Listening, speaking, reading, and writing are all separate if related skills; and the difficulty that is common across all of them is grammar, which is often very different from Romantic and Germanic languages and not intuitive for native speakers of such languages. This leads to a trade off in Chinese, which is that the verbs are dead simple: they never change no matter what tense, gender, or number; but that information is still conveyed through sentence structure and particle words. Chinese is a language that has a place for everything and one which everything needs to go in its place. If things get jostled around meaning is not conveyed or worse, a different meaning is conveyed.
The best way to overcome this overarching difficulty of getting tuned into Chinese grammar and being able to think in Chinese is to get exposed, and China is a great place to get exposure. Although I studied Chinese for three years back home, I’ve had more improvement in the last year just by living in China. It’s been a great experience and benefit to work at Aihua, too. The classes provided as part of the benefit package are great. The teachers are professional and the study materials are useful. More than that, though, is being able to work right alongside native Chinese speakers. The Chinese staff in the schools are incredibly friendly and more than willing to help a Chinese learner. In fact, I meet weekly with a Chinese coworker so that she can practice her English and I can practice my Chinese. It has been a great experience and opportunity not only to practice spoken and written Chinese (as we write essays for each other) but to also learn more about the culture.
I’ve enjoyed my time in China and at Aihua very much. I’m very pleased with the progress I’ve made in my ability to understand, speak, and read Chinese. And I’m very satisfied with the resources Aihua has provided me in order to advance my language skills. I certainly feel that with all these advantages the I’m the only person who can hold me back.