Firstly let me start by saying ………………..
Thank you to the John Speak Language Trust for the support it offered me during the semester I spent at Liaocheng University in Shandong China. With being a recipient of the funds, I was able to focus much more on my studying of Mandarin and as a result my language improved at a much better rate. I think it’s excellent that there is still support from UK institutions for people looking to learn languages, as often it can be something that is over-looked in British culture. Undoubtedly as the world is becoming ever more globalized, learning other languages, especially Chinese, is increasingly an important skill, and so once again, thank you to the John Speak Trust for supporting me, and other students to do this.
Onto my time in China …………………………………….
As of February 2016, I have just finished a semester of Mandarin at Liaocheng University in Shandong province, China. Although I’ve lived in China before, these past six months were like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Previously, I’d spent my time in Hangzhou, a beautiful, highly developed, Eastern coast city. Although I loved Hangzhou, I’d felt that in terms of my Mandarin, I was being sucked in a Western/expat bubble and not progressing at the rate I would like. So I made the decision to come to Liaocheng, a small tier 4 city in inland China. Here I found exactly what I’d hoped for, nobody that spoke English, very, very few other expats, and not a Starbucks in sight. This put me in a learning environment that was very much sink or swim, and forced me to use my mandarin from moment one and at all times. I think on reflection, this was a really good plan and the immersion in lesser developed China really forced my hand to continually improve at Mandarin. Whilst here I found it really easy to make Chinese friends, and as such, conversational Chinese became a daily activity.
Not only did I improve my Chinese language, I also got to do some really enjoyable activities whilst here, as you can see from my photos. You will see I got to dress up in traditional Chinese dress, and also enter a football tournament with some of my classmates. Obviously I had some difficulties whilst I was in China, the pollution and the lack of variety in food being the two major ones. In all honesty however, I was prepared for this and I don’t think it would have been possible to go to a place where nobody speaks English yet still have a completely smooth experience.
The photo below of me with a painting behind was taken on a class trip to Qufu, birth place of Confucius. This was a really excellent trip, as Confucius underpins so much of Chinese culture and my experience visiting here, is always a really good talking point with Chinese friends.
From the other photos you will see I got to dress up in traditional Chinese dress, and also enter a football tournament with some of my classmates. Obviously I had some difficulties whilst I was in China, the pollution and the lack of variety in food being the two major ones. In all honesty however, I was prepared for this and I don’t think it would have been possible to go to a place where nobody speaks English yet still have a completely smooth experience.
Having finished in Liaocheng I’m pleased to say I passed both HSK 4 and HSK intermediate speaking exams at the end of the semester, and went on to secure employment at the British Embassy in Beijing.
Clearly I’m thrilled to get this opportunity and no doubt my improved Mandarin helped me secure the job.