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Program brings record number of youths from UK

By Zhao Yimeng | China Daily | Updated: 2024-07-11 07:16
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Students from Tytherington School in the United Kingdom participate in a sporting event held by Beijing Language and Culture University on Tuesday. WANG ZHENYAO/FOR CHINA DAILY

This year's summer camp of the Mandarin Excellence Program kicked off in Beijing last week, with the largest group of students from the United Kingdom visiting China since the program was launched in 2016.

Nearly 1,200 British students from 61 secondary schools are visiting China for 11 days to participate in Chinese language courses and cultural activities. Separate travel groups will visit different parts of the country, covering a total of 10 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu in Sichuan province and Guangzhou in Guangdong province.

The Mandarin Excellence Program Intensive Study in China, organized by the Chinese Ministry of Education's Center for Language Education and Cooperation and the British Council, includes an average eight hours of Chinese language learning each week during secondary school years in the UK, as well as a visit to China for students who are in their third year.

Funded by the UK's Department of Education, the program has so far helped about 11,000 British students to improve their proficiency in the Chinese language, according to the organizers.

William Bridgett, a student from Tytherington School in Macclesfield, Cheshire, northwestern England, said one of the key reasons he joined the program was that it promised an opportunity to visit Beijing.

When Bridgett started attending Mandarin classes in the UK, he found that learning the Chinese language was both interesting and enjoyable. "I like the writing part, (which is) probably the most difficult, but I find it really self-fulfilling when I'm able to make a beautiful character or sentence," he said.

The students, who already had a fair impression about China thanks to the program, said they were nonetheless mesmerized by the sheer scale of the Chinese capital and its stunning architectural treasures.

Asha Sen, a student from Alexandra Park School in London, said she found China to be "cool" in the textbooks, with the mention of its rich history and culture and many tourist attractions.

She said that learning Mandarin has been challenging for her, but she wants to experience both the Chinese language and culture outside of books. "In the textbooks, you don't have the social aspects (of speaking the language), such as the back and forth of a conversation."

Sen added that she hopes to speak long Chinese sentences more fluently and further develop her language comprehension skills during the trip.

The visiting students will participate in various activities such as Chinese painting, tea making, and local sports to have a better understanding of Chinese culture, while learning Mandarin in an immersive environment.

Tom Dearing, principal consultant of the British Council, said the program is expanding and improving every year.

"This year, we have 1,200 pupils coming to China, which is the largest cohort in the program's history. They are going to 18 different universities across 10 cities in China," Dearing said in an interview during the opening ceremony of the summer camp at Beijing Language and Culture University.



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