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On Learning Chinese in China

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When reading the following material, bear in mind that we have compiled this information from former students and our Chinese staff.  You should use the information as a reference and a guide in your school search selection process.

On School Selection

In the last several years, many schools have appeared in the larger cities in China. In Beijing alone, there are several hundred Chinese training schools. One of the most difficult decisions you will have to make when planning your trip to China will be selecting a school. Many local Chinese schools and universities offer language courses. The choices can be overwhelming. 

Many local schools in China exhibiting an academic appearance are agency owned and promoted. Some schools hire temporary teachers who have little experience handling international student issues. If the teachers are native Chinese speakers, and do not speak good English, you will have problems communicating with them, especially if you have an important issue to discuss. Generally speaking, if you choose private schools in China, you should choose non-Chinese owned schools with more experienced staff and teachers.  Many private Chinese owned schools do not have the experience in dealing with international students.

It is a good choice to study Chinese at Chinese universities, especially the top universities in the major cities. The universities are internationally recognized, have spent many years building up a solid academic reputation, and hire top professors and teachers in the country.  At RWC, all the schools that we provide information on have been carefully selected and visited. The public university programs offer core in-class language training and have an international reputation; teachers instruct students for all the electives and activities after class. However, keep in mind, some university programs are run on a semester basis to fit with the timetable of the university.  In this regard, private schools are more flexible with intake dates and can be better suited to students seeking short-term study. 

On Teaching Methodology

If a school assures you that they can make you speak fluent Chinese in two months, DO NOT BELIEVE THEM, unless you think you are a language genius, and have actually learned a brand new language in two months. We do not want to discourage you; we want to be honest with you, and it is important you are realistic about the amount of Chinese you can learn in a given amount of time – even if you are in China.

Language is not a science; it is a skill, an art. Even if you memorize all the characters and grammar rules, it doesn’t mean you can speak as a native speaker. To make a new language synonymous with the way you think, you need plenty of exposure to the language and a lot of practice speaking it properly. We offer elective classes, social activities, after-school tutoring, and a partnered language exchange in order to help immerse you in Chinese. We cannot promise you that you will speak perfect Chinese in two months, but we can guarantee you that you will make tremendous progress under our language wheel methodology, which has been proven efficient by thousands of former students.

There are different strategies to teaching Chinese, and a hot topic centers around the learning of Chinese characters. Some private schools do not encourage students to learn how to write Chinese characters. They believe it is enough just to learn oral Chinese without paying attention to writing and reading. They recommend students to use Pinyin (Romanized letters) in place of Chinese characters when students need to record something. It is true that in the beginning, students who study only oral Chinese will learn very quickly, and even after a few days they are able to speak some Chinese. However, after some time passes, students will find it near impossible to make more progress since they will be so confused when they want to build up more Chinese words without knowing Chinese characters. Their frustration leads to abandonment, and frequently these students will give up studying Chinese. 

There are at least 3000 characters used daily in Chinese, but only 400 syllables to pronounce them, which means oftentimes one syllable matches several characters, with completely different meanings attached to each usage. If non-Chinese speakers only learn Pinyin, they will become confused after several weeks, because the more words you learn, the more similar the sounds you hear will be. Chinese characters are the most important part of Chinese culture; only by knowing Chinese characters can you build up a strong learning foundation to understand more about Chinese culture in the future. Chinese grammar is very simple and flexible, and it only takes one day to learn the basics; it takes much longer to learn all the characters. The best way to memorize characters is to use them in the real world, which is why our programs offer a plethora of opportunities to practice your Chinese in the real world.

Of course, the choice to learn or not learn to write Chinese characters depends on your purpose of learning Chinese. In Chinese public universities, all students must learn Chinese characters, without exception. For students who just want to learn basic oral Chinese, our summer camp program, DIY China adventure program, and boot camp program would be a good choice. We can also make an individual study plan for you, if none of our programs seem to fit your purpose.

On City Selection

Chinese citizens speak different dialects in different parts of China. In fact, there are more than one thousand Chinese dialects in different parts of China. People who speak a particular dialect are likely not to understand others who speak another dialect. The dialect map depicts the dialect groups within China, and although there are many, there is only one main dialect that everyone in China will use to understand one another, and that is Mandarin. Mandarin is the official language of the country; it is the language used by the government, the media and educational facilities. When we refer to learning Chinese in this website, we are referring to Chinese Mandarin, not Cantonese, the dialect spoken in Hong Kong and Macau.

Frankly speaking, from a language-learning perspective, it would be best to choose cities in north China. The best city is Beijing, since the country’s standard dialect, Mandarin, is based on the Beijing dialect. The speakers of Beijing, therefore, are standard. However, if you look at other aspects for choosing a city, then you will have more options. With the development of Chinese society, more and more people who used to live in small towns or cities are rushing to the big cities to live since more opportunities are available to them. As a result of this population growth, citizens of the big cities like Shanghai or Nanjing are forced to use Mandarin to communicate.

All the cities we have selected in our programs have decent language environments, although each city offers different things to different people. For example, if it is necessary for you to learn standard Mandarin (perhaps for business purposes), then it would be best for you to stay in Beijing; however, if the prospect of many traffic jams does not appeal to you, and you prefer to learn Chinese while enjoying sunshine and the sea, then Qingdao would be a good option. If you are addicted to Chinese culture or history, Xi’an would be ideal foryou, since it is the start of the Silk Road, and was the capital city for over ten dynasties. If you eat western food everyday, and prefer to keep it that way, you may want to reconsider visiting Tibet, since it is not as international as you may think.

We have created a chart for you, in order to help with your city selection. A score of 10 is full points.

 

Language environment

Business environment

Culture and History

Weather

Natural Scenery

Internation alization

Beijing

10

9

10

7

8

10

Shanghai

8

10

6

9

7

10

Xi'an

8

7

10

7

8

9

Hangzhou

8

8

9

9

10

9

Nanjing

8

8

9

8

9

9

Kunming

8

7

8

10

9

8

Dalian

9

7

6

10

10

9

Qingdao

9

7

6

10

10

9

Guangzhou

8

9

7

9

7

10

Tibet

7

5

10

7

10

6


There are other cities to visit and learn Chinese, and if you are interested in traveling to them, we can assist you with your plans, although we strongly caution against journeying to towns outside our recommended cities list.

If you have any questions regarding your future trip, your ability to learn Chinese, or any other aspects of learning Chinese in China, you may contact us by phone or email. We are here to give you the best advice possible – without costing you a dime.

 
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