WP129 Mandarin Chinese in London education: Language aspirations in a working-class secondary school

PĂ©rez-Milans
2014

Abstract

s the Council of Europe is shifting its traditional focus on learning European languages towards emphasizing the importance of speaking other languages of the wider world, an increasing number of schools are offering Mandarin as part of their official curriculum in the United Kingdom. This is being financially supported by transnational/inter-institutional networks headed by Confucius Institutes and linked to the Hanban in the People?s Republic of China. In addition, learning of this language is being legitimised by appealing to discourses of ?social cohesion? and ?internationalism?. This article draws from a sociolinguistic ethnography carried out in a London secondary school located in a working-class area. This school converted itself into a Language Specialist School teaching Mandarin when it faced difficulties recruiting the institutionally required minimum number of students for being entitled to receive public educational funding. In the framework of a partnership with the Confucius Institute, which requires affiliated schools to ensure that the success rate of students learning Mandarin meets a given ratio, this paper takes a closer look at the resulting local uncertainties, with a focus on the everyday discursive practices of ?collusion? (McDermott & Tylbor 1986) through which teachers and students create a sense of smooth language learning environment, even when the majority of the students have difficulties in achieving outcome targets.