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Choosing the Right Mandarin Language Program

Ask yourself some questions and find the Mandarin language program that's right for you!

So you have decided that you want to learn Chinese. Now comes the difficult task of choosing the right Mandarin language program for yourself. There are so many considerations when it comes to picking a foreign language course, and the huge number of Chinese course options only makes the decision that much more difficult. Where do you even begin?

taiwan travel picture
My mom is lucky. She'll never need to learn Mandarin. She's got her own private Chinese interpreter... me!

Why do you want to enroll in a Mandarin language program?

To start with, you are going to need to know what your purpose for studying Mandarin is. Are you taking the language in order to better communicate with your business partners, or would you like to spend some time travelling in a Chinese-speaking country? Perhaps you have an interest in some element of Chinese culture, such as martial arts or calligraphy. All of these are wonderful and perfectly valid reasons for studying Mandarin, but your purpose is going to inform how you go about your studies.

foreigner chinese couple
For some - like my friend Mathieu who married a Taiwanese girl - the motivation to learn Mandarin is obvious!

How much time can you dedicate to learning Chinese?

Another factor in choosing the right Mandarin program is your current lifestyle. If you are a successful career person or business owner who is fully embedded in your current lifestyle, you will probably desire an entirely different learning track from a free wheeling backpacker or a young college student.

Again, neither lifestyle is any better suited to learning Mandarin, it is simply the case that different lifestyles are going to require a different Mandarin language program.

Where do you want to study Mandarin Chinese?

With your purpose and lifestyle in mind, you can begin to think about the many types of Mandarin courses available to you. The first and most obvious choice you will need to make is where to study Mandarin: at home or abroad.

Ideally, your career and lifestyle will allow you plenty of time to go abroad, where you can study Mandarin from qualified teachers in a country filled with native speakers. Plenty of such opportunities exist at both universities and private schools in Mandarin-speaking countries, such as Taiwan. If you haven't got the time or money to go abroad, you can still find a good Chinese course taught by a qualified teacher in your hometown.

Click here to see my favorite Chinese school in Taiwan.

Not all Mandarin language programs are the same.

Now that you know where you're going to study, the next question is what type of course will you enrol in? Mandarin language programs come in all types, styles and sizes, from one-on-one intensive learning programs to huge university-based semester classes, and even degree programs.

One particularly popular type of Mandarin language program these days is the course at a private language school. These schools are set up for the express purpose of teaching non-native speakers Mandarin, and typically operate per semester or schedule per several weeks.

This type of course is typically only available in Mandarin speaking countries - there are dozens to choose from across Taiwan in cities like Taichung, Taipei, and Kaohsiung - and often provides the option to be housed with a local Chinese family, improving your chances to practice speaking Mandarin in a native setting.

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Check out these 10 interesting facts!

Mandarin language programs near you

If you simply can't get away from your job or life at home, fear not! Check the course listings at your local university or community college, many of which now offer Mandarin language programs for all levels. Likewise, you can check local newspaper listings or join a Chinese culture club that might offer you the chance to meet a local Mandarin speaker who can provide one-on-one lessons to suit your schedule.

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Study Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan.