Sunday, August 5, 2012

How I'm Going to China (Part 1: Learning Mandarin)

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 ***This will be a three part series which will discuss how I was able to go to China***

Once I made the decision that I wanted to go to China, I decided it would be wise to learn some Mandarin Chinese before my departure (FYI: there are many different languages and dialects spoken in China; however, Standard Mandarin Chinese is the official language of China. Please refer to this Wikipedia entry for more information about languages in China: After spending a year in France, I knew that knowing some words and phrases of the destination country's language would ease my transition there in addition to, reducing some of the impending culture shock.

Aside from practical and necessary reasons to learn Mandarin, I actually enjoy learning languages. I love to hear other people speak their native languages and whenever I traveled to other countries, I loved to pick up some words and phrases from the natives which would put an instant smile on my face along with an exchange of laughter between myself and my new "language instructor."

Now that you know the reasons why I wanted to learn Mandarin, I will explain how I arrived at my course.  Firstly, I started researching various classes and courses in my area. My biggest concerns were finding a class that would fit my schedule and budget.  I knew that several of the colleges and university in my area offered Mandarin courses, but I found them to be a bit too pricey and not conducive to my work schedule.

I expanded my search and after several hours on the internet, I had struck Mandarin language gold! I discovered a small, non-profit agency in my area that promoted Chinese culture and language. Even though the agency's primary participants were school aged children and adolescents, they offered Mandarin courses and Chinese culture courses to adults. The best thing was that these courses were a fraction of the cost of the college route and the hours fit nicely into my schedule.  After several email exchanges with the president of the agency, I arrived on campus a week later with my tuition fees and enthusiasm in tow....

So, looking to go to China or looking to learn Mandarin? Here are some tips that I will share with you:

1. Do your homework: Research if there are any classes or courses that meet in your area. Since taking the college or university route can be a bit pricey, look into local community groups or community annexes in your area. Also, keep in mind that classes may follow the traditional schedule of starting in August/September or January/February. 

2. Get out of the classroom: Don't have time or funds to devote to a traditional class? Think about using books, CDs or the internet as your guide.  Keep in mind this way of learning a language will require a lot of discipline and drive on your part; thus it's imperative that you still develop some time of schedule to keep up wit the demands of learning a new language.

3. Get Creative: Aside from the examples listed above, expand your language search with a creative twist. Think about hiring a private tutor (this could be a qualified instructor or even an exchange student who's a native speaker. For your safety,agree to meet said person in a public space). Set up a language exchange in person or even using the internet via SKYPE or MSN messenger (there are also various language exchange sites so google them!). Watch movies and television shows or, listen to the radio in the target language of your choice.

Remember the tips of learning a language: patience, discipline and fun!

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