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Cultural, Languages, Qingdao Blogs

Musings on Chinese

By Sophie Combers
Great numbers of people come to China to do an internship through InternChina, and a good few of them also come in order to learn a little Chinese at the same time.

Of course, anyone who has studied Chinese as a second language knows Mandarin is no easy tongue in which to even achieve competency, let alone fluency.

Many may have studied Chinese in the classroom previously—that’s what I did. It’s very different, however, to hear the language around you every day; on the street, on the radio, on television, and written across billboards and signs.

This twenty-four-seven immersion tends to speed up your learning much faster than you’d expect—it’s hard not to pick up a few words when the sounds of Chinese stream steadily about you in a hundred currents of language, and it’s harder still to live in China without knowing a few words to help you function in everyday life. Knowing basic greeting words, numbers, and how to express your level of language skill are good pieces of knowledge to have under your belt (although, don’t be too scared—many people in China, unless told otherwise, will assume foreigners don’t understand a word).

There are a few difficulties related to learning Chinese. Unless you’re one of those lucky people who already speaks a tonal language, Chinese can often be a real challenge with its tones, and its many, many, many written characters. But I would argue (with my own far from fluent Chinese skills) that it’s still good to learn.

Not solely for the workplace or for a resume bullet point, although those are sound and solid reasons beyond a doubt.

Here’s another reason I realised during my sojourn in Qingdao—Chinese is just so fascinating!

Here’s a secret: it’s true that sometimes (or often) all the tones will sound the same, every grammar rule will seem impossible to sort out, and all the characters will seem to be hatching devious plots to scramble themselves before your eyes.

But Chinese’s written pictorial words can also become artworks of ink and water and grace on paper; black characters so fluid they seem to stir into motion and life, their every tiny image telling a different story, holding millenniums’ worth of China’s age-old history and culture.

Chinese’s spoken words can form sequences of flowing sounds so clear and quick they remind you of a series of chiming bells, simple and easy as blinks of sunlight.

And when in China, there’s no delight quite like being able to respond in Chinese to a question spoken in Chinese, translating the other person’s query and your own answer and hardly needing to think about it. You can feel truly at home once you can speak the local language, it really is one of the best ways to get to know China and its people. One of my favourite quotes, attributed to Nelson Mandela, is: ‘if you talk to someone in their own language, that goes to their heart’.

Chinese isn’t just grammar and route learning, it gives you the power to understand the fabric of the world around you in the country itself.

And gaining that ability makes all the hours of memorising words, all the embarrassing moments of miscommunication—one hundred per cent worth it, and more.

Homestay Experience, Internship Experience, Qingdao Blogs, Qingdao InternChina Events, Things To Do in Qingdao

My first days in Qingdao

I am from Germany and finished school last year. Now, I am between secondary school and looking forward to going to university next year. As part of my Gap Year I chose to go to Qingdao for five months to learn Mandarin.
I landed in Qingdao after 16 hours of flight and stopover. At ten in the morning I arrived in a freezing cold Qingdao. Having not slept the whole flight because I wanted to watch all the movies I was quite tired upon my arrival. But all my fatigue quickly fell away when I saw that my host family had sent their driver in a Jaguar to pick me up and excitement set in! An hour later we got to the house I was placed in, where I have my own room with a balcony. The house is in a beautiful neighbourhood and within a two-minute walk from the beach.

InternChina- Panorama of the street I live on
InternChina- Panorama of the street I live on

I met my DiDi (little brother) later that afternoon when he came back from school and the parents in the evening when they came back from work. The family made me feel most welcome and I managed to settle in quickly. Not knowing what to expect of the food in Qingdao I was relieved when the Ayi (housekeeper) – who helps me where she is able to – served some egg-fried rice alongside a good ol’ steak with some beans. The Ayi cooks heaps of food, does my laundry, cleans my room and tries to support me wherever possible, as does the rest of the family.

The food here is dangerously spicy for people who cannot eat spicy food and understandably consists of a lot of rice and dumplings but I personally like hot food and the Chinese cuisine so I was happy. However, my stomach was not and took a few days to get used to the food. The only thing I do not enjoy quite so much is the ZaoFan (breakfast). But this problem was resolved swiftly after I told the Ayi that I would be happy to eat toast. Now, the only remnant of Western cuisine in my diet is toast with Nutella in the morning along some scrambled eggs. At this point I got to warn any prospective interns that it is not easy to come by foreign groceries here. I have yet to find Nutella and for now I make do with some surrogate chocolate cream. Also all imported food is more expensive than it would be in the country of origin.

InternChina- Chinese Food
InternChina- Chinese Food

On Monday I had to drive to school for the first time which was a piece of cake given that the public transport is really efficient. But it can be very confusing because all maps are in HanZi and most people only speak Chinglish so I would advise you to get a good description of the buses you can take and at which stop you have to get out. Furthermore, Google Maps does not work in China unless you use a VPN, so getting around the city can be a challenge. Nonetheless, I arrived at school safe after an exciting bus ride – the traffic is wild and the bus drivers are mad. My school is great, I am a single student and my teacher is very able and we get along just fine. After school I usually go to lunch with my colleagues who are great fun which makes work so much more bearable. The work atmosphere is relaxed and my tasks do not bore me, so I am perfectly happy with my placement.

InternChina- View from the office
InternChina- View from the office

The weekends are really exciting, as we always have a group activity – last week for example we went hiking in the mountains and this weekend we will go paintballing – after which we go out in the city. Also on Thursdays all interns get together and have dinner at a different restaurant every week.

InternChina- Skyline in the night
InternChina- Skyline in the night

Having had little prior Mandarin skills I think I can say that even the mere two weeks I have been here so far have made a huge impact on my knowledge of HanYu, so I am looking forward to the next 16 weeks, during which I am hoping to travel around China with the other interns. For Chinese New Year we are probably travelling to NanJing, the ancient capital of China.


If you also want to experience the real China and live in a hostfamily during your internship, apply now!


Chinese is more than just Mandarin

China is home to 55 recognised ethnic minority groups and 10 dialect groups.Just a 30 minute drive into the next province can make you feel as if you’ve entered a whole new world. The foods, the accents, the smells and the scenery. All very unfamiliar and different, yet all quintessentially Chinese. Here in Zhuhai, Guangdong province; this area is very distinctive and famous in China for these very reasons.

InternChina-Guangdong Province, China
InternChina- Guangdong Province map, China source

Even though China’s official language is Mandarin Chinese (普通话 pŭtōnghuà), Guangdong province has a long history of being the home of Cantonese (广东话 guǎngdōnghuà).
Living in Zhuhai so far, it certainly feels like I am at a junction where the Mandarin speaking world and the Cantonese speaking world collides. The large majority of people here can speak Mandarin Chinese, so don’t worry, you can still get yourself places and you won’t starve to death.

For the local people however, when it comes to choosing between Mandarin and Cantonese it feels as though everyone is bilingual. In the working environment Mandarin is the language of choice, but once people are out and about with their friends and family they ‘up the anti’ with a richer, louder and greater variety of tones that is characteristic of the Cantonese language.

InternChina- Chinese Characters
InternChina- Although Mandarin and Cantonese characters look the same, they are pronounced entirely differently.

In order to implement a standardised language across the country and to promote mass literacy, in 1954 the People’s Republic of China made Chinese Mandarin the official language. With an increasing number of young people choosing to concentrate on Mandarin for greater career options there is concern that Cantonese will be lost with the older generation.

Living and working here in Zhuhai, I personally hope that this is not the case. While I may not understand Cantonese it is a language that has so much history and meaning to the people of the Guangdong province. The language adds a whole new dimension and vibrancy to life in Zhuhai, so much so that I don’t think this place would be the same without it.

Apply here, to experience your own Chinese adventure!

chinese more than mandarin

Before your stay, Chengdu Blogs, How-to Guides, Internship Experience, Mandarin Guide, Travel

Your first Words in China

You did the first step and gathered information about InternChina and your opportunity to go abroad. Well done :)But now it is getting hard, because as you may know, Chinese might not be the fastest language to learn. Hence, I compiled a list with the most important words, which you will definitely need during your first days in China. I recommend learning some phrases in advanced to be well prepared:

Starting with the easiest one:

No 1: ‘Hello’: nǐ hǎo 你好

Always good to know some basics. You will see how delighted Chinese people will be!

No 2: ‘Thank you’: xiè xie 谢谢
No 3: ‘How much is it?’: duō shǎo qián? 多少钱?
No 4: ‘Too expensive’: tài guì le 太贵了

Bargain is the most important thing if you want to buy something. Especially in some stores they try to cheat you… This might require some enhanced Chinese skills though 😉

No 5: ‘No, no, you needn’t’: bú yòng, bú yòng 不用,不用
No 6: ‘Where’s the bathroom?’: cè suǒ zài nà ér 厕所在那儿?

You should know that Chinese bathrooms, particularly the public toilets, are a little bit different to Western ones. But this will be another thing you will easily adapt to in China.

No 7: ‘Not spicy please’: bú yào là 不要辣

Do you like spicy food? Than you should definitely come to Chengdu. The Sichuan cuisine is famous for its spicy food. Be aware of the Sichuan pepper, it may be able to start a little spicy firework in your mouth…
But the most important phrase; you really can´t survive without:

 No 8: ‘I don’t understand’:   tīng bú dǒng   听不懂

Ting bu Dong
‘I don’t understand’

Just give you a try

If you feel motivated to speak more Chinese than these little phrases, InternChina offers you the unique chance to combine your internship with great language classes. Either in small groups or 1 to 1-classes, your Chinese will improve quickly!

Would you like to use these phrases or take some language classes during your internship? Then apply now!

Photo: Phrases:

Before your stay, Cultural, Job Market in China, Mandarin Guide, Things To Do in Chengdu, Things To Do in Zhuhai, Travel, Understanding Business in China, Weekend Trips

10 Reasons to Come to China II

Last time we started presenting you our top 10 reasons for coming to China. Today we would like to enlarge our list by four more reasons. Here they are!
#4 Have fun at the Beach!
A beach may not be the first image that comes to your mind when you think about China. You will be surprised though about the warm and sunny weather you find in many coastal areas. Below you can see a picture of a beach in Zhuhai, Guangdong. If you are not lucky to be close to the sea check out Chengdu’s indoor beach at Global Center for some water fun!

InternChina- Zhuhai beach in Guangdong Province

#5 Ancient Architecture
The Great Wall is the most famous achievement of ancient Chinese architecture. The construction process started in the 7th century. During the following centuries the wall was amplified, rebuilt and restored. Most parts you can visit today have been built during the Ming Dynasty  (1368–1644). If you are interested in visiting the Great Wall it is most convenient to start your trip in Beijing. Hostels usually organize tours where you can walk on a section of the Great Wall for a couple of hours.

InternChina- The Great Wall of China

#6 Chinas’s Economic Boom
For years China has been the fastest-growing major economy growing by an average of almost 10%. Recently the growth rate decreased but China still is on an economic upswing. Thanks to its high export rates China has become a global economic superpower no one can ignore anymore. With the constant economic progress many cities keep growing rapidly. New factories and large office buildings are being built everywhere.

InternChina- Construction site in Chengdu

#7 Beautiful Language
China’s positive economic performance is prompting more and more people to learn Chinese. It definitely takes some time before you can write Chinese signs by memory but it is worth investing the time. You will soon find out how to combine signs and create new words with a different meaning. The spoken language though is much easier to learn because grammar is quite easy. Chinese people really love foreigner talking Chinese, even it is just 你好(ni hao = hello) or 谢谢 (xiexie = thank you).

InternChina- Learning Chinese

Learning Chinese will be a great experience. Look for an internship and apply now!

Cantonese, Cultural, Languages, Mandarin Guide

Thea on Chinesese Dialects

Once you arrive in China one of the first things that troubles you is the language. It sounds very exotic and weird at the beginning. The first impression is that everything just sounds exactly the same. Many people get scared away because the Chinese speaking language is so hard to learn. Admittedly it is quite tough, at least at the beginning.

InternChina- Chinese Language School

The fact that there are somewhere between six and twelve regional dialects of Chinese doesn’t make the whole thing easier. Among them you may know Mandarin, Cantonese and Min. Although there are some similarities in terms and common structure between some of them, these different dialects are mostly unique.

InternChina- Chinese characters in a park

The standard Chinese language is Mandarin, the official language of both Mainland China and Taiwan and one of the six languages used at the United Nations. Cantonese is spoken mostly in Hong Kong and Macau. Also many overseas Chinese people speak this dialect, because the first who traveled to the West came from the southern coastal provinces. I traveled to Canada two years ago and the Chinese people there speak Cantonese only, either out of provincial pride or just because they don’t know how to speak Mandarin. In Europe I also met many Chinese students, born and raised in Western countries, but speak their own provincial dialects only.
When you come to China, be prepared that in every province natives do have their own dialects. The good news is that everyone speaks and understands Standard Mandarin. So even though dialects exists in every province just as in any other country, you get along everywhere in China with Mandarin. Our language school offer Standard Chinese courses which allows you to master this exotic language. You can easily combine it with a part-time internship or you can focus on learning Chinese only.


Come to China for and internship and learn the language as well.

Cultural, Languages, Mandarin Guide

Studying Chinese V – Chinese Characters

Most people think that the most difficult part in learning Chinese is the writing. Chinese characters look very complicated at the first glance, especially for those who start learning Chinese on their own, and try to memorize random characters. Of course, that’s the hardest way to do that. But you will realize that once you have figured out the system behind the Chinese characters you’ll find it so much easier to memorize them.

First Chinese Writing Experience


Chinese is a quite logical language. If you’re interested in reading and writing Chinese characters, the easiest way is to start with the numbers 1-10. They are very simple to write, quite useful to know:

One     Two     Three   Four     Five     Six       Seven  Eight    Nine    Ten

一        二        三        四        五        六        七        八        九        十

This is it! Now you know these characters, you actually know how to read and write all the numbers through 100. The reason is that Chinese counting follows a very simple pattern:

10        =          10        +          1          =          十一

20        =          2          +          10        =          二十

There are so called “radicals” in Chinese language, that defines the character. If you know the basic ones then you could also get the meaning from the characters, even though you don’t know how to spell the word. So Chinese radical is like a graphical component of a Chinese character. This component is often semantic, but could sometimes also be phonetic.

For example the Chinese character for mother consists of two parts.

The left part is the radical 女=”female”. Here the radical is also a semantic component.

The right part is a phonetic component: 马 mǎ = „horse“.

To sum it up, by just checking the left part you know that this character has something to do with a woman and by recognizing the right part you know how to pronounce it. Characters like this are quite easy to remember once you have learned more radicals.

Knowing this helped me a lot to learn Chinese characters. Just yesterday I had a task to call the manager from a company.

The problem was that I’ve never seen this character before and also didn’t know if the manager’s gender. So I checked the name, which says: 张 高娜. So I saw somewhere in the name the female radical 女 and I recognized the phonetic compenent from the family name “长”cháng. The rest of the name was a mystery to me. So picked up the phone, made a call and referred to the manager as „Miss/Manager Chang?“ and it worked out

So the hardest part of learning Chinese is to memorize are the tones, which will be handled in one of our next blogs. Being able to recognize the common radicals helps in the learning and recognition of old and new characters.

You see, learning Chinsese is not that hard. Especially not in one of our language classes

Cultural, Qingdao Blogs

Max on the Influences and Development of the Chinese Language


Note: This topic is still controversial academically

The Chinese language as we know it not only has different accents, but also different dialects. However, an interesting thing is if you are in the north and the locals speak their own dialects, you will not have too much trouble understanding them; conversely, in the south, it will feel like every dialect is a totally different language. Why is this the case? As you can see, most dialects are from the Southeast area. This answer can be dated back to 5,000 years ago.


In the first thousand year of Chinese history, only people from Chinese Plain area considered them self as Chinese, as shown above.  In about 2070 B.C., Yan Di and Huang Di established China in the surrounding area around Yellow River, considered to be the beginning of Ancient Chinese language. However, if we watch a video about Ancient Chinese many find that it sounds similar to European languages. One group of scholars believe that it is because the interaction between ancient Tocharian, a group of people from west Asian, and ancient Qiang people, a group of ancient Chinese who lived to the west of Chinese Plain. Basically, some elements from Tocharian language were mixed with that of the Qiang, resulting in ancient Chinese sounding like European languages.


In the following 2,000 years, Ancient Chinese language developed steadily, and China expanded from Chinese Plain to its surrounding areas. However, two reasons contributed to the division of Ancient Chinese language. First of all, China Plain was always subject to invasions from northern areas. Thus, the Mongolian language had a huge impact on the ancient Chinese and contributed a lot to how it is spoken nowadays. Second, in order to avoid wars, between the Chinese, northern tribes, and different Chinese States, many northern people went to the south.


The north-south migration was one of the most critical contributors to the spread of Northern influences to the South. From 317 A.D.-439 A.D., northerners intruded and controlled nearly all the north part of China, including Chinese Plain, and the official Chinese government, which was called Jin Dynasty, was only on the South East Area (the light green area on the map).  Because of the massive intrusion of Mongolians and other northern tribes, people in the north had to access more northern languages, and their language developed radically. However, for the people in the South, their languages were kept relative stable and only changed a little bit through the interaction with local natives, who were not considered as Chinese (not from Chinese Plain).

The South part of China and the North part were kept separated for hundreds of years until Yuan Dynasty (1271 A.D.-1368 A.D.), reuniting China under one regime. However, in the next hundreds of years, all most all the official governments were in the North. So even though most those governments set a language based on northern dialects as mandarin, the influence to the south was limited.

But interestingly we can see that there is a Southwest Mandarin. According to some scholars, it was that when the Qing Dynasty first took over the country from Ming Dynasty, people in the southwest rebelled, so the Qing Dynasty had increased control in that area and enforced mandarin education throughout the region. Research in the field of Chinese linguistics continues to produce alternative theories to date.

Interested in learning more about China’s linguistic heritage? Why not come to China! Apply now or send us an email for more information.

Cultural, InternChina News, Internship Experience, Mandarin Guide, Qingdao Blogs, Qingdao Eating Out Guide, Qingdao InternChina Events, Summer School, Travel

Summer School China for “Hochschule Fresenius“ (Germany) 2013

Summer School Hochschule Fresenius 2012

Since InternChina organized their first Summer School Program in 2012, one year has passed. After our first successful experience with a big group of 36 students from Germany last year, we have continuously improved the quality and standards of our services. Due to the positive feedback from last year we became the reliable partner for the coming years to Hochschule Fresenius (Germany) in order to organize and run their official Summer School Program in China.

Summer School Hochschule Fresenius 2012

The two months -Program consists of 3 parts:

  1. Travel & Culture Days
    We are going to visit the marvelous cities of Beijing and Shanghai to explore the rich Chinese Culture of ancient and contemporary China for 2 weeks. There will be plenty of space for rest and individual time for each participant.
  2. Language and Culture Classes
    From Beijing we will move on to Qingdao, where all participants will attend Chinese classes in the morning and Culture Classes (conducted by our experienced Foreign and Chinese staff) in our local Partner Language School.
  3. Internship taster
    Well prepared every participant has been placed in one of our partner companies to get first working experience in China. Companies are chosen from different fields and students have been matched to their preferred internship field where possible (e.g. Health Management, Logistics, Marketing & Media, HR, Consulting)

Accommodated are all students with either Chinese host-families or in shared apartments.

Summer School Hochschule Fresenius 2012

It goes without saying that all participants are welcome to join our weekend activities to get to know the city and Chinese Culture better!

Start of the program is next Monday, when the flight from Frankfurt takes off to Shanghai!

Our InternChina team is looking forward to welcoming you to China, Hochschule Fresenius!

For more info, check the following links:

  • If you are a university and looking for a reliable partner for Summer School Programs in China, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly on to get more information.
  • If you are a student and would like to participate in a tailor-made program, please talk to your university (Career department or International Office). We are happy to hear from you and your university. More info:
Before your stay, Cultural, How-to Guides, Languages, Mandarin Guide

Max’s Take on Chinese Slang: Essential Phrases You Need to Know

If you ever find you have a hard time understanding people chatting around you, it is time you start to learn some “real” Chinese.

囧 (jiong) can be dated back to an ancient Chinese word, which meant light. However, because it looks like a sad and silly face, the meaning of jiong’s that is most familiar to the public is sad, embarrassed, and helpless.

牛逼 (niu bi), also known as NB,  is used to comment on a person’s behavior when they did something  sensational or shocking. Usually it’s considered sarcasm.  For example, if someone is boasting that he could do something difficult easily, you could say “You are NB”.

我去 (wo qu), also know as 我了个去 (wo le ge qu), literally means “I am going”. However, it has nothing to do with going somewhere; people say it only to show that they are shocked by some unexpected things, usually negative.  For example, when you found you lost your wallet, you can say 我去.

给跪了 (gei gui le) literally means “to kneel down for”. Kneeling down in Chinese culture means succumbing. If you kneel down for somebody, you show that you yield to that one. But now, as people say 给跪了, they are showing that they cannot help.

打酱油 (da jiang you), traditionally means “to get some soy oil”. In the past, people used to take their own bottles to grocery stores to get soy oil. So that’s where 打酱油 comes from.  But today 打酱油 is used to describe people when they take part in something but do not put any efforts or make any results.

Want to broaden your linguistic hold of Chinese? Why not come to China? Apply now for an internship or send us an email for more information.