Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese or any Chinese-language dialect) competency is not a requirement for our programmes, but you can learn Mandarin while you are here.
If you would like Mandarin lessons, make sure you let your programme know before you arrive. The method of learning depends on your level and the exact programme you are on. Most programmes offer more formal lessons twice per week for an hour each time, usually aimed at a beginner’s level, as well as the opportunity to learn informally from Chinese teachers, assistants and friends throughout your stay. Lessons and practise usually principally focus on oral and listening skills, but if you would like to learn some writing then let your programme know before you arrive. Some programmes will offer informal opportunities to learn without formal classes, depending on the teaching schedule. Information on how your programme will provide lessons will be provided at the interview stage. If this is very important to you, then make sure you let your programme and us know what you are looking for.
If you already know some Mandarin, then all of our programmes in China offer you a great opportunity to practise and enhance your language skills. You will have ample time to chat with your fellow teachers and local residents in Mandarin, so do make the most of it! Remember though that your principal purpose is to teach the children English so do make sure you mainly speak English with the students and save your personal language learning for after class. Most programmes will not usually offer more advanced Mandarin reading or writing classes, but if you have particular goals then communicate these before you arrive and your programme coordinator will see what is possible for you.
If you have never learnt Mandarin before, 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. We will also send you a starter pack with some key phrases before you arrive 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 www.italki.com. Please do use all the resources available to you if you are interested in learning the language!
If you are worried about your language skills, then don’t despair: 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.