For many people, learning languages at school meant a choice between French or German.
But pupils at Grove Academy have been getting the opportunity to learn to something a bit different in recent years.
That’s because the Broughty Ferry school has introduced Mandarin to its curriculum, a language spoken by more than 10% of the world’s population.
Now, a little over two years since Grove’s Mandarin journey began, it’s hoped the school can lead the way in helping the language flourish in Scottish education.
‘You don’t really hear about other languages’
Grove Academy offers pupils the opportunity to study Mandarin at both National 4 and 5 level and has recently hired a full-time teacher for the subject.
Sixth year pupils Hannah Haggarty and Angie Liu are two pupils who have taken national qualifications in the subject and are full of enthusiasm for the language.
Hannah said: “I started studying Mandarin last year, starting at National 4 level and I’m now doing my National 5.
“Like any other language, it’s spoken by people across the world so you do need that opportunity to decide for yourself what you want to learn.
“Everyone knows there are French and German but you don’t really hear about other languages.
“And along with the language comes the culture, so you can get a wider knowledge straight away.”
Watch: Grove Academy pupils Angie Liu and Hannah Haggarty show off their Mandarin skills:
Angie, who has taken Mandarin at National 5 and Higher level, said: “I started studying Mandarin in S4 but I’ve been learning it since I was very young.
“I feel it’s quite important for the future because right now we all know China’s economy is growing so it could open a lot of doors for us in the future.
“I’m hopefully going to do business (at university) and having Mandarin will give me opportunities.”
Hannah, who is aiming to go on to do French and Chinese studies at university, also pointed to the employment opportunities that could come with having these skills.
She said: “This is a new thing (at Grove), it’s only come into the school in the last year or so and that tells you straight away you will have something different for employers to look at.
“I don’t think a lot of people, especially in Scotland, will have that.”
Younger pupils are also involved
It’s not just senior pupils who get the opportunity to learn Mandarin, with S1 pupils getting one period a week on the subject.
The school also has a Chinese language and culture club at lunchtimes which introduces youngsters to Mandarin and teaches them about the country.
David Bain, who is in S1, said: “After I had a Mandarin lesson I found it quite interesting and thought I would go along. Not a lot of people I know, know about Chinese.
“We will learn about the words or the culture, like the different festivals they have.”
Hamish Piggot, also in S1, added: “I went along to the club because I was actually doing French instead of Mandarin but I always wanted to learn the language and go to China.
“This week we were learning about how China gets pandas from other countries to rebuild their panda population. We also learn a lot of greetings and numbers.
“Hopefully I will go on and learn the subject up to sixth year – and get to go to China!”
“The students are fully embracing it”
Mandarin at Grove is taught by newly qualified teacher Matthew Worlock, who has recently joined Grove on a full-time basis.
He said: “From what I’ve seen so far, the students are fully embracing it. The attitude of students is very encouraging and it’s very rewarding as a teacher.
“When I came to Grove, it was just on the cusp of them introducing Mandarin. So last year it was a matter of asking pupils if they wanted to do National 4.
“From then it’s grown to a point where we can have classes in S1, taster sessions and we are now having National 4 and 5 classes.”
Grove’s efforts in introducing the language into curriculum have been recognised not just by teachers but also the Scotland China Education Network (SCEN), who this week held their first face-to-face event since the pandemic began at the school.
Matthew added: “Learning Chinese is becoming essential, not just simply because they are a global power but also for the worthwhile learning experiences pupils can get.”