Gracie Beadling, 13, leads a Mandarin Chinese class at Newark Academy. 051017LSP4-3
Gracie Beadling, 13, leads a Mandarin Chinese class at Newark Academy. 051017LSP4-3

Pupils at Newark Academy are being given the opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese, thanks to one of their classmates.

Year 9 student Gracie Beadling is running the weekly class as part of the academy’s after-school enrichment programme.

Gracie, 13, has been teaching herself Mandarin for three years, using books and online videos. She already learns Spanish and German at school.

She started learning Mandarin when she was just ten, and was still a pupil at Chuter Ede Primary School, Balderton.

“I have always wanted to travel to Asia when I am older, so I thought it would be a useful thing to learn,” she said.

“I want to be a teacher when I grow up — either languages or chemistry, or a primary school teacher,” she said.

Gracie enjoys hobbies of painting and drawing, but decided she had enough time to continue her own Mandarin studies and also teach others the basics.

With over one billion speakers worldwide, Mandarin Chinese is widely considered the most beneficial non-European language a child can learn.

But fewer than 1% of the UK population can hold a conversation in Mandarin.

It is not widely taught in schools — last year about 140,000 young people sat a GCSE in French, but only about 4,000 took one in Mandarin Chinese.

Gracie Beadling (back, centre) with teacher Katie Vause and pupils, from left, Tilly Hatton, 12, Madison Armstrong, 11, Edith-Rose Sillett, 11, Sophie Hibberd, 11, Jessica Prior, 12, and (front) Cristal Dixon, 12, and Amelka Nowatkowska, 13. 051017LSP4-4
Gracie Beadling (back, centre) with teacher Katie Vause and pupils, from left, Tilly Hatton, 12, Madison Armstrong, 11, Edith-Rose Sillett, 11, Sophie Hibberd, 11, Jessica Prior, 12, and (front) Cristal Dixon, 12, and Amelka Nowatkowska, 13. 051017LSP4-4

Gracie is running her class for an hour after school every Thursday. It is open to students in Years 7 and 8.

To simplify the teaching process, Gracie uses the Pinyin system.

It is the most widely-used system of writing Mandarin Chinese, which uses the Latin alphabet, and helps with learning the accurate pronunciation of Mandarin words.

In her first class, Gracie explained that Mandarin uses very little punctuation, but relies heavily on accents and pronunciation, with different accents showing the tone in which the word should be spoken.

She showed, for example, how the word ma can have four or more different meanings, depending on the tone in which it is said.

Students in the first lesson were taught simple phrases, such as Hello, How Are You?, Thank You and You’re Welcome, along with words for different foods, colours and emotions. 

'It is something different'

Gracie lives in Balderton, with her parents, Mr and Mrs Chris Beadling, and her sister and brother, twins Marcie and Joel, 11, who will be joining her as pupils at Newark Academy next year.

Teacher Mrs Katie Vause, who leads the school’s enrichment programme, said she had been delighted at Gracie’s offer the run the class.

“There are not many young people who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn Mandarin,” she told the students.

“You are very lucky.”

Year 8 student Cristal Dixon, 12, was one of those who attended the first lesson.

“My German teacher says I am good at languages so I thought I would come and try it out because it is something different,” she said.