Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese or any Chinese-language dialect) competency is not a requirement for our programmes.

Every programme will assign teaching assistants or programme coordinators who can speak English to you, and many people around town can often speak some English. However, please do remember that English is not ubiquitous in China and that you may need to use body language and other communication methods to make your point at times, especially if you travel independently in rural areas—this is part of the fun of travelling! We recommend bringing a simple phrase book with you to help if you decide to explore China on your own. If you are out and about without a bilingual teaching assistant, it is generally also best to look for younger people if you need help in English as they are far more likely to have learnt English at school.

You can learn Mandarin while you are in China on your programme. If you would like Mandarin lessons, make sure you let your programme know before you arrive. If you’d like to learn more about the lessons in China, then please head to this FAQ on learning the language.

If you’re new to Mandarin, then while it can be frustrating at first not to be able to understand a lot of what is being said around you, you will become used to this fairly quickly. Learn the words for ‘hello’ (你好nǐ hǎo), ‘thank you’ (谢谢xìe xìe) and ‘goodbye’ (再见zàijiàn) before you come to get the ball rolling and show your Chinese colleagues and Mandarin teachers that you are keen to learn about the local culture and language. You will probably be surprised at how many words and phrases you come to recognise during your time in China.

If you would like to start learning before you come to China, then please contact us for more information. There are great apps available to help you start to learn Mandarin, such as Duolingo, and you can often find language partners either on campus or online on sites such as Please do use all the resources available to you if you are interested in learning the language!

Categories ○ What is China like? Useful tips and insights for your time in China