Do I Need to Know Chinese?

Do I Need to Know Chinese?

There’s a lot of questions when it comes to choosing a college, not to mention whether or not – and where – to study abroad. One of the things that I always hear is debating the language barrier. In Rome, you can get by just in English, although it isn’t very polite to your host country.

Here in China, way less people speak English, especially not the older generations. But it’s okay! Over half of the Spring 18 TBCers came to this country with absolutely no Chinese language experience, and they’re doing fine. TBC requires you to be in a Chinese language class, no matter your level, plus they provide you with a Chinese language tutor and immediate ‘Survival Chinese’ so you’re at least armed with the rudimentary basics by the time you’re out in the world.

You learn Chinese, and fast, which is great! Even in your normal university classes, you won’t learn as much, as varied, and as fast as you do when you’re in China. Class here is almost every day, as opposed to every other day, and you always have your roommate to turn to as well. Plus, you’re in the same boat as so many other students, you can always study with them!

But besides tell you things I’ve said already, I’m also going to give you some Chinese language learning recommendations, so you can get started and know stuff before you come!

First, two apps/programs that can really get you started: Pimsleur (which is paid) and Mango (which, I don’t know about you, but my library card gets it for free. Check with your local library to see if they’ve partnered with them too!) Both of them are listening apps, so you don’t have to put in too much effort. I love Mango, personally, because you can download it offline (and it was free for me.)

Second, for character learning, try Drops and Chineasy. Drops works on recognition and different matching meaning strategies, all without using written words. So for example, learning the word ‘wo’, me, comes with a picture of a finger pointing at a person. Or ‘shi’, yes (although it is written in the character), is a checked box. Chineasy pairs the character with what it looks like or derived from. So ‘ren’, person or people, which looks like 人, appears but feet come out of the bottom strokes and a head is on the top, so you can remember that it looks like a person, and means person as well. So handy!

And of course, Duolingo. Although Duolingo has a little bit of a teaching issue, you can use apps like EdChinese and HelloChinese for learning, and then review with Duolingo (plus with more grammar).


There’s so many ways to learn! Even if you’re not coming to China, knowing another language can never hurt. What’s stopping you from starting? Don’t let language keep you from a great adventure!

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