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November 27, 2009

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Home » Metro » Education

City tests oral Mandarin exam

SHANGHAI will launch an oral test of the Chinese language tomorrow in a national pilot program to help foreigners improve their communications skills and help universities and companies upgrade the vetting of students and employees.

The new computer-based test, called by the pinyin abbreviation HKC, will complement the HSK, a national standardized written benchmark for the Chinese language.

"Some students who score very high in the written test cannot speak well," said Qian Minghua of the Shanghai Language and Character Level Test Center, which is in charge of the new exam.

Launched in the 1990s, HSK has become the gold standard for assessing the Chinese language skills of non-natives and an important reference for schools admitting overseas students and companies hiring staff.

But many universities have reported that the HSK can't discover "mute" Chinese language learners who can read and understand Mandarin but cannot speak it well.

"The HSK reflects only students' abilities to prepare for a test instead of their abilities to apply the language," said Wu Huizhen, director of the foreign students office at Fudan University.

The school launched its own interview this year as part of the enrollment process for foreign students to make up for the flaws in the national test.

Tongji University, which has developed special language courses and designated language tutors to help foreign students adapt to life in the city, has followed suit.

"A few overseas students failed to graduate due to their poor language abilities," said Pan Huibin, who's in charge of foreign affairs at Tongji.

Shanghai has been designated as one of the first pilot areas for the new oral Chinese test by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The other is Tianjin in northeast China, which developed the test earlier this year.

About 20 overseas students in local universities have been invited to take the test tomorrow afternoon, before its official launch next year.


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