Mandarin Language Talent Programme Ref. 2381

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Cheltenham, London, Manchester
The salary range for the 11 week internship is £5,128 - £5,324 (depending on location)
If you’re studying for a degree in Mandarin, the UK’s intelligence agencies are offering you an exciting opportunity to join their Language Talent Programme.


GCHQ, MI5 and SIS employ highly skilled Language Analysts in a variety of exciting and rewarding roles. The Language Talent Programme is an 11-week paid scheme for language students at GCHQs offices in Cheltenham and Manchester or MI5 and SISs headquarters in London.  Regardless of agency or location, you’ll be a fully supported member of the team, using your language skills to contribute directly to our work and make a real difference.

Your Mandarin language skills and cultural knowledge will be central to all the work you do while on your placement with us. The precise nature of the role will depend on the agency, but you’ll work on a project which could involve analysing, transcribing and translating audio or textual material (which may be technical or specialist in nature), as well as assessing data for intelligence value using bespoke analytical tools and techniques. You could also be involved in drafting intelligence reports, conducting research using a variety of tools, providing investigators and agent handlers with contextual cultural knowledge, delivering briefings to the team and liaising with customers and partners. Your skills will have a genuine impact on the team’s work and help enable the team and organisation to fulfil its goals. 

At the end of the scheme, you’ll have the opportunity to sit the graduate-level entry tests.  If you pass these tests and a competency interview, we’ll offer you a permanent position as a Language Analyst, subject to there being vacancies at that time.


We’re looking for talented, flexible and committed individuals from all backgrounds. You’ll currently be an undergraduate in your final year of studying Mandarin and be on course to develop the high-level language skills we need OR you will have graduated within the last 2 years with a 2:2 and above. You’ll have an interest in using your language in your career and be keen to develop your skills. For roles at GCHQ, although you may not already have a technical background, you’ll be open to learning new technical skills to complement your language ability.

GCHQ, MI5 and SIS can offer long and rewarding careers which combine language, technical and analytical skills, and we’re looking to select participants for this programme who have an aspiration to work with us long term.


The UK intelligence agencies have an inclusive and supportive working environment that’s designed to encourage open minds and attitudes. We value and nurture talent, and are committed to helping you fulfil your potential. You’ll receive a comprehensive training and development package in both language and analysis that will include classroom-based learning and hands-on training, which will enable you to grow your skills and perform to the best of your abilities. Throughout your internship and career, you’ll be supported by trained professionals and mentors.

There are openings for language specialists at all three of the UK’s intelligence agencies. GCHQ uses its expertise in technology and cyber to collect foreign intelligence that linguists translate and analyse to protect the UK from terrorism, hackers, espionage and organised crime. MI5 is responsible for the domestic security of the UK and the work of our linguists helps to identify and counter threats to the UK from terrorism, espionage and cyber. SIS gathers and reports foreign intelligence that helps protect the nation and its interests, and the expertise of our linguists is key to the success of our operations.


While on the internship, you’ll receive a total salary between £5,128 - £5,324 over 11 weeks dependent on the location. You’ll also be eligible for 5.5 days’ leave.


The placements will mainly be at GCHQ’s headquarters in Cheltenham, however there are very limited places available in Manchester for Mandarin linguists

There will also be very limited placements available for Mandarin linguists at MI5 and SIS’s Headquarters in Central London.

We cannot guarantee which agency you’ll join and you should expect your internship to take place in Cheltenham. Placements in Manchester and London will be decided on business need.


To be eligible to apply for this position you must meet our nationality, residency and security requirements.  Full details of these requirements can be found here.

Be prepared to dedicate 60-90 minutes towards completing this application. We’re conscious this might be more time than you expected, so our system will allow you to save your application at any time and come back to it later. But remember to submit your full application before the closing date of 18th October 2021.

If you meet the minimum eligibility and application sift criteria, the next steps of this selection process will be:

    - Language tests
    - Final Interview

Language tests will take place in person in Manchester and London on week beginning 8th November. We will ask you to choose the location most convenient for you.

If you’re successful in the selection process, you’ll receive a job offer, conditional upon you completing our developed vetting (DV) process, including a drugs test, that enables you to obtain the level of security clearance required to undertake this role.


Applicants who pass the end-of-programme graduate-entry language tests and assessment centre and who are made and accept an offer of employment at our agencies, will receive a starting salary in excess of £30,000 subject to there being vacancies at that time. 
It is expected that you will take up your employment at the agency where you did your internship.

As a disability confident employer, we will ensure that a fair and proportionate number of disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria for this position will be offered an interview. This is known as the Offer of Interview (OOI). To secure an interview for this role, candidates applying under this scheme must meet the following minimum criteria:

• Eligibility questions – You will be asked a series of questions relating to this vacancy. If you meet the eligibility criteria you will directed to the initial application form.
• Application form – You will be required to pass an application form sift
• Language Tests - You will be required to reach the pass mark set for the relevant language tests.
On successful completion of the tests, you will be invited to interview.
To be eligible to apply, you must be a British Citizen. One of your parents must be a British Citizen or must have one of the nationalities or citizenships from one of the following: British Overseas territory, British subject, British National (Overseas), British protected person, citizenship of the Commonwealth, EEA nationality, or citizenship of the United States of America. If deceased, have had such citizenship or nationality before death. If you hold dual nationality, of which one component is British, you will nonetheless be considered. If successful, you will not normally be required to give up your non-British citizenship but, as a condition of your employment or secondment, SIS/GCHQ/MI5 may impose restrictions on your postings, work travel and/or genMI5l use of that nationality. Candidates must normally have been resident in the UK for seven out of the last ten years. This is particularly important if you were born outside the UK. Each case will be carefully considered on its own facts. You can apply at the age of 17 years and 6 months, if successful you will not be offered a start date prior to your 18th birthday. 

Discretion is vital. You should not discuss your application, other than with your partner or a close family member. 

Please note, you should only launch your application from within the UK. If you are based overseas, you should wait until you visit the UK to launch an application. Applying from outside of the UK will impact on our ability to progress your application. Further information on our eligibility criteria can be found on the Applying section.
At GCHQ, SIS and MI5 diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission. To protect the UK, we need a truly diverse workforce that reflects the society we serve. This includes diversity in every sense of the word: those with different backgrounds, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, ways of thinking and those with disabilities or neurodiverse conditions. We therefore welcome and encourage applications from everyone, including those from groups that are under-represented in our workforce. 

Please note that unfortunately we cannot accept applications from candidates who have previously attended a language test day for this internship.

This Program / Vacancy is closed to applications.