Can I learn Mandarin Chinese in High School?

April 24, 2022

It is absolutely possible for teenagers to learn Chinese in high school! While not all high schools offer Chinese as part of their curriculum, there are some that do. Read on to find out whether learning Mandarin Chinese in high school is worth it, and what to do if your high school does not offer Chinese.

Should I learn Mandarin Chinese in High School?

High school is a great time to start learning any language, and Mandarin Chinese is an especially good choice! Chinese is spoken by over a billion people, making it one of the top spoken languages in the world. As such, speaking Chinese is a valuable skill. Plus, imagine traveling in China and being able to speak the language fluently!

What is the hardest part about studying Mandarin Chinese in high school?

The hardest part about studying Mandarin Chinese in high school is, in our opinion, the lack of exposure to Chinese. Immersion in Chinese helps learners to absorb the language faster and often, high schools are unable to provide an immersive environment for learners. Spending a summer in a Chinese speaking environment, such as China, can drastically improve high school students’ Chinese proficiency and can help consolidate the knowledge acquired in classes.

Motivation is also an important factor for high schoolers learning Chinese. If a student is learning Chinese because they think they should or their parents told them to, rather than for enjoyment or with a clear purpose in mind, acquiring the language will be more challenging. Our advice is to define a clear motivation for studying Chinese and keep it in mind during the Chinese learning process.

What level of Chinese is attainable after taking Chinese classes in high school?

What level students can attain after four years of high school Chinese classes can vary depending on placement and how much time is spent outside the classroom reviewing and practicing. The more time a student spends on studying outside of class, the higher their level will be at graduation.

High School Chinese in the US (AP Chinese)

For example, if a student begins studying Mandarin I in their first year of high school and takes Chinese all four years, they can reasonably attain a Chinese level of HSK 4 (approximately equivalent to the B2 level according to the CEFR). At this level, students should be able to discuss a wide range of daily and common topics fluently.

However, if a student is familiar with some Chinese before entering high school, they may be able to place into Mandarin II or above, rather than starting from the beginning with Mandarin I. If the student takes Mandarin for all fours years, they could potentially graduate high school with a Chinese level between HSK 4 and 5 (approximately between the B2 and C1 levels according to the CEFR). At this level, students should be able to read Chinese newspapers/magazines and watch Chinese TV/movies.

Chinese A Levels

The Chinese A level exam, equivalent to or more challenging than HSK 6 in many aspects, is available for those students following a UK educational curriculum. Check out this in-depth article on the Chinese A Level exam for more details.

How do I actually become fluent in Chinese as a high school student?

The best way to become fluent in Chinese as a high school student is to immerse yourself in a Chinese language environment. If you can, travel to a Chinese speaking country during summer break. If international travel isn’t possible for you, check if the nearest city to you has a Chinatown where you can practice your speaking.

You can also watch classic Mandarin movies and TV shows to practice your listening (bonus points if they come with Chinese subtitles so you can practice your Chinese character reading as well).

When it comes down to it, practice is key! The more you can practice your speaking, listening, reading, and writing, the higher your Chinese level will be.

How can I study Mandarin Chinese in high school in the USA?

The most straightforward way is to enroll in a course for school credit with your high school, if your local high school offers Chinese.

My high school doesn’t offer Chinese classes. What should I do?

If your local high school does not offer Chinese, then you have a few options.

1) Local Chinese Schools

Some Chinese-American communities across the US organize extracurricular Chinese Schools for members of the local community. While many of these schools are directed towards children from Pre-K through Grade 8, you can check if they accept older students. Some schools may also offer adult classes or activities as well. Try Googling “Chinese schools in {your town}”.

2) Local Community Colleges

Check if your local community college offers Chinese courses over the summer. Some community colleges also offer dual-enrollment schemes for high school seniors, in which seniors can take a community college course for college credit.

3) Online Chinese Classes

If there are no local Chinese schools near you, you can always sign up for online Chinese classes. Online Chinese classes have many benefits, including flexibility (study when it is convenient, from anywhere) and personalization (teachers can adjust the curriculum to the student’s needs and interests). Culture Yard offers online Chinese classes for high school students as well as online Chinese classes for adults.