Those wanting to learn to speak Chinese often come upon a stumbling block: the difficulty of the language often makes it often necessary to learn with a Chinese teacher who either lived in a Chinese-speaking country or is a native speaker of Mandarin.
In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about choosing the right Chinese class for you.
When you decide to take Mandarin lessons, it’s important to look at what the private language lesson market has to offer and compare the various profiles of Chinese tutors.
Consider having a look around university lecture halls – maybe a Chinese exchange student is looking to give private lessons!
More concretely, make a list of what you are looking for:
A live Chinese teacher can correct your mistakes in Chinese calligraphy, teaching you the direction and order of strokes. Photo by Axel Rouvin on Visualhunt
There are many reasons for learning the language of Confucius.
This is why you will need to find a Chinese tutor who is competent, experienced and, most importantly, one who delivers on what he promises.
So how can you find this miracle person, this crème de la crème of teachers?
There are a number of different types of teacher ranging from primary-school level – for your children – to university to specialised institutes such as the Confucius Institutes to Chinese exchange students at university and, of course, private tutors here at Superprof.
Generally, a good foreign language teacher has at least three years’ more practical experience than his students.
Yet three years are barely enough time to even start to master the Chinese characters at a level suited for practical, everyday use.
Chinese dictionaries document up to 106 230 Chinese words! However, you only need to know about 4 000 to 6 000 Chinese characters to get through everyday life.
With the right teacher you will be able to recognise the Chinese characters for saying hello (ni hao, 你 好), good-bye (zài jiàn, 再 见) and thank-you (xièxie, 谢谢, pronounced “shay-shay”) in Chinese in no time.
You should look for a Chinese teacher who:
Let’s have a look at the range of tutors inscribed at Superprof for private Chinese lessons at home and compare their profiles.
These variables are all going to influence the price of a one-hour Chinese lesson.
A foreign language course doesn’t come cheap!
In England, private tutors are freelancers; their fees are not fixed. This means that private Chinese teachers fix their prices themselves, depending on their experience.
Chinese lessons can be expensive – but not if you choose them carefully! Photo by Canadian Pacific on Visualhunt.com
On average, home tutoring in the UK costs about £25 to 30 an hour.
Over 400 Mandarin tutors are available on Superprof throughout the UK. Their prices vary greatly, depending on:
On Superprof, the prices for a Chinese tutor are as follows:
Fortunately, there are alternatives if you live in a high-price area.
You can take lessons at a language institute or learn Chinese online via webcam.
But why would you?
A language school will tie you down for eight to ten weeks per course and put you in a classroom with other students.
This at least forces you to commit to lessons, allows you to meet like-minded students of the Chinese language, and offers lessons with native speakers from a Mandarin-speaking area such as China, Taiwan, Singapur or Hong Kong.
It is also usually cheaper, as the course prices, when broken down into hourly rates, are usually quite low: paying anywhere between £130 to £678 depending on the place and the class level, you will find yourself with an hourly fee ranging from £6.50 to £16.95 – well below the average of £20-30 an hour – and the teachers are just as experienced, if not more!
Still too expensive?
You might instead try finding Chinese exchange students willing to give lessons in their native tongue.
Or try private lessons via webcam – without travel expenses, most Chinese teachers offer Skype courses at advantageous rates.
Or simply learn Chinese online with free apps for learning the Chinese language.
“There is no easy way to learn difficult things.”
(Joseph de Maistre, 1753-1821)
As we know, learning to read and write Chinese is an arduous task. That’s why it helps to really prepare for your Chinese lessons ahead of time.
So what can you do?
Learning Mandarin means assimilating sounds and rhythms that are completely different from our Romance languages. Just like a musician, you need to train your ear and activate your lexicographical radar.
When learning a new subject, it helps to immerse yourself in the area you are studying. Listen to jazz when learning jazz guitar, read Arabic newspapers to learn the Arabic alphabet or listen to foreign movies in the original when learning a language.
It’s the same thing when learning Chinese: you need to immerse yourself in it, to hear Mandarin spoken, for example by watching Chinese movies.
Even if you don’t actually understand it at first, a beginner Chinese student will be better able to recognise Chinese characters and improve their pronunciation than if they didn’t do this simple exercise.
Practise your Mandarin reading skills by reading Chinese newspapers. Photo by Canadian Pacific on Visualhunt
Immersing yourself in the Chinese language means plunging headfirst into the language and its environment. It also means discovering Chinese culture and history, the Chinese way of thinking and functioning. It’s almost like going off to live in China without leaving the UK.
To accelerate your Chinese learning curve, prepare a trip to China or Taiwan – or why not try a language exchange programme?
It’s a way to learn a foreign language for free by meeting with a native speaker. You learn Mandarin from a Chinese national who wants to learn English: an intercultural exchange, a transfer between first and second languages.
The tones and pronunciation of the Chinese language can sometimes be so difficult to assimilate that two hours of Chinese lessons a week are insufficient for anyone wanting to learn Chinese fast.
So here are a few tools to help improve your command of the Chinese language.
Is your Chinese dictionary not enough to become a fluent Mandarin speaker? Try out Chinese learning apps and websites. Photo by Nick Kenrick. on VisualHunt.com
Obviously, it is impossible to list all the tools available to learn Chinese online, whether it be websites or apps, but here is a selection:
Most sites promising to match people wanting to learn a foreign language to those for whom it’s the mother tongue often also offer lesson plans, dictionaries and chatrooms where you can find a conversation partner.
These sites make it possible to learn a language in a social context.
By meeting at the local pub, for example, and speaking half the time in your native language to teach it to your language partner, and half the time in your new second language to learn it for free.
It’s also a formidable opportunity to learn colloquial expressions and cultural information that you don’t necessarily learn in a language class – discover China’s political system and history, or Chinese food with a native.