Learning Chinese in China is the best way to learn Chinese. Not only does China offer an immersive environment, but you have the opportunity to practice every day. Before you come to China though, you’ll need to get a visa, and you’ll need to be able to support yourself, and that’s where English teaching comes in.
Teaching English in China is one of the best ways to travel, learn Chinese and have a rewarding job. Teaching English can also help you learn Chinese, and learning Chinese will help you teach English. In this post EF teacher and blogger Dioni Wise shares her story on learning Chinese in China and teaching English.
Why Learning Chinese in China Will Help You Teach English
Chinese students get a kick out of knowing the teacher can understand them in their native language. When I corrected a student for saying “zhège” instead of “this one,” another student, Rita, asked, “lǎoshī, nǐ huì shūo zhōng wén?”
I understood that she asked, “Teacher, do you speak Chinese?” and quickly replied, “No.” I wanted to give the illusion that I didn’t understand her, but blew my cover. She giggled, and my teacher’s assistant said, “You understood her! Wow!”
I’ve only been learning Chinese in China for two months. And moments like these help me realise how valuable learning Mandarin is to teaching English. As a prospective or current EF teacher, you can learn Chinese for free and start taking classes while you teach English.
Here are 5 reasons you should start learning Chinese in China and teaching English ASAP.
- You build a rapport with your students
- You’re empathetic to your students’ plight
- You understand how their native tongue affects English language learning
- You can swoop in and save the day in class
- You can explain tough points in Chinese—as a last resort.
Everyone just wants to be understood. Students, like Rita, feel more comfortable with teachers who try to understand them, even if they can’t speak Mandarin fluently. It shows you care. Parents also appreciate when you can, at least, greet them in Mandarin. Knowing a few phrases makes a big and positive impression.
Learning a second language is tough! At times, everything my Chinese teacher said sounded like gibberish, and I felt overwhelmed. Studying Mandarin has given me a new perspective on learning other languages. I’m more patient with my students. I applaud their efforts—big and small. I, also, strive to keep the lessons fun, so students stay encouraged and relaxed.
Did you know Chinese students can’t pronounce certain English words well because those sounds aren’t even in Mandarin? Yeah. It becomes apparent when students keep saying “fin” for “thin”. The “th” phoneme doesn’t exist in their world, so students must learn to use their mouths and tongues differently.
English teachers can help their students by knowing what roadblocks they might encounter and creating detours to move around them.
Miming and drawing pictures can only get you so far. So every English teacher should know a few Chinese phrases to communicate better with students. Knowing Chinese phrases for “I don’t know,” “this one,” and “I like…” can help you modify future lessons, learn to explain things in a new way, and encourage students to use English phrases they’ve already learned when they inevitably revert to their mother tongue.
If push comes to shove, a simple explanation in Chinese can save you several minutes of class time and a world of confusion. In recent a high intermediate class of 9 to 11-year-olds, I used a table on the interactive whiteboard and a PowerPoint with examples in English to teach when to use ‘they’ and ‘their.’ ‘They’ is followed by a verb. ‘Their’ comes before a noun. These explanations were met with blank stares.
I quickly rattled off equivalent phrases in Mandarin, and the light bulbs turned on. “Oh!” escaped from their mouths as they nodded their head in agreement. Although it’s not recommended, I used their mother tongue to help everyone jump over a huge hurdle and move on with class.
Of course, you’re bound to uncover other issues between Mandarin and English. I hope, however, these tips made you more aware of some things to expect in the classroom and how to mitigate problems. So hurry up and sign up for Chinese lessons now.
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Post by Dioni L. Wise, EF English First Guangzhou
North Carolina native Dioni L. Wise now calls Guangzhou her home. She’s a former journalist who loves singing parodies, eating dessert before dinner and travelling. Five continents down! Two to go! Connect with Dioni on WeChat: @DioniLWise.