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7 ways to learn the local language as an international school teacher in China

Moving to a new country can be an exciting adventure, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is learning the local language. As an international school teacher in China, you might find yourself immersed in a culture with a language vastly different from your own. But fear not, for we have compiled a list of seven effective ways to help you learn the local language and make your transition smoother.

1. Enrol in a Language Course

First and foremost, consider enrolling in a language course. Many cities in China offer Mandarin courses specifically designed for foreigners. These courses can provide a structured learning environment and give you the opportunity to practise with other learners.

Language schools like New Concept Mandarin and That’s Mandarin offer a variety of courses, from intensive daily classes to part-time evening courses. Just like choosing between a cup of tea or coffee in the morning, you can pick the one that fits your schedule and learning style the best.

Online Language Courses

If you’re more of a digital nomad, online language courses can be a great alternative. Websites like Coursera and EdX offer comprehensive Mandarin courses that you can take at your own pace. It’s like having a portable language tutor that you can access anytime, anywhere.

Online courses also often include interactive elements, such as quizzes and games, which can make the learning process more engaging and fun. It’s like playing a game of Scrabble, but instead of English letters, you’re using Chinese characters.

2. Use Language Learning Apps

In the age of smartphones, language learning apps have become a popular tool for learning a new language. They’re convenient, interactive, and you can use them on the go.

Apps like Duolingo and HelloTalk offer lessons in Mandarin that range from beginner to advanced levels. Think of them as your pocket-sized language tutor that you can whip out during your commute or lunch break.

Flashcard Apps

Flashcard apps, such as Anki and Quizlet, can also be incredibly useful for learning Mandarin. They allow you to memorise new words and phrases in a fun and interactive way. It’s like playing a game of memory, but with Chinese characters instead of pictures.

These apps often use spaced repetition, a learning technique that involves reviewing information at increasing intervals over time. This method has been proven to be effective in improving long-term retention of information.

3. Practice with Locals

There’s no better way to learn a language than by speaking it with native speakers. Practising with locals not only helps you improve your language skills, but also gives you a deeper understanding of the culture and customs.

Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with your neighbours, shopkeepers, or taxi drivers. They might not speak perfect English, but they can certainly help you improve your Mandarin. It’s like having a language exchange partner who’s always available for practice.

Language Exchange Groups

Joining a language exchange group can also be a great way to practise your Mandarin. These groups often organise meetups where you can converse with locals and other language learners. It’s like attending a social gathering, but instead of discussing the weather, you’re practising your Mandarin skills.

Platforms like Meetup and Tandem are great places to find language exchange groups in your area. So why not give it a go? You might just find your next language exchange partner or even make some new friends along the way.

4. Immerse Yourself in the Culture

Learning a language is not just about memorising words and grammar rules, it’s also about understanding the culture that comes with it. Immersing yourself in Chinese culture can help you better understand the context in which the language is used.

Try to participate in local events and festivals, watch Chinese films and TV shows, or listen to Chinese music. It’s like taking a cultural plunge into the deep end of the pool, but with the added benefit of improving your language skills.

Chinese Media

Consuming Chinese media can be a great way to improve your listening skills and expand your vocabulary. Websites like QQ Music and iQiyi offer a wide range of Chinese music and TV shows that you can enjoy.

Watching Chinese films and TV shows can also give you a better understanding of Chinese humour, idioms, and slang. It’s like watching your favourite Netflix series, but in Mandarin.

5. Hire a Private Tutor

If you prefer a more personalised learning experience, hiring a private tutor might be the way to go. A private tutor can tailor the lessons to your needs and learning pace, making the learning process more efficient.

Platforms like italki and Preply allow you to find certified language tutors from around the world. It’s like having a personal trainer, but for your language skills.

Group Tutoring

If you enjoy learning in a group setting, consider joining a group tutoring session. These sessions often involve interactive activities and discussions, which can make the learning process more engaging and fun.

Group tutoring can also provide you with the opportunity to practise your speaking skills with other learners. It’s like attending a study group, but with a focus on language learning.

6. Use a Language Learning Journal

Keeping a language learning journal can be a great way to track your progress and reflect on your learning journey. In your journal, you can write down new words and phrases, make notes on grammar rules, or jot down your thoughts and observations about the language.

Think of your language learning journal as your personal language diary. It’s a place where you can document your progress, celebrate your achievements, and reflect on your challenges.

Language Learning Prompts

To make your journaling more effective, consider using language learning prompts. These prompts can guide your writing and help you focus on specific aspects of the language.

For example, you could write about a conversation you had in Mandarin, describe a cultural event you attended, or reflect on a challenging aspect of the language. It’s like writing a daily diary entry, but with a focus on language learning.

7. Be Patient and Persistent

Last but not least, be patient and persistent. Learning a new language is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time and consistent practice to become proficient in a new language.

Don’t be discouraged by initial difficulties or slow progress. Remember, every little bit of progress is a step closer to fluency. It’s like building a wall, brick by brick. Eventually, with enough bricks, you’ll have a sturdy wall.

Setting Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals can help you stay motivated and focused on your language learning journey. These goals could be as simple as learning five new words a day or as ambitious as being able to hold a conversation in Mandarin within a year.

Remember, the key is to set goals that are challenging yet achievable. It’s like setting a fitness goal. You wouldn’t aim to run a marathon on your first day of training, would you?

In conclusion, learning the local language as an international school teacher in China can be a rewarding and enriching experience. With the right tools and strategies, you can make the learning process more efficient and enjoyable. So why not give these seven methods a try? You might just find yourself speaking Mandarin like a local in no time.

Enhance Your Teaching Career with iQTS

As you embark on your journey to master Mandarin and immerse yourself in the Chinese culture, don’t forget to fortify your professional standing with the International Qualified Teacher Status (iQTS) at UWE. Embrace the opportunity to not only connect with the language but also with a global community of educators. The iQTS programme is your gateway to overcoming qualification barriers, accelerating career progression, and gaining a comprehensive understanding of international curricula. With flexible online study options, you can balance your language learning with professional development seamlessly. Make Your Next Step towards a more connected and rewarding teaching experience in China with iQTS.

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