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What is HSK and why do I need it?

June 11, 2020 | Sander Floris

Everything you need to know about the Chinese Proficiency Test Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK).

  • Definition of HSK

HSK is the abbreviation of Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi and is an international standard skill test for persons who are not native Chinese Language speakers.  HSK is the official Chinese exam for foreigners, similar to Cambridge for English. The test was introduced in 2010 by the Chinese government. The HSK exam consists of two separate sections: a written and oral examination. The written exam consists of six levels from HSK level 1 to HSK level 6, and the oral exam is sub-divided into three stages of HSK Basic, HSK intermediate to HSK advanced. As you apply to study in China, this is one of the requirements for Chinese taught Master’s and Bachelor’s Degrees

What is the HSK Chinese exam like?

HSK is known as the internationally standardized test of Chinese language proficiency, which focuses on the ability of non-first language candidates to communicate in their lives, studies, and work. Chinese universities require HSK certification to allow international students study Chinese taught programs. Some companies also make HSK a requirement for hiring international talents to work in their China office

First, Consider the examination structure.

HSK has several levels to indicate the number of Chinese characters you can write, remember, and read.

Second, the examination level

The correspondence between the HSK levels and the International Chinese Competence Standard is shown in the table below:

HSK In Writing Exam Duration HSK Characters EU Level HSK Oral Exam
HSK 1 40 min 150 A1 Elementary
HSK 2 55 300 A2 Primary
HSK 3 90 600 B1 Intermediate
HSK 4 105 1200 B2 Upper-intermediate
HSK 5 125 2500 C1 Advanced
HSK 6 140 5000 C2 Proficient

 

  • Candidates on HSK (level 1) can understand and use some simple Chinese words and sentences to meet specific communication needs, with the ability to further learn Chinese.
  • On HSK (level 2), candidates can use Chinese on the familiar daily topics for direct and straightforward communication, to achieve the junior Chinese excellence level.
  • On HSK (level 3), candidates can use Chinese to complete the basic communication tasks in life, study, work, and so on, when traveling in China, can cope with most of the communicative tasks encountered.
  • Candidates on HSK (Level 4) can talk in Chinese on a wide range of topics and communicate more fluently with native speakers of Chinese.
  • Candidates on HSK (Level 5) can read Chinese newspapers and magazines, enjoy Chinese film and television programs, and give more complete speeches in Chinese.
  • Candidates on HSK (Level 6) can easily understand what they hear or read in Chinese and express their views fluently in Chinese, either verbally or in writing.

Third, the principle of examination.

HSK follows the principle of “combined teaching,” and the examination design is tightly integrated with the current situation of international Chinese teaching. Furthermore, it emphasizes the use of teaching materials, with the aim of “promoting teaching by examination” and “promoting learning by examination.”

HSK pays more attention to the objectivity and accuracy of evaluation and also on to the development of candidates’ ability to apply Chinese in daily life.
HSK sets clear test goals to help candidates plan and effectively improve their ability to apply Chinese.

Fourth, the form of the examination

  • 1. Paper-paper HSK test (Paper-based Test)

  • 2. Network HSK Tests (Internet-based Test)

The online exam is based on the Internet, and computer-based examination, which examines the candidate’s ability to communicate in Chinese, and the content, standards, and effectiveness of the test are the same as the paper and pen exam. Chinese online examination is convenient and flexible, safe, and stable, and supports online examination management, online payment, and online simulation.

 

Speaking Chinese, for many, it remains something exotic. But is it that hard?

With nearly 1.3 billion speakers worldwide, Chinese is one of the most important languages worldwide. But there is an aura of insuperability around: learning the language would be incredibly difficult.

The script, the Chinese themselves are most proud of it, it is a ‘logo graphic script’, in which a drawing shows a field of meaning. To read a newspaper smoothly, you have to master about 2,500 characters, but there’s a lot more, about 80,000. It is still the oldest script in use worldwide. People are also attracted by the aesthetics of the character.

Can you write those characters by just copying them? No, there are strict rules attached to that. Per character, you have to draw a few dashes, in the correct order. In the long run, computers can automate the writing process.
Linguists have poured all the sounds into a clear table, there are different combinations possible. But then there’s the tone. There are four different tones. Depending on the tone you use, the meaning changes.

How do you make these characters beautiful sentences? Surprisingly, that’s not even that hard. The Chinese use ‘syntactic simplicity’: many things that make a language difficult, such as singular/plural, do Chinese not have. The order of the sentence is crucial. Chinese is also an extraordinarily contextual language, the social context plays an important role. “Have you eaten yet?” could mean, “How are you going?” Cultural knowledge is crucial.

Chinese: Mandarin or Cantonese

Mandarin is considered as the primary language in the Republic of China. Cantonese is spoken in the south of the country, Hong Kong and Guangdong Province, while many dialects are also spoken in the countryside. However, Mandarin is considered as an official language – Standard Chinese – throughout the Republic. HSK only examine mandarin

Learning Chinese for Mandarin Proficiency

Learning Chinese requires a different approach of learning than when you want to learn other languages. Chinese Language is a tone language.

What is a tone language anyway?

A tone language is a language in which the meaning of a word completely changes if you just pronounce a syllable in the word in a different tone. In Chinese, pronunciation, and spelling are separate systems. This is different from, for example, in English, where the pronunciation is directly associated with spelling. So, the pronunciation of the English word ‘dictionary’; you read it out loud as ‘dic-tion-ary.’ You emphasize the first syllable. If you pronounce the sounds, others will understand you instantly.

What does that mean for the way you learn?

Being accurate in pronunciation and the word learning are key to mastering Chinese Language. You start by learning the tones, then with the pronunciation of words, and then you continue with the pronunciation of sentences. Only then will you use grammar to construct your sentences. So that’s completely different from learning another language. The approach to reading, writing, listening, and speaking are much more mixed up, and you can develop all the skills at once.

A roadmap for learning Chinese (How to Learn Mandarin for HSK Tests)

  • Step 1: Start with the tones – Master it first

Depending on the tone used, the meaning of a word changes so it is essential to get this right before proceeding. As a beginner, make sure that you pronounce the tones in each syllable well before you try to pronounce words of two or three syllables.

  • Step 2: Learn Chinese Characters – Vocabulary enrichment

After learning the tones, you will focus on the syllables in a word. Every syllable must be clearly pronounced in the right tone. This will probably be the most challenging aspect of learning the Chinese language. It is essential to learn this well with the help of a language coach before proceeding with the next step: the pronunciation of short sentences. Every syllable counts in the pronunciation of Chinese.

  • Step 3: Construction of Sentences

Once you can pronounce short sentences, consider taking the next step: create your own Chinese phrases by using grammar and the sentence patterns you’ve learned.

  • Step 4: Learn Hanzi – (Chinese Characters is called Hanzi)

It is recommended not to start with learning the Chinese characters (Hanzi) before you can read short conversations. Start with the tones and reading patterns and then gradually move to write Chinese Characters

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