You may survive speaking only English in China because many Chinese people understand some English, and friends can also help in the short-term. But if you are going to live and serve long-term, then there are at least three reasons for language study beyond communicating basic needs.
- To go overseas long term, you need to find a job, preferably one that would fit into a viable career long term. Knowing the language will open doors to employment opportunities and give you the edge in an increasingly competitive global job market. Even if your immediate job prospects do not require fluency in the local language, learning the language would enhance your understanding of your work environment as well as your local colleagues and clients.
- To live overseas long term, you need to adjust to the culture. Understanding the country and its people calls for an understanding of the language. The ability to communicate effectively in both languages helps you to serve as a bridge between cultures.
- To serve overseas long term, you must get to know the locals and not simply stay among expatriates and foreigners. While locals may want to practice English with you, ability to communicate in their heart language makes a difference in sharing your life and faith.
5 Ways to do Language Study
Language learning is life long process. The duration of a focused effort, however, depends upon your individual aptitude, experience, interest, resources, and requirements of your future work. Formal (classroom) full time study may range from 6 months to 2 years. An intensive language learning program may shorten your classroom study.
- Your local college or university in North America may offer courses. Doing language studies prior to going overseas proved to be helpful to many of our associates.
- In China, there are many places to study Chinese. In Beijing, a popular choice is Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). At BLCU, learning aspects of Chinese culture is part of the language study. In Shanghai, a program at Fudan University received good reviews. BLCU and Fudan University give placement tests prior to classes.
- For a less intense and less expensive program, check out the private schools. In Beijing, there is Diqiucun Language School where you can enroll by on a day, week, month or semester basis. Note: For short term full time study (6 months or less) an F-visa is required. For long term study (one year or more) an X-visa is required. Students on an X-visa are also required to take a medical examination (recommended to be taken after arriving in China). Check with the school of your choice for the latest info.
- If you are working full time and cannot commit to studying Chinese in a school setting, then consider hiring a private tutor through the referrals from friends. If you work with a Christian tutor, then you can also learn spiritual vocabulary which will aid in your sharing with other people. If you work with other tutors, then you have the opportunity to befriend and witness to your tutor. Keep in mind that this option will take longer for you to get up to speed.
- If your workload is demanding to the extent where none of the above is an option, then consider the self-study or on-line materials.
“May He give you patience, discipline and joy to learn the difficult Chinese language. If you trust Him, He will use you powerfully, no matter what your Chinese sounds like. Hang in there!” Good News Reader