You don’t speak Chinese yet you’re due to move and teach there. Is the language barrier really a problem?

Initially the thought of moving to a foreign country with a new language that perhaps you have little or even no experience or knowledge of can be quite intimidating, but I am writing to remove these worries. You can be assured that you will not only survive in a foreign-language-speaking country but you will thrive in it, as have the numerous other English-speaking teachers China TEFLer has sent out to China.

So what are the best ways to learn?

1 Surround yourself in the culture and language:

The best way to learn anything is through practice. Practise makes perfect after all. So what better way to practice speaking Chinese than immersing yourself; talking to your students or other teachers in your breaks, ordering foods in restaurants and making new friends to communicate and learn through is the best way to help. The same goes for other Chinese natives who are often extremely enthusiastic to practice their English. Perhaps you can meet up and help each other out.

If you are particularly shy or embarrassed about your language skills then practicing them in a less formal setting might do the trick, perhaps meeting your new friends for a drink in a bar or a coffee will help to relax and calm your new language nerves.

2 We-chat:

China’s WhatsApp and Facebook equivalent is a social media app used to direct message, post messages and photos to keep in contact with friends and family. Why is it good for learning?

The App is a great way to practise your speaking and writing skills, for without the pressure of face to face conversation where you may often find yourself with your mouth glued shut and a puzzled expression on your face, you can take your time to form a reply that actually makes sense. Not only this but you have the option of using google translate to fill in the gaps, or even use the voice recording function to practice saying as well as typing.

After practicing the language using the app you can also then use it to stay in contact with all of the new friends that you will have made giving you life-long connections formed from your time away.

3 Struggling in the classroom?

Perhaps you are facing a rather hard lesson where a student just doesn’t understand you and you don’t understand them. Rather than giving it all up, you can turn to your helping hand: your Chinese teaching assistant who will be able to help with the language barrier. You certainly aren’t on your own, so use others to help when the time comes.

4 Download language apps:

There are several FREE apps that can help you learn Chinese, meaning you can give it a go before you even get to the country! Why not try downloading Anki, Mango and Duolingo.

5 Watch films and listen to music:

Again, by immersing yourself into the new Chinese culture you are bound to pick up more of the language, and listening to the radio or watching TV with subtitles will make it seem way less of a chore and extremely more interesting to learn. It will also introduce you to a different way of life; new music and different movie genres will make you more informed about the culture giving you new topics of conversation with your new native friends.


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