Studying Chinese & Working in Beijing
Some foreign expats come to China for their jobs but with the hope of picking up some of the local lingo. Many other foreigners will come to China specifically to learn Chinese. Whichever category you fall into, learning Chinese is inevitable regardless of your main motives.
When living in China, even the most simple of tasks can be made challenging by the language barrier. Learning to speak Chinese becomes more survival as opposed to a hobby. When you can speak Chinese, your life gets easier and your blood pressure returns to its normal level.
I wanted to come to China to work because I always had the interest in learning Chinese and thought it would be a great opportunity. My first year in China could only be described as a “baptism of fire” as I quickly discovered that even the most simple of situations required the ability to communicate in Chinese.
I rehearsed as many simple phases as I could before walking out the door in the morning in the hope they would come in handy throughout the day.
I lived and worked in West Beijing and most lunch times in the local restaurants became public entertainment for anyone close enough to hear me say anything. Thankfully these situations got easier and easier but I still lived in fear of the waitress asking a question, which I was not prepared for!
The challenge has always been exciting for me and I would say such an environment is the best way to learn any language.
Despite working full time hours, I always managed to find time to see a Chinese teacher. This was important in the early stages, as I needed couching on how to say the tones correctly. As time progressed, my lesson focus shifted from pronunciation to grammar.
Down the Line
After several years I had reached a point where most daily tasks had become manageable and I could handle basic Chinese. It has been exciting to watch the world come alive around me, as I have been able to understand more and more.
As I progressed to a higher level of Chinese, I was required to spend more time studying which was a new challenge because work had become a little busier. It was difficult to stay motivated to study to the same degree as before because I had already reached the “survival” level, which I had previously desired.
I took a break from learning Chinese in a classroom setting and found that over time I forgot a lot of what I had learned before. I decided to re-focus my attention on studying Chinese so I would be able to take a HSK exam.
A friend recommended LTL Mandarin School so I decided to visit them to get more information.
They were friendly and informative and my teacher was positive and experienced. The school also helped me sign up for the HSK, which saved me a lot of time!
Over the weeks my daily routine changed at work and I was forced to move my class times around. This was no problem for the teacher (with suitable notice) and I was happy to discover that the teacher could come to my house so I was still able to have my scheduled lesson.
After several weeks, I was fully prepared to sit my HSK exam and was truly grateful to my patient teacher who had helped me so much! I am now focused on doing the next level of exams and have certainly rekindled my passion for learning Chinese.
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