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ref:topbtw-1460.html/ 21 Novembre 2018/A

L'esame HSK... e buona fortuna !
HSK Exam...and good luck !

Cina: da un posto qualsiasi..

At my school, Chinese teachers push for their students to take HSK. But what is it, and why is it truly so important for students learning Chinese?

HSK stands for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, which is Chinese for Chinese Proficiency Test or Chinese Standard Exam.

It has a written and oral test, and it aims of testing "comprehensive language and communication ability", as well as listening. It is open to all non-native speakers, such as foreign students and employees who want to demonstrate their Chinese language level.

I myself have taken HSK 3, and will shortly be taking HSK 4.

"The HSK is a national exam in China and well known in the world, the only one accepted worldwide.

It is like IELTS for English," My teacher explained in an interview.

Initiated by Beijing Language and Culture University, it is now held by Hanban, the Confucius Institute Headquarters and is both in China and overseas.

Divided into 6 grades, accordingly named HSK1, HSK 2, HSK 3 --- HSK 6, it fits into the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) levels.

The exams become harder as you go up in level, increasing character difficulty and adding more listening and writing tasks.

HSK 1 and 2 are considered for beginners,
HSK 3 and 4 are intermediate and
HSK 5 and 6 are quite advanced.

Each one can take from 6 months to a year to prepare, since there are many words you must know how to read, and when advancing to harder levels the writing section is much more sophisticated.

There are more thorough level descriptions online, but in general it goes something like this:
HSK 1: Beginner level for communicating basic needs by using simple phrases.
HSK 2: Beginner level for communicating direct exchanges of information with harder words and phrases.
HSK 3: Intermediate level for communicating in Chinese in test-taker's daily lives, both academically and professionally.
HSK 4: Intermediate level for speaking with complex words and phrases on various topics.
Additionally, this level assures that the test taker can communicate with native Chinese speakers.
HSK5: Advanced level, where the test-taker demonstrates an ability to read newspapers and magazines without difficulty, understanding movies and is are able to give speeches in Chinese.
HSK 6: Advanced level, where the successful test taker can fully understand and express themselves in Chinese orally and on paper.

This is the highest level and achievement.
However, these guidelines aren't set in stone.

For example, a student can have excellent oral and communicative ability equivalent to a very high level, but they can be behind on reading and writing.

Theoretically, you could have a HSK 5 speaking level but be unable to pass HSK 3 because you don't know a sufficient amount of Chinese characters.
But what use is it, really?

Well first, you can apply to get the HSK certificate once you get your test scores, and this is extremely rewarding: it's a reference for both employers and students, and is proof of your Chinese level.

Even though it is only valid for 2 years when applying to university, it is still recognized because of its value.

Depending on your HSK level and score, it shows your language skills and is an asset as numerous companies who employ foreigners have made it a requirement.

It even helps when applying for a work visa in China!

Additionally, taking this exam encourages students to keep learning Chinese, providing a good external motivation for them to raise their level.

Teachers should also be given lots of credit.

Many will take a course in Beijing or learn online in order to effectively teach the course to their students.

"I teach my students pronunciation, sentence structure and offer a word list to help them,"
my Chinese teacher told me.

Each week, she gives us a dictation on the words (which are in alphabetical order) to help us understand the vocabulary used during the exam.

"I also give differently formatted assessments to improve my students' Chinese abilities.

I try to combine the words with the 'Easy Steps to Chinese' textbooks, and other resources such as workshops and excerpts.

I encourage my students to read Chinese books, newspapers and magazines as well."

For example, even though it is not directly related to the HSK exam, we use a platform called iChinese Reader where teachers give students assignments so we can read online.

However, it isn't just about grammar and definitions. The HSK exam also requiring a strong understanding of Chinese culture.

"We have field trips to Chinese museums and introduce students to Chinese artists and artisans.

In our school we also host an annual Chinese Culture Day with varying themes each year, letting students experience real Chinese culture," my teacher mentioned as well.

I'll be taking the HSK 4 exam and am a bit nervous about it. Still, I've had the support of my family, teachers and practiced with a ton of past papers which will surely help.

By the time this article is published, I will have taken the exam. Wish me luck!

Cortesia di L.B.

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