Is it necessary for you to learn Chinese as an ex-pat?
The answer for this can be both yes and no. Well, yes because if you are living in China, learning the local language always helps. No, because if you are an expat who is living in a bubble and would mostly interact with others in English, you may not find it necessary to learn Chinese.
However, if you look at it from a practical perspective, learning the local language always helps. Before you actually start learning, understand the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese, which are the two major dialects spoken in different parts of China.
Mandarin is the official language of China and is widely spoken in the country including big cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Also, it is the predominant language of Singapore and Taiwan. Whereas, Cantonese is most spoken in Hong Kong, Macau, the Guangdong province including Guangzhou.
Depending on the place that you live, you might choose either of them.
However, learning Mandarin Chinese is considered to be a good choice for beginners who are learning Chinese as a foreign language.
How can you learn Chinese in China as an expat?
You can enrol in a Chinese language program
Many universities and employers offer Chinese language programs for foreign students and employees in the evenings. You can enrol in these programs to learn Chinese. You can also hire a private tutor or learn from a private language institution in your city.
You can learn by immersion
As you are living in China and are surrounded by people who speak the language all the time, you can pick up the language through immersion. Find every opportunity to practice your Chinese skills with the local people. Pay very close attention to how people speak when you are in public places. You also have television and other mediums of entertainment that can be of help.
Mimic a native speaker
Chinese is a tonal language which means the meaning of a word may change completely based on the tone. This is also considered to be a difficult aspect to master when learning Chinese. To practice pronunciation and the tones, you can mimic a native speaker, record your voice and check for yourself. As a beginner, you can start with slow-paced audio. You might have to repeat the exercise multiple times before you are comfortable with it.
Make friends outside the ex-pat community
Rather than restricting yourself to the ex-pat community, it is a good idea to make friends with local people. You can have an interesting social life and even learn Chinese from the local people. This is a great way of picking up the nuances of a new language where you learn in a real-life environment and understand even the slang which may not be otherwise used in a formal atmosphere.
Take an online course
Even before you move to China, you can start learning Chinese online. There are many online language programs where you can find a tutor to learn the language. You may even take advantage of an online exchange program where you can interact with a local speaker. This can help you get acquainted with the language before you move to the country.
Finally, be prepared for a lot of work and practice
Let us not ignore the fact that Chinese is considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn especially for native English speakers. It may take a considerable amount of time to learn the basics both in writing and speaking Chinese. Thus, it is important that you spend enough time regularly to practice and learn Chinese every day. Schedule your learning and stick to a learning style once you find out what works for you.
Learning Chinese would not only make your life easy as an expat, but you would also be able to appreciate the local culture and traditions that might be so different from your own.
You can book a free demo session with Multibhashi to start learning Chinese today.