China's official language is Modern Standard Chinese, or Putonghua (the common or shared language) in Chinese. The language is also referred to as Hanyu, the spoken language of the Han people, or Zhongwen, the written language of China. In Taiwan it is more usually called Huayu (Hwayu), the spoken language of people of Chinese ethnicity. This term is also used in Singapore. 

A number of dialects remain in active use. In addition, the character system has undergone significant evolution, standardisation and simplification over time. In recent times, the need to create Chinese language texts in digital format has resulted in an international effort to standardise character forms and attribute a Unicode to each form so that computer operating systems internationally can generate and reproduce Chinese texts in both simplified and traditional/full-form characters. It is not common for new characters to be created. In contemporary overseas Chinese media, texts are commonly in either simplified or traditional/full-form characters, reflecting the diverse histories and preferences of these communities. 

Communities of Chinese speakers are characterised by linguistic, cultural and geographic diversity and can be found in almost every country of the world. Many of these communities have a long tradition, and they are particularly strong on the Pacific coast of Canada and the USA, and in South-East Asia, Australia and some European countries. The history of the Chinese community in Australia extends back to the mid-1800s, and patterns of migration in recent decades have seen rapid growth in Australia’s Chinese population.

Current links between Australia and China are characterised by bilateral relationships in trade and investment, as well as educational exchanges, and research and development in science and technology. The movement of people and ideas, as well as economic, cultural and educational exchange, adds to the richness and complexity of this relationship.

Prep to Year 2

Children enter the early years of schooling with established oracy skills in one or more languages and varying degrees of early literacy capability. For young students, learning typically focuses on their immediate world of family, home, school, friends and neighbourhood. They are learning how to socialise with new people, share with others, and participate in structured routines and activities at school. Typically, they have little to no experience of Chinese language and culture.
Chinese language learning and use
The systems of writing and speaking in Chinese are distinct. The sights and sounds of Chinese are also quite distinct from English. Students therefore are immersed as much as possible in the sounds and spoken words of Chinese, the meaning of which is made clear through participation in active listening and action-related talk, gestures, dramatisation and games. Students are introduced to common characters associated with routines and their immediate experience, and draw on explicit models to communicate.
Contexts of interaction
Students socialise in structured situations and activities in the classroom and at school, with a focus on topics such as self, home, family, and daily routines. They begin to explore Chinese language and culture by participating in experiences such as celebrations; where relevant, they identify similarities and differences between Chinese culture and their own and other cultures.
Texts and resources
Students engage with a variety of texts and text modes, including picture and caption books, songs, cartoons and movies. They hear the different sounds of Chinese in stimulus material such as stories read aloud, multimedia resources and internet sites.
Features of Chinese language use
Learners are immersed in listening to, viewing and reading Chinese. They become aware of Chinese as an alternative code to English and that other languages exist within their own classroom, their country and overseas. They begin to recognise the importance of tone in Chinese speech and observe that the sounds of Chinese can be encoded in Pinyin using familiar letters. Students view characters through appropriate text types that may be glossed in Pinyin. They learn to recognise characters that represent familiar objects and ideas and convey significant cultural meanings.
Level of support 
Visual displays, gesture, and specific and concrete contextual clues are continuously used to support understanding. Teachers model correct language use, which provides the main source of students’ development in Chinese. Learners will experiment with various software and technologies as communication tools.
The role of English
English is used by teachers and learners as appropriate for clarification, reflection, questioning and explanation, to support learners to comprehend and acquire Chinese.

Year 3 and 4

At this level children are developing awareness of their social world and memberships of various groups, including of the Chinese class. They benefit from varied, activity-based learning which builds on their interests and capabilities and makes connections with other areas of learning.
Chinese language learning and use
The systems of writing and speaking in Chinese are distinct. Because of the role of character learning and its impact on reading and writing, learners can accomplish a higher active use of spoken language than written language. As a result, engagement with Chinese language is primarily through speaking and listening. Learners practise using Chinese through participating in action-related talk, and completing tasks while relying on teacher modelling, prompts and repetition. Students respond non-verbally to spoken Chinese in the classroom, and their understanding of Chinese is dependent on context, and on teacher intonation, gestures and facial expressions. They repeat speech and sounds from frequent and consistent teacher modelling and produce texts using familiar words or phrases.
Contexts of interaction
Likely contexts of interaction focus on everyday educational experiences and students’ personal, family and social environments. These familiar contexts are represented in the classroom in structured and scaffolded situations.
Texts and resources
Key text types and contexts include short predictable texts, photo biographies, correspondence, and structured and scaffolded situations. Students engage with a variety of Chinese language texts, including short audiovisual texts, plays, fables, rhymes, songs and dance, extending their use and comprehension of Chinese language and culture. Students also produce simple oral and written texts. They are exposed to a wide range of Chinese voices and settings through the use of multimedia texts, simulations and performances.
Features of Chinese language use
Students discover the distinctive features of the spoken language and begin to use Pinyin and tone marks to practise syllables and tones they encounter in new words. They recognise that letters in Pinyin and English produce different sounds using different spelling conventions. Printed texts used in the classroom are mainly presented in Pinyin but may be glossed with characters. Students use Pinyin to write, knowing that characters represent the real form of writing in Chinese. They use a variety of communication modes, including oral communication in English and Chinese as well as mime and gesture.
Level of support 
Chinese language use is scaffolded and prompted by the teacher, and teacher modelling of correct language use is the main source of oral and written language acquisition.
The role of English
English is used where it supports comprehension of and participation in Chinese interactions, and when discussing issues of comparison and contrast between languages and cultures.

Year 5 and 6

At this level students are expanding their social networks, experiences and communication repertoire in both their first language and Chinese. They continue to need guidance and participate in structured, collaborative tasks that both recycle and extend language. Students are gaining greater independence and becoming more conscious of their peers and social context. They are gaining awareness of the world around them. Learners are noticing similarities and differences between Chinese language and culture and their own.
Chinese language learning and use
The systems of writing and speaking in Chinese are distinct. Because of the role of character learning and its impact on reading and writing, learners can accomplish a higher active use of spoken language than written language. As a result, engagement with Chinese language is primarily through speaking and listening. With teacher support, students begin to use Chinese to communicate their own ideas and participate in collaborative decision making. Learners engage in exploration of patterns and features of the language, talking about and making connections between known languages and cultures and comparing different ways of communicating in familiar contexts.
Contexts of interaction
Likely contexts for interaction are related to students’ personal, family and local environments, and their everyday educational experiences. They communicate with peers, teachers, known adults, and with other students in their class. The settings for interaction move to a more public context and include more participants. Students begin to move from socialising in the here and now to planning and organising future events.
Texts and resources
Text types include print and online news and media, blogs, advertisements, catalogues, popular music and drama. Texts presented in characters are generally glossed in Pinyin. Students write in characters to correspond with others in letters, and use Pinyin input systems to generate a variety of texts in digital format.
Features of Chinese language use
Engagement with oral language includes active listening; observing interactions between speakers in everyday contexts; and using the spoken language in songs, rhymes, stories read aloud, and games. Learners ask and answer questions, describe people and objects, and recount events. They speak with attention to the sounds and tones of words, using formulaic language and applying their knowledge of familiar language structures in new contexts. Students map character forms onto their familiar oral vocabulary, and recognise and name characters in context. They record and learn new vocabulary by using word lists in Pinyin, and use Pinyin to prepare drafts of spoken texts.
Level of support 
Chinese language use continues to be scaffolded and prompted by the teacher. Teachers’ modelling of correct Chinese language use is the primary source of learners’ increasing Chinese oral and written language acquisition.
The role of English
The use of English is necessary for discussion, reflection and explanation, and for the continued development of learners’ knowledge base and intercultural capability.

Year 7 and 8

These years represent a transition to secondary school and students in this pathway are continuing to study Chinese bringing with them a capability to communicate, with some assistance, about their immediate world and China.
Chinese language learning and use
The systems of writing and speaking in Chinese are distinct. Because of the role of character learning and its impact on reading and writing, learners can accomplish a higher active use of spoken language than written language. As a result, engagement with Chinese language is primarily through speaking and listening. Students use Chinese for self-expression, to access new information and to share their knowledge and experiences with others. Pinyin remains an important tool for learning the sound of new words, associating sounds with characters, and creating digital texts in characters.
Contexts of interaction
Students actively use Chinese in a range of everyday contexts for purposes such as socialising with peers, transacting and getting things done, sharing information and engaging in performance with a range of known participants, including native speakers and peers.
Texts and resources
Students explore a range of written texts, developing strategies to interpret meaning where not all characters are known. They read, respond to and create digital texts, including blogs, biographies and opinion pieces, using a variety of technologies and software.
Features of Chinese language use
Chinese is the language of instruction and interaction, and is used in more elaborate ways as students extend their knowledge of the grammatical system and its use through spoken and written communication. Students experiment with language, exploring how cultural meanings are expressed. They analyse how messages are conveyed across languages, and apply their skills in mediating between Chinese and English in different contexts and situations. Classroom discussions focus on exploring and extending their range of contexts and audiences as they develop their personal communication skills.
Level of support 
Students are supported to develop increasing autonomy as language learners and users, to self-monitor, and to adjust language in response to their experience in diverse contexts.
The role of English
English is used as appropriate to allow for explanation and discussion on issues associated with analysis of language, reflection on experiences, and comparisons across languages and cultures.

Last reviewed 08 September 2020
Last updated 08 September 2020