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Do You Need To Speak Mandarin To Live in China?| 3 min read

If you’ve been considering studying, interning, au pairing, or teaching, it’s a question you’ve probably asked yourself. But even a quick Google search will give you a seemingly simple answer to the question – No! Plenty of foreigners travel to China without knowing Chinese!

This is, on it’s face, a genuine answer. There are lots of people who travel to China without knowing Chinese. However, we think there are some good arguments for why you should learn a little bit of Chinese and this is exactly what our Mandarin classes provide. Just because you can go to China without knowing Mandarin, doesn’t mean it will hurt to learn. There are many benefits to knowing a bit of Chinese.

A more independent life

Even though we’re social creatures, it’s human nature to want to be independent. Moving to a foreign country can sometimes make you feel like you’ve regressed in time; chores and tasks that once seemed simple become a lot harder. Not being able to speak or read Chinese in China leaves you in a peculiar spot, requiring a lot more help than you might first think.

While it’s unreasonable to assume you’ll be able to function and live just like a native Chinese speaker in China, learning Mandarin is going to help tremendously. Whether it’s asking for directions, hailing a cab or reading a menu, you’ll feel much more self-sufficient in China if you don’t rely on friends and strangers to help you translate everything.

Communication opens doors

You never know who you might meet when you’re abroad – it’s one of the main reasons we travel. And so, embracing your life in China means you want to embrace the people around you, and learn from them as much as you can.

Being able to speak a bit of Chinese is going to help you make the most of your time in China and the relationships you make. Friends, coworkers, classmates: you never know what potential relationships you might be shutting yourself off to by deciding to not learn Chinese. It’s not always about being fluent, but giving the extra effort when it counts.

Chinese culture

Culture shock is one of the biggest things that people deal with when moving to China. There is a lot of new cultural quirks and ways of living that are hard to adjust to. Check out our China Survival Guide for a few tips. Since culture and language are so intertwined, you make a lot of adjustments harder on yourself by not learning Chinese. Things that seem strange or unfamiliar have their context grounded within in the Chinese language. It’s easier to adjust culturally when you understand why things work the way they do – something that is much much easier to do when you know Mandarin.

Knowing some key Chinese sentences and phrases will improve your quality of experience in China. Keep in mind you don’t have to be fluent in Mandarin to be able to improve your quality of life, work and relationships in China, a little goes a long way!

Julia Yan

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