01 July, 2007:
Live and Study in China
There is no better way to learn quickly and effectively than to immerse yourself in an environment where the language you want to learn is spoken. For studying Chinese, there are a few more incentives for studying in China
Why Study In China
The first reason for studying in China is that there is a distinct lack of Chinese media overseas. Outside of China, Chinese media is scarcely available. Chinese music has little audience in Western nations. Chinese language news programs are few and far between on both TV and radio. Chinese movies are growing in popularity, but there are still only one or two each year that are widely released outside of China. If you want to be surrounded by Chinese, then there is nothing to do except go to China.
Another reason for studying in China is that overseas Chinese communities are unreliable language communities. Overseas Chinese come from many different parts of China and speak many different dialects of Chinese—often southern dialects that are completely different from Mandarin. American students of Chinese are often surprised to walk into their local China town (or Chinese restaurant) and find out that nobody there understands a word they are saying because Mandarin is not commonly used. In Mainland China, things are completely different. Everyone in the PRC can speak or at least understand Putonghua.
Finally, studying in China is easy. With growing demand for Chinese speakers, language schools and programs are more than abundant. There are programs in Beijing that suit all different price, schedule and level demands. Many of the famous Chinese universities offer courses for foreign students that last a semester or a year and focus only on intensively improving Chinese skills. Other private language schools are more personal, flexible and convenient. Alternatively, there are thousands of Chinese people who want to learn English and are eager to set up language exchanges with English speakers. There are many ways to learn Chinese in China on any budget and any schedule. For someone who really wants to learn the language effectively, there is no better approach than to dive right in and study there.
Where to Study in China
Once you have decided to study in China, you will have to choose more specifically where you want to go. China is a large country, so there are many options. Here are some things to consider when making your choice:
Dialect region There are many different places to study Chinese. However, since you will probably be studying Putonghua, you may want to study in a place where Mandarin is the local dialect. Beijing (北京) is probably the best choice because the standard dialect is modeled on the speech of Beijing. Other cities throughout the North are also quite good. Shanghai (上海) has its own dialect that is spoken locally, although everyone there can speak Putonghua. Other cities, like Xiamen (厦门) and Guangzhou (广州)are in the center of areas where dialects are spoken more commonly and local Putonghua has a thick accent that can render it nearly incomprehensible. If your goal is to learn from native speakers, then you should make sure to go to a part of China where speakers’ native language is Mandarin. Check out our Dialect Map to see what dialects are spoken in different parts of the country.
Study Environment Do you want to learn Chinese while working? Do you want to enroll in university and simply study for a few months? Does some combination of the two seem like a better option? Or, would you rather live with a Chinese family and learn from them in the course of daily life. All of these choices are possible ways to learn that can be easily arranged in China.
Goals Your goals should also determine where you study. If your goal is to continue your studies or work in Chinese, then you may want to pass the HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi 汉语水平考试, the Chinese equivalent of the TOEFL). There is really no way to do this test without studying in a school for a fairly long and consistent period of time. If you don’t care about a silly test and simply want to communicate, then you have more options for where to study. Furthermore, if passing a test is not your goal, then time in a university may be more unpleasant than anything else. Figure out your goals before you determine what type of environment in which you want to study.