YCIS Shanghai strives to nurture highly bilingual students using The National Literacy Strategy Framework in all the school's language programmes. The framework details the goals for teaching reading and writing from Years 1 to 6. Bilingual literacy lessons are a daily activity for all students.
The school offers Chinese as a First Language (CFL) to students whose mother tongue is Chinese, as well as a Chinese as an Additional Language (CAL) programme. The former curriculum emphasises the pragmatic aspect of language as a communication medium by using the "family of characters approach to learning Chinese". The CAL programme enables students to gain understanding of Chinese culture and language by emphasising folk culture, festivals, technology, history and art.
The study of Putonghua is required at all levels of Primary Section, developing and training a student's listening and speaking ability.
The English programme concentrates on four key areas of study: speaking, listening, reading and writing. Through discussions and reading comprehension exercises, students learn to understand what they read and to put into words what they think. These exercises help students build confidence in their English communication skills.