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Language Schools for Expats in China

Submitted: August 2013

Though Mandarin (loosely known as simply ‘Chinese’) is the official language of China, it is not by any means the only language spoken by locals. There are several other Chinese languages, such as Cantonese, Wu and Hakka. These languages are often called ‘dialects’ – this term is misleading to learners because they are mutually incomprehensible.

Mandarin is by far the most widely spoken Chinese language, and Standard Mandarin is the best language to learn in most parts of the country. Many language schools offer Cantonese and courses in other languages in addition to Mandarin; however f you intend on doing business or travelling in China, Mandarin is the better option.

Considering the rise of China as a major economic force, one practical reason to learn Mandarin is to improve one’s job prospects. Regardless of your main reason, China presents the best immersive environment, as there are numerous institutions where one may learn Chinese. There are many official language schools which are specifically established to cater to students who want to learn Chinese. Attending one is probably the best practical option there is; though Mandarin classes are offered through many public schools and almost all universities in China.

Before selecting a language school, you should evaluate them based on the factors that are important to you. You may consider:

  • Location: what is the local accent like in that area? Is it clear and understandable? Some schools may allow you the option to take classes in various cities. You may want to consider this option as it presents a good way to be exposed to different accents.
  • Experience: you may want to consider a school that has been around for a while and has turned out many graduates who can testify to the strength of the school.
  • Accommodation: most language schools help students to find accommodation during their course of study if this is not provided by the school itself. These may vary depending on the school, though most offer shared apartments or integrated housing. Some schools may also offer you the opportunity to stay with a Chinese family to further accelerate your learning. Additionally, it is possible for you to make your own living arrangements, although a quality school would provide this given that, most likely, you may have little or no knowledge of where you are.

In addition to these points, you should be sure to ask about the school’s teaching standards, e.g. are the teachers natives who are accredited by the Ministry of Education? Note that Chinese teachers are required by law to have a licence, with most holding at least a bachelor’s degree. A good school will have teachers who meet these standards, as opposed to, for example, a first year university student operating as a teacher.

Language schools are not easily ranked since most of their students do not go on to take international examinations. You should consider looking for reviews of your potential school if available, to gain a general idea of the school’s quality. Also, most language schools incorporate some form of sightseeing into their teaching programmes which allows students to get an insight into Chinese culture and history. You should also enquire as to whether your prospective school offers such excursions.

It is difficult to give a definite cost range for Chinese courses at Chinese language schools, as they vary greatly depending on the number of lessons, level of the pupil, accommodation and in some cases, location. However, tuition for a six-month Chinese language programme is usually around US $1000 – $15,000. Some schools may calculate fees on other structures, such as weekly or annual basis.

For a comprehensive list of Chinese language schools which are available to you in China, please refer to the following link: https://www.goabroad.com/language-study-abroad/search/china/chinese/language-programs-abroad-1

Additionally, this following ‘China School Guide’ may be useful if you are considering learning Chinese at a university in China: https://www.chinaschoolguide.com/

However, you need not wait until you have arrived in China to improve your Chinese language skills. There is a wealth of free resources on the internet to aid you on the journey. Particularly useful are the BBC Learning Chinese website (https://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/chinese/), and the Chinese Open Course Ware website (https://www.chineseocw.com/).If you are in China and wish to learn a foreign language (a language other than Chinese), there are a number of language schools which offer such tuition. The GoAbroad school guide (https://www.goabroad.com/) may prove useful in locating ones near tour planned location. Additionally, most universities in particular tend to have a Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics. For example, the Tsinghua University department of foreign languages and literatures is known for offering a range of languages including German, Japanese, Russian and French.

 

 

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