Ni Hao everyone, my name is Stéphanie and am one of the new interns at InternChina. I come from Belgium and I’m really excited to be here in Qingdao.
So why am I here in China? Since I was a child, I have had a big interest in China and in the Chinese culture. I always wanted to visit China and the Great Wall. When I had to choose my third language, I jumped on the opportunity and decided to choose Chinese and studied it during my bachelor at ICHEC Brussels Management School in Brussels. It was definitely very interesting and I learned a lot during the two years. What was particularly interesting was that our Chinese professor was a “real” Chinese; he came form Shanghai and has since been living in Belgium for several years now. He teaches evening classes at ULB for a Master Chinese program for older students.
Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to visit Beijing and the Great Wall too. To walk on the Great Wall was extraordinary.I visited a lot during my stay in Beijing and really felt like I was in another world. Everything was so different, the people’s behaviour, the weather, the smells, the way of living and especially the food. There are so many things I saw during my trip to China, but I knew that visiting one city as a tourist was not enough to discover the authentic China. When I found the advertisement of InternChina in my school I knew that this was a great opportunity, so I decided to apply expecting to learn more about the country and its people. I got a reply soon after and InternChina offered me a Skype interview. Everything went fine and here I am in Qingdao.
When I arrived at the airport after a long journey Rita picked me up (she is the customer relations manager at InternChina Qingdao). She took me to the Marina to eat something and relax until my host mother came back home. I’ve only been here for a few days, so I’m trying to get used to the country and its inhabitant. I just started my first Chinese class here at Qingdao Language School. The school is only five minutes by bus from InternChina office and is easily accessible. The school itself is brand new and very well furnished, with several classrooms which are all spacious. All the teachers are young and enthusiastic; they speak good English and are highly motivated to teach their native language. Looking forward to getting to know Qingdao better and mastering the Chinese language!
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday last week, those of us who live in China got to enjoy three days off for the public holiday commemorating the “Dragon Boat Festival”. For many Chinese people, this meant having the chance to travel back to their hometowns to visit their families. For others, it meant the opportunity to stay at home and relax for a few days before going back to their hectic schedules. For us at InternChina and many of our interns it meant: road trip!
But… what exactly is the Dragon Boat Festival and why is it celebrated in China? Most of us foreigners have never heard of this holiday before, and even those who have lived here for a few years know very little about it, other than that it has a cool name and it means not having to work for three days.
The name in Mandarin for Dragon Boat Festival is “Duanwu Jie”, and in Cantonese it is “Tuen Ng”. As it happens, it is not only celebrated in China but also in many other East- and Southeast Asian regions, such as Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.
While in 2013, for example, the festival occurred on the 12th of June (and we also had the 10th and 11th off), there is no set date for the holiday on the Gregorian calendar, which is the one used in western countries. Rather, it is based on the Chinese lunar calendar, falling on the 5th day of the 5th month, which is usually at the end of May or beginning of June.
There is no consensus regarding its origins, and there are numerous legends which, depending on the region, are said to be the source of the festival. The most popular story, however, revolves around Qu Yuan, considered by some to be China’s first highly renowned poet. During the Warring States period, he was exiled from the State of Chu – of which he was minister – for opposing the ruling aristocracy in an effort to protect Chu against the Qin State. When the Qin invaded the capital, he committed suicide by jumping into the Miluo River on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month.
Wanting to pay their respects to Qu Yuan, the people of Chu set their boats on the river and threw zongzi – glutinous or “sticky” rice triangles wrapped in bamboo leaves – into the water to feed the fish and keep them from attacking his body. This is said to be the origin of the dragon-boat-racing and zongzi-eating traditions that customarily occur on this day. Other customs of this holiday include drinking realgar wine and tying perfume pouches to children’s clothing as well as, of course, the mandatory firecrackers to ward off evil spirits.
Dragon Boat Festival Today
An interesting fact about Dragon Boat Festival is that, despite being a culturally important holiday celebrated widely across China, it was not recognised as a public holiday by the Chinese government until 2005. For many young Chinese, this meant properly celebrating the festival for the first time; for the older generations, it meant a long-overdue recognition of the importance of preserving Chinese traditions and culture in a rapidly-changing, globalised world.
Coming home from a long day at work in the InternChina Chengdu office, I was surprised to find my host family’s grandmother cooking in the kitchen. Being the courteous young man I am, I immediately dropped my things and went in to investigate, only to discover her chopping furiously away at a couple of poor cabbages. With my limited Mandarin skills, I managed to figure out she was preparing the ingredients needed for jiao zi (饺子, also known as dumplings), a well-known staple of Chinese cuisine.
With a huge butcher cleaver in my hand, I went to work on the cabbages and proceeded to shred them as finely as possible. Mixing in a series of green onions, ginger, and spices into the minced pork meat, the filling was relatively easy to get done. The REAL challenge came with the skins.
As she proceeded to deftly roll out the jiao zi skins one by one I struggled for a good five minutes on mine, ending with this result. Hardly round and not even symmetrical, I had to restart and practice on this one many times!
But after a few more tries, I think I got the hang of it.
Afterwards the jiao zi were filled and nicely folded (at least 姥姥’s were). Mine continue to be a work in progress!
There are various ways to cook jiao zi, including steaming them, cooking them in soup, and frying them.
Overall a pretty interesting experience, considering how easy it is to eat a jiao zi compared to the effort needed to make it. After making them for about three hours, we have enough to last us the month!
Some history on jiao zi: Originally called “tender ears”, jiao zi were used to treat frost-bitten ears in the north of China. No longer restricted to the north, jiao zi are as versatile as they come. Eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and served as entrees, appetizers, and main meals, the jiao zi is the jack of all trades for Chinese cuisine. Never out of place at any time of the day, there are no limits on how and when these delicious dumplings can be eaten!
Mandarin is the standard language spoken in China. Most Chinese people speak two languages: Mandarin and their regional dialect. People in Zhuhai speak two languages also: Mandarin and Cantonese—the main local language used in Canton province, Hong Kong and Macau.
As an increasing number of people from other regions of China come to Zhuhai to work and live, Mandarin is becoming more and more useful in Zhuhai, even Hong Kong. You can always see “Mandarin is a plus” in the recruitment information for job listings. Most of the employees in Zhuhai companies speak Mandarin as their office language, and Mandarin is also used for business communication with clients.
Mandarin is also very important for living in Zhuhai. When you go to restaurants or go out shopping, waiters or sales assistants will serve you in Mandarin. When you go to the bar, Mandarin will help you make friends with others as well. When you take the taxi or the bus, you have to know the pronunciation of the address or station where you want to go.
Speaking Mandarin in Zhuhai is becoming more and more popular and important, both for working and living. Although some people in Zhuhai have a Cantonese accent when they speak Mandarin, Mandarin is still the main way for people to communicate with each other in Zhuhai as in the whole of China.
Mandarin-Chinesisch gehört mit zu den schwersten Sprachen der Welt, manche bezeichnen es sogar als DIE schwerste Sprache überhaupt.
Gehen dem Chinesischen zwar Dinge wie Fälle oder Zeiten ab, hat man dafür eine Vielzahl an Zeichen, Tönen und 多音字 (duo1yin1zi) zu lernen, also Worte, die genauso klingen wie ein anderes, aber eine andere Bedeutung haben – ähnlich wie Teekesselchen (Homonym, Polysem) im Deutschen.
Um unseren Studenten ihren Aufenthalt hier so angenehm und lohnend wie möglich zu gestalten, bietet Intern China die Möglichkeit an, einen Madarin-Chinesisch Sprachkurs in Kombination mit einem Praktikum zu absolvieren – und viele unserer Studenten nehmen das Angebot wahr!
Letzte Woche war es also mal wieder Zeit unsere Sprachschule besuchen zu gehen und nachzusehen, ob alle glücklich und zufrieden sind.
Zentral in Qingdao gelegen ist die Schule für jeden gut erreichbar. Im Vorfeld fragte ich mich, wie groß wohl die Klassen sein würden. Einzelunterricht klingt zwar effektiv, aber ein bisschen langweilig stelle ich mir das schon vor, an einer Universität sind die Gruppen dafür oftmals viel zu groß, um einen wirklich guten Lernfortschritt erzielen zu können…In der Sprachschule angekommen wurden wir – trotz Überraschungsbesuch – fröhlich empfangen. Im Vergleich zu einem Sprachkurs an einer VHS oder an der Universität sind unsere Gruppen wirklich klein! Bei drei Leuten im Kurs ist es den Lehrern optimal möglich sich um die Stärken und Schwächen jedes einzelnen zu kümmern und ihn oder sie, je nach Fähigkeiten, zu fördern. Trotzdem ist man nicht alleine (es sei denn man möchte Einzelunterricht haben, der wird natürlich auch angeboten), sondern kann gemeinsam mit anderen lernen und schnell und gezielt sein Chinesisch verbessern.
Unsere absoluten Anfänger durften wir beim Schreiben lernen am Whiteboard zusehen. So schwierig man es sich auch vorstellt Chinesich zu lernen, es sah nach ziemlich viel Spaß aus. In einer der fortgeschritteneren Gruppen wurden schon etwas komplexere Sätze geübt – Komplemente waren hier vor allem an der Tagesordnung (结果补语，趋向补语 für diejenigen von euch, die das kennen).
Alle schienen sehr zufrieden zu sein in ihren Klassen, und bei einigen hat man in den letzten Monat auch schon einen unglaublichen Fortschritt beim Chinesisch sprechen bemerkt. Es gibt aber auch wirklich keinen besseren Ort als China selbst, um diese faszinierende Sprache zu erlernen!
Ich bin nun dabei seit mehr als vier Jahren Chinesisch zu lernen. Zeichen lesen, Zeichen schreiben, Texte übersetzen- funktioniert prima: aber man könnte noch ein bisschen sein Hörverstaendnis trainieren. Also, auf nach China, so schwer kann das doch nicht sein. Wer in der Lage ist merkwürdige Juratexte zu übersetzen, ist auch in der Lage einfache Unterhaltungen auf der Straße oder am Telefon zu führen. Wer braucht denn da noch Unterricht?
Chinesisch sprechen in China funktioniert auch erstmal ganz super: der Taxifahrer versteht meistens wo man hin will, man kann nach den Preisen fragen und versteht auch meistens die Antwort, man kann in Restaurants nach der Rechnung fragen und kann jedem sagen, dass man aus Deutschland kommt und in Zhuhai arbeitet. Das hört sich ja schonmal nicht schlecht an.
Und dann? Dann wird man mit folgenden Problemen konfrontiert: fiese Dialekte, schnell gesprochene Umgangssprache und irgendwie mag sich auch einfach so niemand an die vorgegeben Vokabeln aus den Lektionen halten, die man zu Hause brav jeden Abend durchgearbeitet hat.
Alle reden schnell und es will sich keiner so recht die Zeit nehmen, auf eine langsam übersetzte Antwort zu warten. Und dann fängt es an: man hört sich einfach selbst sowas sagen wie: ‚Ting bu dong‘ (Nix verstehen) und der Käse ist gegessen.
Die Wochen ziehen ins Land, ting bu dong, ting bu dong. Irgendwelche Fortschritte beim Chinesisch lernen: Fehlanzeige!
Es gibt nun also mehrere Möglichkeiten:
1) Man lebt in einer Gastfamilie, die einem beim Sprechen lernen hilft.
2) Man hat ein paar nette Obstverkäufer oder Garküchenbesitzer um sich rum, die Mandarin sprechen.
3) Oder aber man nimmt doch noch mal ein paar Stunden Chinesischunterricht nach der Arbeit.
Nachdem die ersten beiden Möglichkeiten für mich keine Option waren (ich wohne in einem von InternChina organisierten Apartment und wie gesagt, mein China-Einkaufs-Netzwerk spricht leider nur den lokalen Dialekt) habe ich mich dann doch dazu entschieden ein paar Stunden an unserer Sprachschule zu nehmen und das war auf jeden Fall eine hervorragende Entscheidung!
Eine Stunde lang Chinesisch reden und hören. In meinem Tempo. Wundervolles Hochchinesisch. Und niemand lacht. Man wird verbessert und es gibt sich jemand richtig Mühe zu verstehen was man so sagen möchte. Es lohnt sich also auf jeden Fall nach der Arbeit (oder wenn man in einer Firma arbeitet bei der es möglich ist, vielleicht auch Vormittags) ein paar Sprachstunden zu nehmen. Es wird auf einmal so viel leichter sich zu verständigen und man hat wieder das Gefühl Fortschritte beim Verständnis der chinesischen Sprache zu machen, anstatt nur auf der Stelle zu treten und sich trotz ‚Wohnort: China‘ nicht weiterzuentwickeln.
Und was hat sich verändert seit dem? Man läuft selbstbewusst durch die Straßen, lauscht irgendwelchen Gesprächen und hört sich selbst gelassen sagen: ‚ting dong!‘ (Jepp, versteh ich!).
Last week on Sunday 2nd December, InternChina’s Qingdao office organized lunch buffet in Qingdao’s famous Copthorne Hotel (国敦大酒店).
We invited all our host families to say thank you for so many years of co-operation: Putting up with different students from all over the world, treating them like family members and taking time to integrate them into their families is a lot to ask and we know that!
Staying in a host-family means a lot of effort for both sides: The student has to get used to a completely different way of life and has to integrate him- or herself into Chinese family life and the Chinese family has to learn about a new culture, too.
But staying in a Chinese family will mean a big boost for your Chinese knowledge. It’s one of the best ways to learn Mandarin Chinese, and there is no need to be afraid, all our host-families have a least one person who is able to speak English. Our host-families are also very caring. They provide breakfast and dinner for all our students and sometimes will also take you to enjoy family activities on the weekends, that’s why we thought a mixed lunch would be perfect for everyone. Combining Western and Chinese cuisine, making both sides more eager to know more about the other – you will not only learn about Chinese culture but also about your own. Being a part of a Chinese family will be a unique chance and we want to thank all our host-families to make this great experience possible!
Read more about staying in host-families here!
China is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. With a whole bunch of job market problems and huge numbers of unemployed people in Europe/USA, China is often seen as a possibility for young people to get a job, learn something new, gain experiences which will make you more desirable as an employee in Europe and the Unites States.
Going to China is not enough
Chinese are a fast learning people and most of them studied English at school, so there is no real need of people who can speak English (apart from teachers perhaps). If you want to come to China and work here, it’s mandatory to speak and learn Chinese and have a good education. You are not going to be something special because you are white, or know how to speak English. It is the same in Europe: Let’s say you want to work in Germany! Then you have to be able to speak German or at least English. You see, just going to China is not enough.
Different types of language students
There are different groups of Chinese students in the Western world:
1) The first big group is University Students.
2) The second group is people learning at home with some random language program.
3) The third group is booking expensive language classes in a language institute.
4) And the fourth group is going to China to learn Chinese!
The thing about learning Chinese in Western countries is: You might get good teachers, but you will never have the opportunity to try your Chinese in real life.
Classrooms provide only an artificial learning environment, you can learn your basics there. But where to try them? You know how to ask for 2 apples? That’s great! But where do you go to check if a Chinese person would understand you?
The only place for learning proper Chinese is China!
Can you think of any better place to practice your Chinese than being in China, buying your own stuff on the streets, attending language classes, doing an Internship perhaps?
Chinese people are often thrilled when they see that you try to speak their language, which they know is difficult to learn. The problem with language classes at Western Universities is often that groups are too big. In a class with 30 people you can’t learn properly and a teacher doesn’t really have any chance to correct you mistakes.
In our language school in Qingdao e.g., you will never have more than 10 people in one class! Normally it’s 2-6, sometimes it’s even one-on-one, so you will profit a lot more from these classes than you would do at your home Uni or in a Western language school.
Some people like to study at home, you can still do that when you attend a language school in China, but learning together with other people who are having the same problems as you do and after class trying out what you just learned will give you a big motivational boost!
3 years ago – it was the first time for me in China after having finished my basic studies of Chinese language – I went to a really small restaurant. The owner’s daughter wanted to speak with me and my friend, I know I was quite afraid of not being able to understand her (having learned Chinese at Uni for 2 years in classes of at least 30 people), but she didn’t care about any mistakes we made! We were sitting together for more than one hour and it felt like I learned a hundred new words that evening. I haven’t forgotten one of them!
Now I do an Internship in China and I can speak Chinese with my colleagues every day, it’s the greatest opportunity for me to improve my Chinese again. I often think that it must be annoying for them to hear me speak my crude Chinese and saying things wrong so often, but they don’t seem to mind, since they have been studying Chinese for all their life and know how difficult it is!
I’ve started taking Mandarin classes every morning and have really enjoyed it. The first few days were difficult, especially getting used to the tones!! I have, however, seen alot of improvement and want to continue working on my Mandarin.
My teacher is a bubbly, eccentric 22 year-old girl named Liudi…she’s quite the teacher!
Yesterday myself and my two other classmates who’re also interns went out to lunch with all of the teachers and had a blast! See the attached photo