Happy New Year to everyone out there:) I’m now back in the office after 2 weeks of travelling through China.
One thing I learned in those two weeks is that a little Chinese can help a lot, especially because a lot of Chinese people aren’t very good or don’t even speak a word in English. Even in cities like Beijing and Shanghai you will sometimes have problems communicating what you want.
When I first arrived in China for my internship the first problem was the communication – because of a delay of my flight I couldn’t get the ferry to Zhuhai. BUT there was no one who could explain the problem – they tried to speak English but I couldn’t understand a word.
Same problem was with the taxi drivers – in general you must be very lucky if you find an English speaking taxi driver in Zhuhai 🙂 During shopping in the underground markets, where you have to bargain for the price it’s even harder – haggling is not easy if both parties don’t speak the same language.
There are a lot more situations where I was lost without any help of the other interns, who already had Chinese classes. Honestly I felt stupid, like a small child that couldn’t do anything without help.
That’s why I decided to start Chinese language classes. I just talked with Morgan, our Office Manager in Zhuhai and the following week my Chinese classes begun. The best is to have a private teacher, 1 to 1 classes – so the teacher can slow down if you need more time or if you already know a little Chinese you will start at your level. I took 2 hours twice a week, so every Monday and Friday after work I went to the language school and expanded my language skills. As it is a private teacher you can arrange the time individually which is an advantage, especially when you have a full-time internship.
During my tour through China I was glad to be able to communicate at least a little with the people. Very often it was about ordering food in the restaurant or asking for directions. There are some basic things you really need to know and then it will be easier for you to live and travel in China.
As a bonus it also looks nice on your CV to have a language like Chinese – even if it is just the very basic. I hope this will help me in my future career, when I have meetings with colleagues from China – as Chinese people are very impressed when you can speak a little Chinese 🙂
Just like many other people, when I started to study Chinese, I had to face a lot of difficulties. I asked myself things like: Will I ever be able to produce those sounds and tones correctly? Or: How would I be able to learn all of those characters? Of course studying is a lot of hard work and if you want to study a language you will never stop learning. But then I found my ways to have some fun while studying.
This is basically about the spoken language, because there is no other way but to study the characters a lot, if you want to be able to memorize them.
No.1 Listen to music
Do you like music? Then find some good Chinese songs from your favourite music genre and start listening. Maybe you can find the lyrics in Chinese and pinyin, sometimes they have translations too. It also helps a lot to sing along, because you can practice your pronunciation and in music, as it’s all about the melody, the tones aren’t that important. Also remember going to Karaoke, or as the Chinese call it, KTV. This is one of Chinese people’s most favourite past-times, where you can make friends and have a lot of fun.
No. 2 Watch movies or TV
I started getting interested in China after my first Jackie Chan movie and I have always liked to watch movies. Then I also found my love for Asian television drama. When you watch Chinese movies you can put on subtitles first so you know what’s going on. Chinese movies and TV usually have Chinese subtitles, too, so if you’re already good, try to read along. Whilst watching you can practice your listening comprehension and also learn about Chinese culture. As Chinese love to make their own history into movies, you can learn about the main events in a faster way than reading a book. And if you meet Chinese people you will have something fun to talk about.
No. 3 Learn tongue twisters
I know it can be a little hard and maybe people will laugh at you first, but it’s still fun. It will help you with your pronunciation and studying the tones, because Chinese tongue twisters are also mainly about the tones. If you listen to the song 中国话Zhōngguóhuà by Taiwanese girlgroup S.H.E. you can hear some famous tongue twisters. You can also teach Chinese people your country’s tongue twister and laugh at them. 😉 Here is a really simple one for the first try:
sì shì sì, shí shì shí, shí sì shì shí sì, sì shí shì sì shí.
Four is four, Ten is Ten, Fourteen is Fourteen, Forty is Forty.
No. 4 Learn how to say and read your favourite dishes
As food is an important thing here in China and there are so many different dishes, you will have to find out which food you like and how to order it. In the meantime you can also study a lot of useful vocabulary that has to do with food, such as different types of vegetables or meat. You can combine studying and enjoying a delicious meal. Every city or region has their own special dish. The city I’ve studied in is famous for 扬州炒饭 Yángzhōuchǎofàn, which you can get in Chinese restaurants all over the world, but it still tastes the best in Yangzhou. 😉
No. 5 Find a language partner
Of course the best way to learn a language is to speak it and with a native speaker it’s the most efficient. So if you are still in University you should find out if there is a program to find a language partner or you can try to make Chinese friends via the internet. You can do all the fun things you do with your other friends and improve your Chinese at the same time. The easiest way to learn is if you come to China, because you will quickly find friends whom you can practice Chinese with.