The HSK Reform 汉语考试改革

The HSK Exams are evolving! 

Many of our students are familiar with the HSK exams – it is a global certificate primarily used by Chinese universities as part of the admissions process for international students, but anyone who would like to begin their journey in Chinese or prefers their learning to be certified, can take part. According to the exam board, Hanban, in 2019 alone over 800,000 people took HSK tests globally. 

Since 2009, the exams have comprised 6 levels ranging from a beginner friendly start at Level 1, to an in-depth knowledge near to the native at Level 6. 

As the learners’ ability keeps progressing after Level 6, to ensure that the certificate continues to offer a timely and truthful reflection of the majority of the learners’ proficiency, the exam board has recently announced an advanced category from Level 7 – Level 9. The new levels will take effect as of March 2022. 

According to the exam board, no changes will be made to the existing levels until 2023 at the earliest. Until then, all current HSK certificate results are still valid for 2 years. However, in the advanced levels, the same paper will be attempted by all students, and depending on the total marks scored, candidates will be awarded between Level 7-9. 

A small number of our students, who have been with us for the whole of their HSK journeys, are currently at higher intermediate level. It is envisaged that in two years’ time, these students may be in a position to challenge the advanced level. 

While we write, no further information has been announced other than the date, when the changes will come into effect. We are closely watching the situation and aim to update our students with the latest information as the situation progresses. 

A special Chinese new year

The celebration of the Chinese New Year (春节 chūnjié) is to honour the beginning of spring when new lives and opportunities arise. It is also known as the “Spring Festival”. This year it falls on Friday 12th February, around which time thousands of miles of journeys will be made by people traveling across the country to return home.

With COVID-19 still affecting many areas of China, 春运 chūnyùn, the world’s largest human migration is being advised against by government officials. In previous years, China alone saw around 3 billion trips made during the festival, however this year, the number of trips expected to be made according to the Ministry of Transport is only 1.15 billion. This is 61% less than in 2019 and 22% less than 2020.

With all the hard rules and restrictions, it is safe to say that this year’s celebration is going to be different, even though the country is not under a strict lockdown. Similar to Jersey’s travel guidance, in China upon arriving at the travel destination, travellers have to complete an organised 14 days quarantine and receive two negative test results. In some areas considered high risk (including my hometown 辽宁 Liáoníng), travellers have to complete another 7 day “home observation” and receive tests every 3 days! Family gatherings are sadly limited to 10 people maximum. For a country which historically worships ancestry and family reunion, adhering to the restrictions is no doubt a big sacrifice. Government authorities suggest using social media platforms, for instance, Zoom or WeChat to interact with loved ones from a distance. As an incentive, some parts of the country are offering free mobile data, and some employers even provide subsidies or health check-up discounts to discourage their employees from traveling home.

I fondly remember this time last year, at ThinkChinese’s new year party (held in Soy) I called over 70 participants to join me for a prayer. COVID – 19 at that time was only regional and I was expecting my parents to visit me in Jersey shortly after. One year later, they still haven’t made it to the Island, and with very limited travel options and restrictions, I doubt that I will make a trip home with my 16 month-old any time too soon. To help combat the feeling of nostalgia and bring some authentic Chinese new year traditions to Islanders, this year ThinkChinese is organising a special dumplings making session on Sunday 14th. Whether you are a culture lover or just wanted to try a new cuisine, we welcome you to join us for a little craft, fun and laughter.

Please contact info@thinkchinese.net for more information on the activity and Chinese courses.

ThinkChinese wishes you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.
xīn nián kuàilè, shēntǐ jiànkāng
新年快乐, 身体健康!

by Briony Sun and Eleyshir James

Join if you DARE

We are throwing a Halloween party on Saturday 31st October in our Chinese school. It will be the first seasonal celebration since we began to operate from 10 St James after lockdown. We’d love to combine it with our housewarming and showcasing to the young culture-lovers in the Island what we can do to make their time outside school more fun.

Dress code: Halloween fancy dress.

Activity: combining Chinese art with Halloween handcraft/singing/themed language class.

Party time: 1-2.30pm

Ticket cost: early bird offer £16 per ticket ends on Monday 26th October. £18 per ticket after. Each child will have something to bring home, and all the material is covered by the ticket.

Booking: book a place directly with our team, and prepayment is required to secure the place.

We hope children can find out more about us through the party, and have a taster of our lessons. Learning is a modern, engaging and fun activity, which we make sure everyone enjoys!

* Although our invitation extends to all primary school children in the Island, we strictly comply with the health and safety regulations. The maximum number of participants will be limited to 10, utilizing two classrooms to keep children in separate bubbles.

Coronavirus detection and prevention

At The Princess of Wales hospital. NHS staff have been sent this:

This is the advice given to hospital staff. It explains the virus and hopefully, how to prevent getting it. Please share with family, friends and work colleagues.

Virus Detection:
The simplest way to distinguish Coronavirus from a Common Cold is that the COVID-19 infection does not cause a cold nose or cough with cold, but it does create a dry and rough cough. The virus is typically first installed in the throat causing inflammation and a feeling of dryness. This symptom can last between 3 and 4 days. The virus typically then travels through the moisture present in the airways, goes down to the trachea and installs in the lungs, causing pneumonia that lasts about 5 or 6 days. Pneumonia manifests with a high fever and difficulty breathing. The Common Cold is not accompanied, but there may be a choking sensation. In this case, the doctor should be called immediately.

Experts suggest doing this simple verification every morning: Breathe in deeply and hold your breath for 10 seconds. If this can be done without coughing, without difficulty, this shows that there is no fibrosis in the lungs, indicating the absence of infection. It is recommended to do this control every morning to help detect infection.

The virus hates heat and dies if it is exposed to temperatures greater than 80°F (27°C). Therefore hot drinks such as infusions, broths or simply hot water should be consumed abundantly during the day. These hot liquids kill the virus and are easy to ingest. Avoid drinking ice water or drinks with ice cubes.

Ensure that your mouth and throat are always wet, never DRY. You should drink a sip of water at least every 15 minutes. WHY? Even when the virus enters water or other liquids through the mouth, it will get flushed through the oesophagus directly into the stomach where gastric acids destroy the virus. If there is not enough water, the virus can pass into the trachea and from there to the lungs, where it is very dangerous.

For those who can, sunbathe. The Sun’s UV rays kill the virus and the vitamin D is good for you. The Coronavirus has a large size (diameter of 400-500 nanometers) so face masks can stop it, no special face masks are needed in daily life. If an infected person sneezes nearby, stay 10 feet (3.3 meters) away to allow the virus fall to the ground and prevent it from falling on you.

When the virus is on hard surfaces, it survives about 12 hours, therefore when hard surfaces such as doors, appliances, railings, etc. are touched, hands should be washed thoroughly and/or disinfected with alcoholic gel. The virus can live nested in clothes and tissues between 6 and 12 hours. Common detergents can kill it. Things that cannot be washed should be exposed to the Sun and the virus will die. The transmission of the virus usually occurs by direct infection, touching fabrics, tissues or materials on which the virus is present. Washing your hands is essential. The virus survives on our hands for only about 10 minutes. In that time many things can happen, rubbing the eyes, touching the nose or lips. This allows the virus to enter your throat. Therefore, for your good and the good of all, wash your hands very often and disinfect them.

You can gargle with disinfectant solutions (i.e. Listerine or Hydrogen Peroxide) that eliminate or minimize the amount of virus that can enter the throat. Doing so removes the virus before it goes down to the trachea and then to the lungs. Disinfect things touched often: mobile phone, keyboard, mouse, car steering wheel, door handles, etc ….

Please do the same and take care!

Online Chinese courses

Dear parents, students and friends,

Following on from today’s news on school closure from next Monday 23rd, we write to confirm that all our lessons will be offered on Zoom from Monday 23rd.

How do the online courses work?

Zoom offers practical and interactive features including chat, video and whiteboard, screen and document share. All existing lessons will be held on Zoom at the same time as they were initially scheduled. Our teachers will send a link through which our lessons can be accessed. The link can be used every week for the same group. Before the first lesson, our teachers will join the classroom 15 minutes ahead of the start to make sure all students are ready. All homework will be shared online and lesson updates will be provided weekly as usual.

What do you need to do? 

We advise you all to download Zoom to your devices (preferably computer/iPad) as soon as you can. Check the audio and video are working fine. We also recommend using a stable network; the best way to guarantee a secure Wifi connection is usually to connect from your own home – and staying at home is certainly a good idea in present circumstances! Please do get in touch immediately should you need any assistance with setting up the platform.

New courses

To support our existing and new students with their studies, we will also be making available some new and interesting online courses which focus on vocabulary, speaking and culture differences. Details of the new courses will follow soon. 

Amidst the exceptional situation, we hope you will look after yourself and stay safe. We look forward to seeing you again once the situation is back to normal.

Online courses in anticipation of school closure

Dear parents, students and friends,

Like all of you, we continue to closely monitor the concerning situation regarding COVID-19, the impact of which is already being felt and which is expected to cause widespread disruption to our daily lives in the coming period. 

While there has at the time of writing been no official announcement as to the position Jersey’s schools will take in response to the fast-changing situation, ThinkChinese is resolved to work closely with its partner schools to minimise the impact the current situation will have on our students. It is with this in mind that our team proposes to deliver its classes online should schools close at any time. In fact, we are already in the process of switching some classes online irrespective of any stance taken by the schools. 

How do the online courses work?

The platform we use, Zoom, offers practical and interactive features including chat, video and whiteboard, screen and document share. Upon school closure, all existing lessons will be held on Zoom at the same time as they were initially scheduled. Our teachers will send a link through which our lessons can be accessed. The link can be used every week for the same group. Before the first lesson, our teachers will join the classroom 15 minutes ahead of the start to make sure all students are ready. All homework will be shared online and lesson updates will be provided weekly as usual.

What do you need to do? 

We advise you all to download Zoom to your devices (preferably computer/iPad) in advance. Check the audio and video are working fine. We also recommend using a stable network; the best way to guarantee a secure Wifi connection is usually to connect from your own home – and staying at home is certainly a good idea in present circumstances! 

New courses

To support our existing and new students with their studies, we will also be making available some new and interesting online courses which focus on vocabulary, speaking and culture differences. Details of the new courses will follow soon. 

While our lessons are still available at schools and in our office, we would recommend you observe the following measures to look after yourself and your classmates:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap or hand sanitiser (we have some in our office, but please bring your own if you have it);
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when sneezing and coughing;
  • Put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands;
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects (such as your phone) and surfaces;
  • Should you feel unwell, we appreciate you not coming for lessons and avoiding contact with other students.

The situation is changing everyday. We will no doubt get in touch again to follow up. Please stay well and we look forward to the next stage of your study. 

Immersion Programme – a platform for bilingualism

According to trusted research that children’s linguistic capacity peaks at the age of 6 and declines as they grow older. It is with this in mind that we – teachers and language enthusiasts have put together a programme which allows children in Jersey to learn Chinese from a young age in an immersive classroom environment in the hope that they can benefit from it for a lifetime. 

The immersion classes are taught through three themes – arts, maths and daily conversations. Each class includes three small sessions of 30 minutes, with 15 minutes break in between, which makes the entire session last 2 hours. We believe that cultivating our students’ interest in a different culture, and developing their skills through a foreign language are the keys to gaining proficiency. 

This programme will be led by our teacher, Di Zhao. Prior to joining ThinkChinese, Di completed her MA degree in TCSOL (Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages) from Nottingham University. She has 6 years experience teaching in a renowned bilingual institute in Beijing. Another teacher will also join her for teaching and safeguarding.

This programme is suitable for children between the ages of 3-5. Only 10 places are available. Lessons are offered on a termly basis, with formal and informal feedback provided regularly. At the end of each year, our team will review the progress of each child and compare it to the benchmark set under each theme. Reference will also be taken from that held by mainstream English-Chinese bilingual nurseries/ receptions in China. The lessons will be held every Saturday in our new office at 10 St James Street.

The programme is due to be launched in September. Enrolment is currently open. With the easing of lockdown, we are keen to organise an open day for children and parents who are interested in this programme. It is a great opportunity to get to know the environment, our teachers and receive more information on the programme. Please contact our team for more information or to enrol.

We are moving.

ThinkChinese is delighted to announce we are moving!

Located in St James Street, next to St James Church, the new office benefits from a great location. It is only a few minutes away from schools based on College Hill, and also within a stone’s throw of Town. 

The new office offers plenty of space for lessons and activities. It consists of three separate rooms which are planned to be turned into children, adults and private classrooms. 

With this exciting expansion, we are able to diversify our courses to accommodate different learning needs and preferences. Immersion classes for children between 4-6 years old and Chinese cooking lessons are currently on the plan, which will become available after Easter. Our team is also minded to organise events to take advantage of the space. Talks, quiz, music and art sessions will all become available once we settle in. 

While looking forward to the new chapter of the business, we’re also a little sad to be leaving Bourne House. It’s been our home since the very beginning of ThinkChinese and – despite its small size – has been an office, classroom, library and party venue, all at the same time. We believe the move to a bigger space reflects the growth and maturity of our service offering and the popularity of the Chinese language in the Island. 

ThinkChinese Statement on Coronavirus

You will all no doubt be aware of the global coronavirus epidemic. In response to questions raised by a number of concerned parents, we write here to offer reassurances about the steps we are taking to provide awareness of any preventative measures recommended by Jersey and UK authorities to combat the spread of the virus. 

We do so as a responsible Jersey company, which was founded here and whose workforce and operations are based on the Island. We are proud to be recognised as a valued member of the local business community and we share in the responsibility to tackle this issue head-on.

Whilst we understand that particular concerns might be raised in the direction of ThinkChinese given the nationality of our workforce, we assume that all local schools (and indeed other Jersey businesses) are circulating similar guidance given that the coronavirus epidemic has now been classified as a public health emergency. 

We can confirm that no ThinkChinese staff members have recently returned from China and nor do we have any plans to travel to China before the virus is contained and travel routes between the UK and China (and within China itself) are normalised. 

As soon as the seriousness of the situation was widely reported, we contacted a local medical professional to query whether any precautionary steps ought to be taken in respect of travel between the UK and Jersey. The advice at that point (approx. 10 days ago) was that these areas are low risk and therefore no precautions were necessary. 

We have of course monitored developments very closely. We are not health professionals and can only relay the advice that is being provided by the relevant authorities, principally the World Health Organisation, as reported in numerous media outlets. Some very simple measures can and should be taken by every one of us:

  • Always carry a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes and bin it after use.
  • Wash hands with soap and water or use sanitiser gel.

For anyone returning from China in the past 14 days, the following is recommended:

  • Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as they would with other flu viruses.
  • Avoid work, school and other public areas.
  • Avoid visitors to their homes.
  • Avoid using public transport or taxis.
  • Be vigilant about hand washing and respiratory hygiene (using tissues).

The Government of Jersey has set up a dedicated page here

Finally, I should take this opportunity to thank those of you who have kindly expressed concern about the welfare of the family and friends of ThinkChinese staff in China. We are comforted to know you are thinking of us. 

Interview with a star student – Alys Williamson

September is a month filled with academic harvest for ThinkChinese. All students sitting HSK Levels 1-3 in July passed with excellent scores. Two candidates from Level 2 obtained full marks, which is the first time in ThinkChinese’s history. 

Alys with her teacher Jiaying

Among all the achievements, one stands out for her remarkable results having only learned with us for a relatively short time. Alys Williamson obtained 292/300 in her HSK Level 3 exam and A* in her GCSE, that latter result bettering even some native Chinese students in the UK!

Currently in Year 10, Alys started to learn Chinese with us about three years ago. She attends one hour small group tuition each week. She sat HSK Levels 1 and 2 in her first year with us, and Level 3 and GCSE this summer. She surprised many with her quick acquisition of Chinese characters, adaptation to recordings of a fast speed, and ability to produce articles in characters almost effortlessly. As a Chinese teacher and education enthusiast, I’m determined to find out her learning secret, by putting forward a few questions to her. I hope to find more efficient ways for our students to learn Chinese and modern foreign languages more generally. 

  • What was your first impression of Chinese when you first began to learn the language? How did you approach the differences between English and Chinese?

When I first started learning Chinese, I realised that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would have been! The discrepancies actually helped me to learn Chinese, because unlike French, it is nothing like English, so it encouraged me to work harder to overcome them. 

  • Quite many learners find tones are very difficult especially at the beginning. What did you think about it when you first started? Do you have any tips for the new beginners?

Like many other people who learn Chinese, I also found tones very bothersome, as it seemed like I could never get them right! Though, when I learn how to read a character, I try to memorise the tones that it has, (which you can see on the Pinyin) and remember that I need to pronounce it differently.

  • In learning the written Chinese characters, what would you say will be the most effective way to remember the characters?

Admittedly, writing Chinese characters is really not one of my strongest skills, in fact, it’s something I find most difficult. This is because I often forget the stroke order, which is very important! To try and overcome this, I practice writing characters multiple times, and put them into a sentence so that I know what context they belong in. You could also make flashcards with either the full character or the stroke order of it to help it stick in your head. 

  • Could you please recommend some extracurricular activities to new Chinese learners, as what you may have done it before?

Aside from lessons, you can also do lots of study at home. I always used apps like Drops, Memrise, and ChineseSkill to help me with characters and new words. You can also use revision cards or books from the author ShaoLan Hsueh, which provides you with fun ways to learn how to read and write characters. It also helps to immerse yourself in the history and culture of China, through novels or factual books, this way, your interest will increase.

With glowing results in hand, Alys didn’t rest. She set out her journey for HSK Level 4 almost immediately. Upon passing Level 4, Alys’s choices for universities will be widened further as many prestigious Chinese universities accept HSK Level 4 and above as proof of language efficiency. In fact, a number of them are within the top 100 world universities according to Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2019. Having completed Chinese GCSE one year ahead of other subjects, Alys is also working hard on her GCSE home stretch. She hopes to get into Hautlieu and when the time comes, to travel to China with ThinkChinese so she can put her language into practice. 

I hope Alys’s story can inspire other Chinese learners and many more like-minded students – in the pursuit of excellent results, they enjoy their study and are persistent and resourceful when difficulties arise.