost double the number who speak English around the world, and the UK government wants every school, college and university to be twinned with an equivalent institution in China in the next few years.

Tony Finn, chief executive of the GTCS, said: "Economists predict that China and India will soon outstrip the largest economies in the world of the USA, Germany and Japan.

"If Scottish businesses are to compete in an increasingly competitive world economy they will need a skilled workforce to do so and learning Chinese Mandarin will give our young people a distinct advantage when working with people and businesses from and in China.

"These six teachers are breaking new and exciting ground and will be the vehicle for our young people to access some of the exciting business opportunities that exist already."

Madam Tan, the Chinese Consul General in Edinburgh, added: "This is an important milestone of Chinese language teaching in Scotland, as it is equipping future generations with an international outlook and the knowledge needed to compete in the 21st century."

Confucius classrooms were first introduced in Scotland in 2007 to allow different cultures and languages - but particularly that of China - to be welcomed and embraced by children.

There are currently eight Confucius classroom hubs in Scotland and it is hoped that this number will grow.

The hubs are used by the schools in which they are based, as well as by neighbouring schools and the wider community, to introduce the Chinese culture, teaching not only Mandarin, but also calligraphy, dance, music and tea ceremony.

At the same time as the development of Confucius centres, the Scottish Qualifications Authority has also developed courses at in Mandarin and Cantonese at Intermediate 1 and 2 level.

However, Mandarin is a notoriously difficult language for Westerners to learn. Instead of an alphabet, the language comprises some 60,000 characters - although experts say a person only needs roughly 5000 to be literate.

The tonal system of Mandarin is also hard for Westerners. While the meaning of English words does not usually change with the tone of speech, in Mandarin, four-and-a-half tones, are used which means a word can have many meanings.

Ma, for example, can mean mother, horse, hemp or a reproach, depending on the tone used. What makes the situation more complicated is the fact that tones vary from province to province.

One thing that is easier in Mandarin is the grammar. Unlike European languages, there are no verb tenses, no relative clauses and no singular or plural.

The schools where the new staff will be teaching include St George's School for Girls, in Edinburgh, Perth High School, in Perth and Kinross, Grange Academy, in East Ayrshire, and Bathgate Academy, in West Lothian.

Meanwhile, the first Chinese exchange students to study at the Glasgow School of Art graduated yesterday.

Twenty five students celebrated the culmination of three years of study as part of the art school's relationship with the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where students spend the first year in the Chinese capital before coming to Scotland to study.

Professor Seona Reid, director of the Glasgow School of Art, said: "We are delighted to see the graduation of the first cohort of honours students from our joint programme with the Central Academy of Fine Arts."


 


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