Learning Chinese when relocating to China

Rainer Schirrmeister Portrait circular

Hi, I’m Rainer. The author of “Move to China” and writer of this blog. I love to help people when relocating to China, as it may be one of the biggest adventure possible. I hope you enjoy my blog. Feel free to contact me if you have any question. Enjoy my blog and book! Move to China – every information you need when relocating to China collated in on .pdf.

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Learning Chinese when relocating to China – where should you start?

In this blog post you will learn:

  • Background about Chinese languages
  • What language you should learn
  • How you can learn Chinese at fast rate

Background about Chinese languages

When it comes to emmigrate into a foreign country of course you want to prepare yourself and learn the local language.

In Germany we speak German, in France people speak French, in Spain people speak spanish – so far so good.

When it comes to China, things are little differen. There is no global Chinese language. Of course there is Mandarin as the most famous “Chinese” language. But out 1.4 billion people in China “only” 910 million people speak Mandarin. Around 80 million people speak Cantonese as the second most famous “Chinese” language. The “rest” of approximately 400 million people speak local and regional dialects that may, or may not be similar to the two heavy weights Mandarin and Cantonese.

This leads to the problem, that two Chinese born individuals are not able to communicte in an oral conversiation. But: Usually they still can communicate by Chinese characters. Even tho the pronounciation of a character might be different, the meaning is usually identical or similar.

What language you should learn, when moving to China

When you concider to relocate to China, you should first evaluate what clima you can stand best and then where you want to move – This, of course, only applies if you can choose your destination freely. Because of the size of China you can find tropical heat during all year or distinct seasons with all their variations. I, for instance, can’t stand the summer heat in China anymore. I do prefer the mor northern regions with a mild and more cold clima. But if you love the heat, you can find very comforting places for you.

When decided where to go, make sure to find out what language in this region is spoken most. In Shanghai people speak Shanghainese, in the south people tend to speak Cantonese and in Chengdu people tend to speak a stron Sichuan dialect. One is not harder to learn then the other, but when you learn clean and strong Beijing dialect, you will have big problems when arriving in Shanghai, becuase you will understand nearly nothing.

How you can learn Chinese at fast rate

I will not say I am the best Chinese speaker, but over the time of one year I made fast progress and learnd all basic things you should know. Small conversations, how to order in a restaurant, directions, colours, compliments and so on.

How did I achieve that? I was interested! And that’s all you need, the rest comes easy. If you are honestly interested you can achieve anything – quit bad behaviour, learn new things, change your life.

When you are interested things will become more easy. But interest is not the only thing you need. You need good resources as well. What worked for me and what I can recommend for everyone:

Combine different types of learning resources, mix them, remix them and try to speak and listen as much as you can.

Connect to Chinese people in your community. Go to Chinese events, listen to Chinese Radio. Use apps: ChineseSkill, LearnChinese, or Memrise just to name a few. Buy learning books. Connect to Chinese people located in China via HelloTalk App.

Having a hard time connecting with Chinese people?

If you need more advices on how to connect with Chinese people you are welcome to join our “Move to China” Facebook group. The groups grows everyday and has foreigners and Chinese citizens in it. Feel free to join anytime and ask what ever you want about China.

Join our Facebook group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/move.to.china

Another option are private teachers. I assume you can find a Chinese teacher in every bigger city out there. If you have no idea how to find one, ask in Chinese restaurants. Chinese people are usually very well connected and I guess you will find your answer at first time questioning. If you like to have it more convenient you can choose an online language study offer out there. There are several companies offering language lessions via internet. All you need is a stable connection and a webcam and microphone.

When moving to China I recommend you to have a minimum proficiency of HSK 1 level of Chinese. HSK stands for “Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì” / 漢語水平考試 – or Chinese Proficiency Test. Level 1 means you can communicate in easy situations as I mentioned above. You can still get along without a single word of Chinese in China. But thats not fun at all. Most of menus in restaurants are in full Chinese. Being able to understand restaurant menus – for me – is most important and a starting point to understand China. I love to strive around and see what local restaurants have to offer and try different new things. Being able to choose between a beef noodle soup (牛肉面), Jiaozi, dumplings (饺子) and hot pot (火锅) for instance can make the different between eating every day the same and experiencing the whole diversity Chinese cousine has to offer.

Learning Chinese might look crazy hard and unbeatable. But did you know that Chinese does not include any articles, no genders, no conjunction, no time and only very few grammar? Of course, it still takes time and passion to learn it – but without these obstacles you can make very fast progress.

Another thing I want to recommend you: Do yourself the favour and learn the characters right from the beginning. I first thought it’s not that important but lucky enough I had watched a learning video suggesting exactly that. It can even help you to learn faster.

That all I have to say so far. I hope you want to start learning Chinese today.

 加油 – You can do it!

PS: Did you see my post about 101+ useful tips and information about moving to and living in China? Check out the post here…

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Strictly speaking, this guidebook is free!

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Move to China book mockup by Rainer Schirrmeister

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  • Last update: 01/01/19
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