I`m coming up to 7 months being in China. It`s been an incredible experience thus far, I`ve met lots of interesting people, made life-long friends and seen so much of what China has to offer. One thing that was on my mind before coming here was the language barrier. I asked myself, `How will I live in another country not knowing the language?` So I set about learning useful phrases and commonly used vocabulary before I set off to Beijing. I recommend that prospective teachers do this as it will help you immensely, even the slightest bit of knowledge on the structure of the language and useful phrases will go a long way here. There are many apps you can use to aid in this, I used a great app called “Hello Chinese”, which I got for free on the Google Play Store.
That being said, don`t feel too much pressure to learn everything before you can get here as you can make it here with the most basic of phrases and even gestures can get you what you want.
Aihua provides a great environment for learning Chinese. All foreign teachers get two free lessons per week in classes ranging from beginner to advanced. In addition to this, teachers have the choice to get a third class which is called a `VIP` class where it`s just one on one which is great for catering to what you want to learn specifically. (Apply to this early as the demand is high for these classes). The group classes follow a book which the Chinese teacher will follow. It`s such a fun experience to start learning with all the new Foreign teachers as most of you will be rookies to the language. This means you will all learn together which makes for a more enjoyable experience (and funny).
The Chinese teacher is called `Tashina` and she`s an experienced, very friendly and caring teacher. She`s more than willing to answer any questions you may have. All Aihua group classes are in the morning time which keeps you nice and busy. Due to the comfortable work hours at Aihua, (afternoon weekday starts), you have complete freedom to further your Chinese studies how you see fit. Many teachers go into their schools early to work with their CTs and get help from them learning the language, they are very happy to help you study, a language exchange if you will. You create great friendships through this, even just chatting in the workplace can become a lesson in itself.
Another great medium for learning Chinese are private lessons. I get tutored by a teacher once a week in addition to my regular Chinese classes, I believe that this has taken my Chinese to a higher level, the prices are very reasonable too. That being said, it`s all choice, if you`d rather just take the free Aihua classes then you can do just that. Just being proactive and getting out to see Beijing can aid your studies, be it on the subway hearing Chinese conversations or attempting to order food at a restaurant, it`s a language lesson just being here and taking it all in. There are also many language exchange groups that you can partake in and meet very friendly Chinese people to befriend and study with too. Personally, I`ve been on many trips with `CET` (Culture Exchange Trip) where I`ve met great friends, those of which I regularly meet up with to study with and improve my Chinese.
The opportunities here are endless if you`re looking to broaden your language learning so it all comes down to you and what you want, if you want it, it`s all here for you.