Without cultural understanding, your Chinese could be useless.

Many students of Chinese recognise that learning Chinese is hard, but they are willing to put in the effort to conquer the mountain that is becoming proficient in Chinese. However, if your aim for learning Chinese is to become accepted as part of the community, your study needs to go beyond just learning how to communicate, instead extending into understanding Chinese culture, why people say what they say, do what they do, and think what they think.

Danger of ignoring culture

If you only focus on the practical side of communication, and don’t take the time to learn the culture, then the communication you do have may end up being laden with frustration, and misunderstandings. You only have to spend a little time reading the blogs of expats to get a feel for how common these misunderstandings are.

Here at our Chinese language school in Wudaokou, it is one of our goals to support all our students as they not only learn the language, and become proficient in it, but also gradually develop a fuller understanding and love of Chinese culture.

Cultural understanding includes the basics of knowing when the festivals are, and what they celebrate, but it goes far beyond that and at its greatest extent includes how 5000 years of history influences their understanding of themselves, and in turn their opinions and behaviour.

So how to learn culture?

So how to learn culture? The best way is to live here, learn the language, make friends, and interact with your Chinese friends as much as you can. Over time you will build up your understanding. But we can also be deliberate about acquiring an understanding of the culture. We can learn culture through seeking to make observations about the society around, and backing this up by discussing our observations about the differences and similarities with Chinese people.

For those who are not fortunate to live in China then reading books and watching films is obviously a good first step.

Our blog: making studying Chinese just that bit easier

Taking all this into account, our aim for this blog is to make your life as a student of Chinese just that bit easier. We continuously check the latest blogs, read the latest books, test out the newest apps and attend the conferences on language learning so that you don’t have to. Anything that we find that will help you in your understanding of Chinese language, Chinese cultural we will share. On top of this we will seek to provide anything else that helps our language students as they live in China and study the language, whether that is advice on balancing your time for most effective study, or sharing about the practicalities of renting a flat in China.

Thanks for reading, look out for new articles on a weekly basis, and let us know what you think.

Study Chinese at our school in Wudaokou www.1on1mandarin.com

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Chinese Culture, Language and tagged , , by Jonny. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jonny

Jonny Willson came to Beijing in December 2010 and studied Chinese at 1on1Mandarin 2 years before beginning to work there. His background is in Maths and Analysis (Oxford University, followed by a PhD in Edinburgh (Heriot-Watt University)), and was previously a Credit Risk Analyst with the Royal Bank of Scotland. In his free time he likes to read, watch films, play badminton and run.
  • Glen Loveland

    Excellent article. I’ve found that the more time I spend in China and around Chinese colleagues and friends, my Mandarin has improved. Language is a sub-part of culture, and culture is the bigger umbrella. For this reason, language study also can’t be rushed.

  • Jonny Willson

    Hi Glen,
    thanks for the encouragement. I wish you all the best as you continue learning Chinese, learning culture and making friends along the way.

  • LearningChinese

    It is so important not to forget culture. I studied Chinese at Omeida in Yangshuo and I have to say it was one of the best schools(and cheapest) Ive been to. But I do love Beijing except for the pollution

    http://www.omeida.com.cn/