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Posted on December 12th 2019
Classes and Corridors Help the East in the East
Students from Chobham are extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to study the world’s most ancient language, a vernacular deeply intertwined with the culture of the mysterious oriental country from where it comes from. An increasing number of Chobham students are showing their interest and passion in China, embracing her culture and her language. In the Mandarin department, we believe the key to developing highly competent Chinese linguists is through fostering confident speakers - a crucial skill which directly impacts the development of student’s listening, reading and writing skills. Through focusing on the oral aspect of the language, Chobham students are much more comfortable when faced with mastering supposedly complex Chinese characters.
Chinese language lessons at Chobham involve a variety of strategies to help student build up their speaking skills for both short- and long-term purposes.
As Year 9 students were feeling the pressure of their assessment dates looming nearer, a fun speaking activity by the name of ‘Verbal Tennis’ was carried out in class for students to revise the knowledge they had covered since the start of the year amongst themselves. Students took turns to name vocabulary from a given topic they had studied until their partner was unable to produce an answer.
Sarah and Deborah from Miss Shen’s class enjoyed this revision activity, stating “The game is useful as it helps us with our listening and speaking skills, and helps us remember the key vocabulary”.
In Miss Ali’s class, students are given a speaking activity simulating a real-life conversation based on the vocabulary and sentence structures students have learnt in class. As questions are displayed on the whiteboard in English, students are required to work in pairs to translate and give a response in Chinese, before presenting their conversation to the rest of the class. During the presentation, other students must listen carefully and simultaneously translate key words into English. Fionn commented on this activity as being “…really useful as everyone is engaged and we are working on all of our skills”.
“I find the speaking games we do in lessons help me learn the language faster. When we do reading activities in class or for homework, I can guess what how to say some characters because I also think about what we practised in the lesson.” – Daniel, Year 9.
Students are exposed to authentic language in the lesson which has proven to be fruitful as students enjoy applying what they have learnt to various contexts both within and outside of the school.
Students are always eager to eavesdrop on conversations between the Mandarin teaching staff in the classroom and corridors, and attempt to translate what they heard, or thought, they heard. Students arrive in the lesson and ask keen questions about Chinese culture, and even try to replicate a variety of Chinese words they have heard outside of the classroom, asking their teacher for its meaning.
“It’s so relaxing when I hear the teachers speak in Chinese to each other. Sometimes I can figure out what they’re saying because they say things we have learnt in class which is really cool.” – Uzma, Year 7.
Chobham students are not afraid to show off how much they can say in Chinese, and are even less afraid of showing how much they want to learn. Students are driven by their confidence, and it is not unusual for students to ask questions such as “How many characters do I need to learn to understand Chinese?” and “How long will it take me to become as fluent as Miss. Ali?”.
Every day, students question the possibility of ever using the language they are learning in the outside world, from as young as Year 3 all the way up to Year 13. Fortunately at Chobham, students are offered the opportunity of exploring the culture rich country of China and putting their well-learnt Chinese language skills and knowledge into practice.
During the recent school trip to China, students were able to have a first-hand experience of the rich culture, ancient history and vast landscapes of China. Students visited the country’s most iconic attractions such as the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Wild Goose Pagoda, Temple of Heaven and the Terracotta Warriors, whilst also enjoying a variety of cultural activities such as calligraphy and Kung Fu.
Students also embraced the culture by using the language to get to know the local people. Maya and Sameer enjoyed using his Chinese skills to make new friends during a visit to a partner school in Beijing and was pleasantly surprised as “They can actually understand me!” Students became the Mandarin teacher as they gave Mr. Stander a master lesson in numbers so that was able to carry out head counts in Chinese. It was the norm to find students turning ears when seeing a conversation between the teacher and the tour guide as they tried to decode what they heard in order to find out what the next stop will be or how long the journey would be.
Feedback from students, parents and carers about the trip have been overwhelmingly positive and speaks of a genuine sense of accomplishment, a new-found respect for China and hopes of visiting this extremely interesting country again in the future.
“Going to China has opened up my eyes about the country and the language. I really enjoy my lessons and had a feeling of success when I could understand and read things in China by myself.” Skye, Year 13.
Xuan Gao, Subject Lead: Mandarin
What a vibrant year it has been for the Spanish department! Studying Spanish has more than a cultural and linguistic purpose, it promotes global citizenship.
Spain trip 2019. In front of the Royal Palace, Madrid.
In class, we encourage our students to have a wider appreciation and understanding of the target language and to be able to initiate and develop conversations, to cope with unfamiliar language and situations, and to develop creative expression as well as use an increasingly wide range of structures to express their own views. We also encourage students to build their resilience and apply new and known vocabulary in a variety of contexts.
What better reward and concrete application of their hard work during the year than our annual trip to Spain?
Last July, we took our students to Valladolid in Castille and León and the photos do not do justice to the success the trip was. On the flight to Spain, many were excited; some were worried. On the way back to the UK, all were saying how great an experience it had been and how much they wanted to go again.
At Palace of Santa Cruz, Valladolid. (Below)
About to get into the canoes for our two-hour stroll down the Pisuerga River. (Above)
“The canoeing on the river was so good.” O.M.
“Sir, you’re running the trip again next year? I’m so going!” L.N-S.
“I had so much fun! Can’t believe we had a water fight in the park!” M.C.
It is true we had an amazing time. Five days. Eighteen students. Far too many tapas. Loads of fun.
We visited the cities of Madrid, Salamanca and Segovia. We canoed down the Pisuerga river. We went to see the most amazing Flamenco show in Madrid. Our students stayed with host families. What better way to immerse in the Spanish culture? The experience was authentic for our students and many understood that Spanish is more than just “a language I do at school” but is part of a rich culture that textbooks simply cannot teach. They did us proud and represented Chobham and our values every step of the way.
So no need to wait: register today for this year’s trip! 13-16 July 2020. £499. Four days of guaranteed fun! Info below.
Stephane Theau, Subject Lead: Spanish
A truly amazing department, with truly amazing staff and students!