Four case studies for prospective students to read

With our next 8-week Chinese courses beginning in May we had a look back at the Mandarin Aspirations stories we have shared so far from evening course students.

Read on to find out what motivated them to learn Chinese and understand what influenced their decision to sign up for a course – and visit each case study to explore their stories in more depth.

Why start learning Chinese?

People are drawn to our Chinese courses for a variety of reasons 

After discovering a Chinese TV series on Netflix during lockdown, Kim McGreal picked up some vocabulary and was quickly hooked:

I was fascinated by the way the language is so intertwined with the culture, and how poetic and beautiful it is. 

Mischa Wilmers started learning Chinese as a fun way to meet new people after relocating to Leeds for work.  

Another staff member, Professor Gary Chambers, wanted to learn a few words and phrases to build rapport with Chinese students on his TESOL Studies MA course.  

Marina Rupp made friends from China during her undergraduate course, gradually learning more about the language and culture through her social connections before taking the plunge and signing up for a class 

The benefits of taking a course 

Having studied languages at school, Marina knew that she worked well with having a structured teaching environment. She enjoys having guidance from a teacher and a textbook, and this is what drew her to enrolling on the BCI course rather than trying self-study using apps like Duolingo.   

While Kim did start out using Duolingo, she realised she needed extra support with speaking Mandarin out loud: “I was doing it, but there was nobody to tell me if I was doing it correctly or not.  

She described signing up for a BCI course as the “best decision ever. 

The tutor was great, complimenting us every time we spoke, even when we struggled with the unfamiliar sounds. And having someone there to correct my pronunciation with me until I got it right was exactly what I needed.

Gary Chambers also valued the support of his teacher. Her enthusiasm and encouragement made classes a positive experience, even if he initially felt tired or hungry after a long day at work. Quick and positive feedback on his homework also helped him to maintain his motivation throughout the course. 

I always felt, having read Michelle’s comments, ‘I can do this’

Did they have reservations? 

While some students like Mischa sign up for a course on a whim, intrigued to find out what it would be like, others have reservations about balancing their studies with their university course, work commitments or family life.  

Marina wasn’t sure if she could fit in Mandarin alongside her joint-honours degree and other hobbies. Eventually, after putting it off for a couple of years, she started level one and hasn’t looked back. On reflection she felt that she could have done it sooner, as the course was not too time-consuming and the teachers are so understanding of students’ other commitments.   

Also conscious of his busy schedule, Gary Chambers made a temporary commitment to fitting in Chinese for the duration of his 8-week course. He carved out the time to fit classes and self-study around his busy work and family lifewith a very clear goal of being able to have very basic conversations with his Chinese students at the end of the course.  

Although she knew it was just what she needed, Kim still had reservations about speaking out loud in front of other people – something she disliked doing even in English. However she recognised that everyone in the class was in the same boat and this made it easier.  

Where did they go from there? 

Since we published Mischa’s first post in 2018, he has completed all levels of our Evening Courses and is still dedicated to his Chinese studies. You can read more about his journey in these follow up posts: 

Kim and Marina have also fallen in love with Mandarin and progressed through a few levels. Marina says her ultimate goal would be to do all the courses!  

Kim has found learning Chinese beneficial for her mental health, noting that it has kept her mind active and introduced her to a world of new information. You can follow her journey on her language-learning Twitter account, Kim Loves Words 

But taking a Chinese course doesn’t have to mean committing to a long-term hobby or aiming for fluency. Professor Gary Chambers recognised the advantages of learning even just a few words and phrases to connect with his students.  

Marina also saw how much Chinese friends appreciated her efforts to learn the language. When a flatmate taught her how to say ‘Happy New Year’ in Mandarin her Chinese classmates were delighted.  

Learn more

The Mandarin Aspirations Project

We aim to encourage and celebrate the learning of Chinese by sharing the motivations (why study Chinese), study experiences (challenges and rewards) and study outcomes (employability, confidence and intercultural skills) of Chinese language learners. We hope that these Mandarin Aspirations stories will encourage those of you already studying Chinese, and inspire new learners to join a growing and supportive community of Chinese language enthusiasts in the UK.