One of the very best ways to learn any foreign language is through immersion. You might have heard some people go as far to say that learning Chinese through immersion is the only possible way to learn the language. This is definitely incorrect, although, it probably is the best way.
What is language immersion?
Language immersion is basically the act of completely immersing yourself in the language you’re studying.
How do you do this, you ask?
Well, it may come as a surprise to you, but going to the country where the language is spoken is not the only answer to this question! There are two types of language immersion; what we’ll call ‘in-country immersion’ and ‘out-of-country immersion’ or ‘virtual immersion’.
In this post, we’re going to focus on in-country immersion but make sure to sign up to our newsletter to be notified when new posts come out as we’re planning to talk about these two topics in much more detail in the future.
Should I really move to China JUST to learn the language?
The simple answer is no. Moving to a new country is a big deal and it would be really hard if you had no idea what you were getting yourself into. It’s not a good idea to make a big move without at least some desire to experience the lifestyle and culture of the country.
Before making a big move it’s a good idea to learn about the local culture, the climate and the rules and regulations with regards to visas and foreign residents.
Also, China is a BIG country (seriously, it’s huge). It’s preferable to do some research about different cities and provinces to decide where you want to go.
By the way, if you happen to choose Beijing you better be prepared for mind-numbingly cold winters and scolding hot summers!
The good news is that if you’re actively studying Mandarin Chinese, chances are that you’ve at least got some knowledge of China and its culture, history, and people.
The next thing worth considering is that China isn’t the only option you have for in-country immersion!
Ever heard of a little island called Taiwan? Taiwan is also Mandarin speaking and its capital city, Taipei, is known for being extremely safe and foreigner friendly!
How would I support myself in China/Taiwan?
Learning Chinese through immersion is a fantastic way to quickly and efficiently improve your skills in the language but if you do decide to move to a Chinese speaking country, you’re going to need a way to support yourself.
So, how you support yourself while you’re over in China or Taiwan? Well, there are a few options but the most popular by far is… teaching English!
Teaching English is the popular choice as it pays quite well and jobs are readily available. Becoming an English teacher provides you with the visa and financial means you need to stay in China and learn Chinese through immersion.
Teaching English in Asia has become a really popular thing to do these days. With China’s recent economic boom, the demand for English teachers in the country has increased immensely.
Many Chinese parents have dreams of sending their kids to high school/university overseas in America or Britain and thus take their child’s English education very seriously.
This means that getting a job as an English teacher in Mainland China is pretty easy! As for Taiwan, I can’t say for sure, but I imagine there is no lack of jobs for English teachers there either. Check out this article if you’re interested in teaching English in Taiwan.
What are the requirements to teach English in China?
Well, to teach English in China full-time, you’ll need a working visa. In order to get one, you’ll need an employer (duh) as well as a bachelor’s degree (your degree can be in anything) and preferably a TEFL certificate too.
Along with those three key things, you’ll also need other standard documents such as a police clearance, health certificate etc. If you’d like to find out in detail what you need and whether or not you’re eligible to teach English in China, check out this article.
The working visa laws change quite often in China so it’s a good idea to do some research of your own closer to your planned departure time.
The good news is that if you find a good employer (whether a school or agency), they will help you out with all the visa stuff! Working visas are usually issued for a period of one year and can be extended fairly easily.
English teaching jobs can range from kindergarten positions to corporate training for large companies. Just bear in mind that contracts are usually for a minimum of one year.
If you’re interested in teaching English and are qualified to do so, then moving to China/Taiwan for the purposes of learning Chinese through immersion can become a reality very quickly.
What if I don’t have a degree/can’t commit to a whole year?
If teaching English doesn’t scare you but spending a whole year abroad does, then why not do an internship?
Teaching internships in China generally run for six months and are a great way to ease yourself into a new way of life.
Internships are fun and you’re usually placed at a school with other foreigners. The best part about doing a teaching internship is that you don’t need a degree! The minimum you’ll need is a TEFL certificate.
If you’re interested I suggest checking out i-to-i TEFL.
What if I don’t want to teach English?
There are definitely other jobs available to foreigners in China besides teaching English. For example, I had a friend in Beijing who worked as a nightclub promoter and another who was an American football coach!
These kinds of positions tend to be harder to find, and only available in the bigger cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou etc but it’s worth looking around because the opportunities are there.
Additionally, if you’re a qualified professional, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to apply for jobs at an international company in one of China’s big cities. Certain sectors are booming now in China including: tech/software, marketing, engineering and journalism. Interested? Read more on, here.
Another idea is to save up a little more money and enroll in a 3-6 month intensive Mandarin course at a university or language school (check out Beijing Language and Culture University).
The advantage of this is that you’ll get access to quality Chinese teachers and you’ll also get issued a student visa, which can also be renewed should you decide to stay on.
Plus, if you decide to go this route, there’s no stopping you from privately tutoring English to local kids or students in your free time (just make sure they pay you cash in hand, as you’re technically not allowed to earn money without a working visa). Many people do this kind of thing for some extra drinks money!
If you’re serious about learning Chinese through immersion and are willing (maybe even excited) to move to China or Taiwan then It’s all about doing the research and deciding what option is best for you. Post on forums, speak to friends who’ve done similar things and just try to find out as much information as you can!
If you have any immediate questions, post a comment below and I’ll answer as best I can or at least point you in the right direction.
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