The Best Way To Learn Mandarin

20 May

Learning Mandarin should be about speaking Mandarin, that is my message here.

If you are looking to study Mandarin and money is not your primary criterion, you should not study with a university but with a reputable private language school. There are quite a few reasons why but the most salient objective fact is this; private language academies have much smaller class sizes. To put this into context; a university typically has around thirty students in a class. There are language schools with class sizes 10 times smaller than this (3). If you have to fork out double the amount (around 700 US Dollars) for this type of personal attention, compared to the factory experience of a university, it is worth it – progress is simply multiple times faster when the teacher can interact with students on a personal basis.

But, what should you look for when you are selecting a language school? People buy good and services to either solve a problem or enjoy new opportunities. Someone learning a language are not looking to solve a problem, they are looking to explore, to gain access to a new culture, to create new possibilities in a country that they were not born in. Before I get into the academic aspects of what a good language school is, this point is very much worth considering; learning a language is at least 50 percent exploration. A good school should divert 50 percent of its energies to help its students experience the country they are in.

China is a breathtaking. Although Beijing is not a tropical paradise (there are no sandy beaches, no palm trees and no azure blue lagoon) it is still an intensely exotic place. I live in the very centre of the city and it takes me no more than 10 minutes to go from my apartment to The Forbidden City on my electric rickshaw. There are thousands of alleyways still in the city and one of my all time favorite pass times is to zoom around in the old city looking for new crazy sight. Because every day in China is baffling. My friend calls it the land that logic forgot, and that is part of the exotic experience as much as the old parts of Beijing are. I think that the strangeness of some of the decisions (that, yes, are seemingly illogical) are merely a transient phase that China is going through. After all, the country is 4000 years old and it is not really surprising if it find is a bit hard to get used to the cataclysmic changes that it is currently undergoing.

For me, the most exotic aspect of China is its future. China will be a superpower that is most likely going to eclipse The United States before I am dead. To live in Beijing is to stand on the breaking surf of the greatest paradigm shift of our time, and it is really really exiting.

So what can a language school do to help you explore China on you terms? The lamest thing would be to buy you a ticket to The Forbidden City (yes that is criticism of what the majority of language schools consider a worthy effort). What the schools should do is this: teach you the stuff that you need to go off on your own and practice Mandarin in the setting you are going to use it. Be it in a specific business sector or something you see yourself probably doing as hobby in the future, the school should teach you the relevant terminology and jargon to be able to see what these things are like in China, on your own. Discussing the other beneficial aspects of this method takes about a thousand words to do properly, so let me summarize it like this. If you are interested in a topic, it makes sense that you learn in much quicker. When you are interested in a topic and you are progressing quickly, it is very easy to keep up motivation. There are no better ways to learn something than doing them. That’s what makes a good language student a person on an adventure.

Rui Ming works for a Mandarin Language School in China that is a great option for those that want to learn mandarin, the lingua franca of the growing economic powerhouse. See the program overview page for more information about learning Mandarin in China.


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