Do you think you can learn Chinese too?

Have you ever considered learning Chinese but told yourself it was too difficult? Do you ever wonder whether Chinese is even possible to learn on top of your full-time job and a busy schedule?

What is the reason you would consider learning Chinese? Do you have Chinese business partners? Would you like to strengthen your relationship with them? Maybe you told yourself that your Chinese business partners speak fluent English. Why would it be necessary to invest time and energy in learning their language?

You can find the answers to these questions in the experiences of Stijn. Stijn is one of my students and he works in the food supplement industry. He has a very busy schedule full of business trips. Still, he found time and motivation to have online lesson since August 2020. In October 2021, he went to China and worked there for one year, all the time continuing his lessons. When he wasn’t limited by the lockdowns in Shanghai, Stijn went on business trips to various provinces in China. He wrote the article below during his stay in the country.  

Ever since my first steps in the nutraceutical industry I have been in touch with Chinese business partners. When they reach out to you in Europe, they always speak relatively high-quality English, so you would think communication is smooth. I now understand that it might seem this way, but there are many “hidden” differences in culture and language that can cause miscommunication, even though the right words are being used.

The longer I worked in the industry the more it became clear to me that China plays an undeniably significant role in “our” supply chain. Incentivized by this observation I wanted to understand more about the country and its (business) culture. From time to time you would see a non-Chinese person speak Chinese on television. This would always intrigue me, but at the same time I would believe it was not doable for an average guy like me.

At a certain point in time, I saw a post of a Chinese friend that was learning Dutch and was looking for a language buddy. Not clear on what that meant, and even though I was very busy at the time, I decided to reach out. The language level of the person in question was already quite advanced, so it wasn’t a right fit. She told me that if I wanted to start learning mandarin Chinese it is doable, but I should take professional classes. At least, at the start. She recommended the services of ChinaTalk’s teacher Jessica Sun, or 孙老师 (Sūn lǎoshī, ‘Teacher Sun’) as I call her now. Until this day, I am grateful for my friend’s recommendation as I enjoy my weekly Chinese lessons.

Besides the fact that Jessica Sun is one of the nicest persons you will ever meet, she is a tremendously skilled teacher. She absolutely understands what is happening in the minds of new language learners and optimizes her lessons to be fun and comprehensible. All this, while always keeping the learning result as the highest priority. After all, the Chinese go for results.

Jessica always comes prepared and knows exactly what the student’s learning flaws are. She can make the lesson feel like a fun conversation, but she will do it in such a way that the grammar/vocab points that you are working on are being practiced. For me, it always feels like a pity when the lessons are over after what feels like 10 minutes, even though it is well over an hour.

Furthermore, at ChinaTalk they understand that language is also about culture, and they’ll make sure that this is part of the curriculum. The importance of the latter, in my opinion, is not the be underestimated. Without understanding some of the Chinese culture you won’t be able to understand certain parts of the language. This is one of the reasons why solely doing self-study is not recommended.

As someone who has a busy life it is impossible to learn Chinese full-time. I often hear people argue that it is impossible to learn Chinese if you are not in university, learning the language full-time, but after more than a year of studying Chinese with ChinaTalk next to my day job and other ventures, I would strongly beg to differ.

I would absolutely recommend learning Chinese to anyone, whether you are a student, working professional or just someone who is eager to learn new skills. Learning Chinese with the help of ChinaTalk is fun and doable. Personally, I will not stop learning until I reach fluency. Definitely worth the investment, and certainly worth a try.

by Stijn Kamphuis

Also interested in learning Chinese with ChinaTalk? Check out our private online lessons.