The learning and acquisition of Mandarin Chinese can be viewed as a language learning journey. The learners’ focus on this journey is to be capable, independent and self-governing language users. An important part of the journey is prior language learning and acquisition. While they may not have learned Mandarin Chinese before, the skills learners have developed acquiring their first and subsequent language(s) play a very important role in their acquisition and development of this language. They develop language-learning strategies that are transferable across different languages, enabling them to make connections between aspects of language and everyday experiences.
Self-awareness is the most effective tool that language learners can use to make progress. With teachers’ help and feedback and by reflecting on their language learning journey, learners take the necessary steps to develop their language proficiency. Teachers and learners collaborate on this part of lifelong language learning. The interactive, communicative use of the target language by both parties provides the input that is essential for language development. Teachers have expertise in the language and have particular knowledge and special skills relating to the teaching and assessment of language to facilitate learning. When learners encounter challenges and difficulties, teachers provide guidance, encouragement, help, feedback and support so that they may progress. Output is of particular importance for learners on this journey, as is a language-rich learning environment, opportunities for use of and interaction in the language.
To support this language-rich environment, it is desirable that learners are encouraged and scaffolded to engage with authentic texts . This could involve both fiction and non-fiction texts, depending on the interests of the learners, including short articles, poems, films, comic strips, lyrics etc. and taking into consideration the interests of the learners and the ab initio level of this specification.
Classmates, the learning environment and the community also have a role to play. By taking advantage of opportunities to communicate with classmates in group work, pair work and other collaborative activities and by engaging in tasks through the target language, learners can interact through the target language and develop skills in communication, listening to each other and reflecting on their own work and that of others.
Engaging in a variety of meaningful tasks and language activities will enable learners to take charge of their own learning, motivating them to set goals, develop action plans, to receive, respond to and reflect on assessment feedback. As well as varied teaching strategies, varied assessment strategies will support learning and provide information that can be used as feedback so that learning and teaching activities can be designed and/or delivered in ways that best suit individual learners and their language skills. By setting appropriate, real-life and engaging tasks, by asking higher-order questions and by giving feedback that promotes learner agency, assessment will support learning as well as capturing achievement.
Observation is another tool used by learners to make progress. A sense of curiosity and a desire to learn are created, and learners become self-aware. Through this awareness, they acknowledge the disparity between the level of their own language system (interlanguage) as well as richer, more accurate and more natural versions and examples of the language produced by others. They understand why they make mistakes and take responsibility for correcting those mistakes, producing richer, more accurate and more natural language themselves.
As described below, learners may use their Language Portfolio to regularly describe what they observe about the language, reflect on their progress and on the cultures of the target language country/countries and communities. They might also describe the steps they must take to make progress as a learner and a language user. Such elements necessarily underpin their ongoing progress in the language.