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Chinese-language Exams Can Be Key to the Future

June, 2006
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After finishing a Chinese-language proficiency test, Emma Grahan is pretty proud of herself.Hsk-1

  “It was not difficult,” Grahan said after the HSK Elementary-Intermediate exam in late April. Grahan is a Canadian student at the World Youth Academy and the only one from her school attending the language exam.

  Living in Beijing for just over half a year, she thinks it is important to learn the Chinese language well.

  “We have Chinese language courses in three levels at the school and I am at the highest level,” she said proudly. “I just want to know what level of my Chinese is through the exam anyway.”

  HSK is short for the “Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试)” or the Chinese Proficiency Test, which consists of a series of tests to assess the Chinese-language proficiency of non-native speakers.

  Hsk-3Grahan was just one of the 8,000 foreigners who attended the HSK exams at the Beijing Language and Culture University on the day. More foreigners have taken the exams recently as they are seen as key to a good future.

   “The total number of students attending the HSK exams across China exceeded 30,000,” said Sun Dejin, director of the Centre of the Chinese Proficiency Test. “Compared with last May, the students attending HSK exams increased by over 20 per cent.”

  In terms of nationalities, the Republic of Korea still has the largest student population attending the HSK, with 73 per cent of all examinees, followed by Japan, Thailand, Viet Nam and the United States.

  Li Zhurong, a Korean student, gives a very simple reason: You must pass the HSK, or you could not enter a Chinese university.

  “HSK is very important to most Korean or Japanese students because they have the most possibilities of going to Chinese universities or finding a job in China,” Li explained.Hsk-5

  He passed the HSK Level 8 last December and he is entering a Chinese university in Beijing this September.

  Li Zezi, a Japanese girl studying Chinese at the Beijing Language and Culture University since last February, also attended the HSK Elementary-Intermediate Level exam. She said she hopes she could find a job here as an interpreter or translator after two years’ studies.

  “If I studied Chinese for two years and then go back to Japan, it will turn out to be meaningless,” she said.“But if I stay here, it is easier for me to find a job in a Japanese company in China.”

  According to the Centre of the Chinese Proficiency Test, anyone who passes the HSK exam will be given a Chinese Proficiency Certificate. The certificate gives a detailed description of the person’s level of Chinese and what he or she can do using the language, which is very often looked at by employers.

  Hsk-2For example, a person with a Chinese Proficiency Certificate qualified above the HSK Level 6 can attend the higher educational institutions in China for courses in literature, history and Chinese medicine. Someone with a Chinese Proficiency Certificate qualified above HSK Level 9 can take courses for post-graduates in China. People with a Chinese Proficiency Certificate qualified for HSK Basic, Elementary-Intermediate and Advanced levels can apply for jobs in various organizations of the world which need working personnel with Chinese-language proficiency.

   “Basically, the HSK exam is a standard set for people from across the world who use Chinese as a foreign language to find out their level of Chinese,” said Sun. He also suggested that students check out the description of each exam on the HSK official website so that they can get the most accurate assessment of their Chinese level.

  For example, the HSK Basic is appropriate for those beginners who have had 100-800 hours of formal education in modern Chinese. It also suits those who have a basic vocabulary of 400 to 3,000 common Chinese characters (at the A and B levels) and who understand the corresponding Chinese grammar structures (at the A and B levels). Hsk-4

  “If the children want to participate in HSK exams, they need to spend some extra time to prepare, because the exam has more requirements on reading and writing abilities as well as knowledge on Chinese modern literatures, which is not commonly seen in other international exams like IB or IGCSE exams,” said Xu Tao, the Chinese Curriculum Coordinator at the Yew Chung International School of Beijing.

  Three of Xu’s students took the HSK exam last year and all passed the HSK Level 6. However, she would not like to encourage students to try HSK, as both the IB and IGCSE exams have high requirements on Chinese as a foreign language as well.

  Having been teaching Chinese in international schools for nine years, Xu said she hopes her students could learn the language skills, the Chinese culture and have a good world perspective.

Visit the websites: www.hanban.edu.cn to search for HSK testing information or www.hsk.org.cn to search for HSK Basic, HSK Elementary-Intermediate, HSK Advanced and corresponding information.



By Xing Yangjian

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