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Chinese…. Now you’re talking!

source:A perfect Chinese girl time:;2018-03-23 read:76

So is learning Chinese hard? …The short answer is yes! unequivocally yes! According to several linguistic indexes learning Chinese mandarin is the most difficult language to learn in the world for a non-Chinese speaker. Despite this, Chinese is the most spoken language on the planet and it has international kudos and relevance if mastered correctly. Furthermore, as many of you may know, once you grapple and conquer with key elements of Chinese it actually becomes much easier. It’s those first few hurdles which appear insurmountable. 


Do I need to learn and speak Chinese in order to live and work in China? Well, in 2018, the answer is… probably NO! Ten years ago life in China was considerably more difficult for new teachers. New arrivals would be fumbling through pocket translation books and often left clueless by poor support from schools. These days Echo provides attention-to-detail orientation support and teachers can choose from a whole smorgasbord of apps to assist them in daily life. Whether it be “wai mai” food delivery apps, Didi taxi or Taobao, it’s now possible for someone not versed in Chinese to try and navigate these and make life in China very comfortable and convenient. WeChat and Didi all have full English interfaces. Taobao, Wai Mai and Alipay have limited English content but after several attempts to use them, it’s easy to second-guess checkout and ordering procedures (albeit with maybe some short instruction from your Chinese friend).


But let’s get serious! If you're going to live in another country it’s useful; and even polite to learn the local language. The extent to which you can conquer this is really about how much time and effort you put into it. There is no magic bullet which is going to make you become fluent overnight. It really comes down to hardwork, practise and dedication. Many teachers are happy to get by with survival Chinese, which is an accomplishment in itself. Other teachers take the quest more seriously and will devote hours every week diligently studying. Perfecting Chinese won’t necessarily make you richer or your job easier but it will make your day to day life incredibly comfortable and reduce any sense of alienation. As English teachers, your job is to teach English in the target language. Many schools with have a local classroom assistant for any bilingual instruction… introducing your own Chinese into the classroom may aid with classroom management but, arguably, it doesn’t necessarily make you a better teacher.


We’ve asked an array of local teachers who have lived in China for some time and become fluent in the local language for tips and advice for novice learners. Firstly the following apps for learning are essential : Pleco, Memorise & Google translate. Google translate is now fully available offline and doesn’t require a VPN to be operational. Secondly, Chinesepod.com. This website is regarded as the market leader for learning Chinese. So here’s some exciting news: For our 2018 teachers Echo Education are paying for a full yearly premium subscription to this website for EVERY new teacher. We are proud to partner with this company based in Hong Kong. If you are a 2018 teacher please contact your Service Officer and they will issue you your own unique code to gain access to this website. It’s truly unrivalled in its content.


Self study is incredibly important. Our experienced teachers tell us relentless practice of writing characters from a good book is essential. At first don’t be afraid to use Chinese children books. Remember Chinese children also learn Pinyin before characters. There are also options to join Chinese classes after school and on weekends. Private tuition can range from 100RMB per hour to 250RMB per hour.


The industry standard for assessing a foreigners’ Chinese Mandarin ability is the HSK series… with the HSK6 exam being regarded as the pinnacle of proving your fluency and understanding written simplified characters. So how long did it take our experienced teachers to successfully pass these exams? Well it varies, on average it’s said to take 5-7 years regular Chinese lessons to successfully master HSK 6. However, we know people who have crammed and studied manically who’ve passed HSK 6 within 2 years. Some of these teachers now have Vlogs on Youtube or their own website blogs. One local Hangzhou teacher documents his learning at www.themandarincornerblog.com


Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to try speaking with your Chinese friends. Don’t be afraid of the language…

Remember learning Chinese can be part of this incredible journey you’re on. Feel free to reach out to us if you want any more advice.


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