Coming to China : First steps

Tips for new comers in China


Every year during special periods of the year like September, many foreigners arrive in China either for working or studying. Depending on where they land, daily life can appear to be very different, and in some cases even challenging. The most common places are Beijing and Shanghai, then some move in Guangzhou, or to one of the numerous booming second or even third tier cities, all quite different from each other. While living without understanding and speaking Mandarin can almost be possible in Shanghai, it is not the case everywhere, and even in the capital city you will find it rather difficult if you do not master at least the basics of the local language.

As a result, what better advice could we give you than starting learning Chinese as early as possible, even before arriving? Whether you are a contractor, employed, studying or looking for a job in China, learning Mandarin locally is of crucial social and professional importance. Foreign interest in China has grown exponentially along with China’s influence over Asia, and mastering Mandarin has now become a key success factor in Asia.

Here are some tips which should be taken on-board before starting any training;

• Try at least two schools, if you are not satisfied trial classes are free almost everywhere, and make sure to check the following three points:

– Do not hesitate to ask about your teacher’s qualification and experience: the official university diploma for Chinese teachers is named “Teaching Chinese as a Second Language” or similar wording depending on Universities. Then some teachers have other language university diploma and later specialized in teaching Chinese. Another part of teachers are professionals of other specialties who choose to become part-time or even full-time teachers, some of which have certificates. Teaching is a mixed of knowledge and talent, so with experience we can see excellent teachers coming from all origins. However when it comes to comparing qualifications, university diploma and certificate should be clearly distinguished, as most of certificates can be granted within 1OOh lessons, while bachelor or master university degrees will take few thousands of hours and 4 to 5 years study. Then comes the experience. Qualified and trained teachers are efficient even if rather young. For higher level students however, more mature Chinese teachers with broad experience can be more adapted.

– Teaching material: make sure that the methodology you will go through has a proven track record of result more than sales, many classical teaching books are adapted from courses for Chinese children, and redesigned with examples for adults. This causes a number of problems since children instruction in China is mainly focusing on the written form of Chinese language, while foreigners arriving in China would need the opposite. Then you can also check the range of teaching material that will be available for you, books only or more.

– The service you can expect: staff responsiveness or how your request is dealt with are good indicator as to how the school will perform when you start classes there. What are their class cancellation or schedule modification policies etc.

• Choose the curriculum that is tailored to your needs

Do you want to become fluent, be able to interact with your clients or colleagues, or just get by in China? Are you busy, in a hurry to progress, or do you have time for both?

Choose a course in line with the reality of your life and make sure that your goals are well understood:

– Private lessons: the most effective for busy people who want to learn quickly. They allow you to customize the content as well as the schedule, and you do not have to move to take your classes as teachers can generally come to your office or home. It is generally about twice the price per hour compared to traditional 4 to 6 people group classes, but you will save time and progress more than twice faster.

– Courses in Private Group: colleagues or friends, they have the same characteristics as conventional groups with more freedom regarding the content and location of the course. Moreover, the number of students rarely exceeds 3.

– Check remember to check the flexibility. In general, free cancellation is possible until 3 hours before the course starts.


• The Chinese can speak

For beginners in China, it is best to focus firstly on oral Mandarin before starting with the characters, for the first 30 hours as a guide. You will learn to identify the pronunciation of syllables and tones. If you do not master the tones at the beginning, the new words you learn will be useless as no-one will understand them.

Abroad where teaching methods such as no less accessible environment make oral notion, many students took refuge in learning to write. However there are real differences between the language used in writing and that used in speaking, and we also recommend to focus initially on the Chinese “practice”.


• As at school!

Once you have mastered pinyin and pronunciation, it gets easier to enjoy daily life in China, you will also enhance your vocabulary from surrounding yourself different situations. This is the best way to learn the words you really need. So take every opportunity to practice your speaking or your listening, use you time spent in transport to review your notes or listen to our audiobooks in Chinese.


Enjoy your Chinese!

The TMCC Team


TailorMade Chinese Center is a French company founded in 2009 and specializes in teaching Chinese professionals in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Xi’an, Tianjin, and abroad through online tutoring.

To learn more or try 1hr lesson for free please visit or contact us by email: or telephone +86 (0) 7727 105290.

We also offer courses in English, French and German to companies who have this requirement.



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