I’m back in Denmark, only for the next eight months but it’s still a long time without my daily doses of Chinese conversations. After spending a month here, I can already feel how my Chinese language skills aren’t as they used to be. I start to forget words I could easily remember before. I speak more slowly and with a foreign accent. This is very annoying so I’m trying to find ways to increase my language proficiency outside of China. So today, let’s share our ideas on how to keep up our Chinese language in a non-Chinese environment.
First, I think it’s very important to see the Chinese characters and listen to Chinese every day. It sounds like a lot of work but it actually doesn’t have to be. You can change your phone into Chinese as the first step on your way there. I have done this long time ago. I was super confused first but now most of the features and settings on my phone make sense in Chinese as well so don’t worry and if it’s too hard, you can always change back, just remember where the change-language setting is or else it’s going to be tricky.
Listening to Chinese in a non-Chinese environment can be made very easy too if you download one of the Chinese music apps. I use Wangyiyun （网易云音乐）where you can both listen to music or radio. I started listening to podcasts where they discuss many interesting topics. I listen to this while I’m biking to work. It’s always boring to bike and really cold but if they are talking about something interesting, I don’t mind the ride.
Second, if you have some time off in the evening, you can find Chinese TV series on YouTube. If you don’t know how to find them, I’ll suggest you look for this one first 咱们结婚吧 (zanmen jiehun ba). It’s a cute every-day TV series about a girl, her family and their lives. If you don’t like it, YouTube will probably come up with other suggestions. Look around and see what you’d like to watch. If it’s too hard to watch a whole episode, start slowly. Watch ten minutes, pause if you don’t understand what they said. This is hard work which is why I think ten minutes is enough. Take a break and try again. At some point, you’ll be ready to watch more.
Third, another good idea is to find Chinese friends. China is a big country and the population is massive. Many Chinese people move abroad so it shouldn’t be impossible to find somebody in your town as well. I usually look for language partners where we practice one hour of my language and one hour of Chinese which is super efficient. Maybe you’ll even become good friends with them which could lead to new friendships and language exchange. How nice would that be, right? If you aren’t sure how to find them, then look it up on couchsurfing.com or download the Wechat app if you don’t have it already and then look for people nearby. This option in the app is really effective to find new friends but be aware, you never know who’s on the other side.
These are some of the things I do to keep up my Chinese. I try to chat as much as I can with Chinese friends both online and offline. I watch TV series, listen to radio and music and even try to practice with my Chinese language book once in a while. Whatever you’re doing, it’s something and it’ll hopefully benefit later on when you go back to China or if you find a job with Chinese language involved.
Do you have other things you do to practice? What is it and how do you feel it’s working?