Learning a foreign language is difficult. Especially a tongue like Mandarin, which is drastically different from English.
Sure, you can get through your year in China by pointing, grunting, and miming to communicate. But why would you do that when you could throw yourself into learning Chinese and make the most of your time abroad?
So immerse yourself! Ask your Chinese coworkers to teach you a few words. You could even take public or private lessons. Here are six reasons to learn Chinese in China.
1. Order food
Eating at restaurants can be both the best and worst part of living abroad. On one hand, tasting authentic food while surrounded by natives is a thrilling (and delicious) experience. On the other hand, ordering food in a foreign language is intimidating! When I moved to China, the first words I made a point to study were the food-related ones. It makes all the difference to be able to express to a server what you want. Do you like spicy or non-spicy food? Lamb or beef? Noodles or rice? This way, you can order food you know you’ll enjoy. Or you can use your language skills to ask for new and exciting dishes! And you’ll be confident enough to go to a restaurant alone, so you don’t have to wait around for a friend who speaks Chinese.
You’ll spend most of your work week around Chinese coworkers and students. Your job will become much more enriching if you form relationships with them! If you learn a few basic phrases and show you’re trying, the people at your school will think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread.
My first month in China, I tried to buy three cross-country bus tickets in Mandarin. It was humiliating. I had no idea how to go about it, and the woman at the ticket booth looked at me like I was an idiot.Learn some phrases so you can buy tickets, ask for directions, and even just ask a fellow passenger if you’ve arrived at your metro stop.
4. Don’t get ripped off
Haggling is very popular in China. Let’s say you’re at a clothing market and want to buy a shirt. If a vendor catches on that you don’t speak a lick of Chinese, they can just give you as high a price as they want. They know you won’t dispute it! Some taxi drivers use the same tactic. Save yourself lots of money by learning the language!
5. Learn a valuable job skill
Learning any second language is a valuable skill to put on your resume. But Mandarin? It might be the best language for business out there! China is a huge player in the international business world. And while most of us simply associate Chinese with China, it’s also spoken around countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, which are also important in the business world. Whether you stay in China, travel around the world or pursue business in your home country, you’ll be a much more marketable employee.
6. You’ll become a better teacher
There are several ways learning Chinese can make you a better teacher while you’re in the country.
If your English students know you’re also learning a second language, that makes some of them more receptive to your teaching methods.
Sometimes it’s hard to communicate directions to a classroom in English. If you know a few key Mandarin phrases, you won’t waste class time figuring out how to express yourself.
Last but not least, using Mandarin in the classroom can be fun! Sometimes I would say the word for “yes” or “sit down” in class. It caught kids off guard, so they perked up. The atmosphere instantly became more lively!