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FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING: HOW TO LIVE IN A COUNTRY WHEN YOU’RE NOT FLUENT

People who are choosing to study abroad in a new country often question how it’s possible to live in a city when you don’t know the language.

It’s not uncommon for people to move to a country in hopes of learning a foreign language, but we have to remember that it takes a while to fully become fluent. That’s why we’re giving you 6 tips on going abroad and feeling both comfortable and safe in a country where you don’t speak the language.

TAKE THE INITIATIVE, AND LEARN THE BASICS


You’ve taken the initiative because you’ve decided you want to study abroad.  Taking learning the Chinese language in China as an example, whether it’s because you know learning the Chinese language will benefit your work, your professional development, or your mind, you’ve taken that first step.

Congratulations!

Now it’s time to learn the basics. Yes, you will be studying in a classroom soon, but why not get a head start. Having an online Chinese lesson can easily help you get ready for it. Learning the basics before you place your feet down on the tarmac of your new home will give you some ease.

We suggest that you learn:

  • Do you speak English?
  • Hello and goodbye
  • Please, thank you, and I’m sorry
  • Numbers 1-10
  • How much is this?
  • My name is … and I’m from …
  • Where is the restroom?
  • I do not understand

Learning these few key phrases will help on your flight and navigating your way to your new school. Plus, you’ll start off the class with a tiny bit of knowledge, which will most likely help you later.

WATCH FOR BODY LANGUAGE AND TONE


When you’re not fluent in a foreign language, learn body language. Body language provides an amazing amount of information on what other people are thinking… if you know what to look out for.

UCLA research shows that only 7% of communication is based on the actual words spoken. For the rest, 38% comes from tone of voice, and 55% comes from body language.

Speaking of tone, Mandarin, the most spoken language in the world, is a tonal language. 5 tones of Mandarin Chinese are used, and once you learn those tones, you will be well on your way to understanding and speaking Mandarin fast. If you’re a Mandarin beginner, you should know more common introductions about the Chinese language. The beginner guide for learning the Chinese language would be helpful for you to have a comprehensive understanding of it. 

Until then, here are some basic body language tips:

  • Crossed arms and legs signal resistance
  • Real smiles crinkle the eyes
  • Copying someone else’s body language is a good thing
  • Posture tells a story
  • Raised eyebrows signal discomfort
  • A clenched jaw signals stress

While you can’t read a person’s exact thoughts, you can learn a lot from their body language. In addition to watching someone else’s body language, pay attention to yours as well. While you’re living in a new country, you want to be open and welcoming. This will signal that you’d be willing to speak to new people and learn from them.

BEFRIEND LOCALS


Becoming friends with the local Chinese is a great way to learn how to communicate in the local language. By doing so, you will make friends, and you will have a real sense of how the city works. Locals know where to eat, what non-touristy attractions to visit, and the city’s slang. When studying Mandarin in Kunming, there are 6 parks that you must see, and there are also many fun and things to enjoy with friends in Kunming after your Chinese classes. 

You will reap so many rewards when you make friends from the city you’re studying in. This includes finding the best food around your school. Trust us… you won’t regret making local friends.

ASK PROFESSORS OR LOCALS FOR TUTORING RECOMMENDATIONS


Tutoring could be a good idea for you among countless things that you can do in Kunming after classes. Additionally, tutoring will allow you to gain additional skills and language tools that you can use inside and outside school.

Not only will tutoring be a fun, non-stress activity for your brain, but it will be a worthwhile and rewarding experience. There are small group Chinese class options and one-on-one Chinese lessons if your mind isn’t able to cope with a bigger class setting.

Be sure to ask your professors in your language school about tutoring. They will recommend the right person to help with your language skills that need a little extra attention.

Besides the right teacher to appoint, the location of learning Mandarin Chinese is also important. If you’re looking for a city that embraces traditional and modern elements, you should learn Mandarin in Kunming. It boasts the mildest climate and the best Chinese language school, Keats School. Find out more in the post of Why you should study in Kunming. By learning at Keats School, you will also be offered several available locations, Dali and Lijiang are the most famous two for touring; Puzhehei and Yuanyang are places that rich in natural beautiful sightseeing; Xishuangbannais full of tropical leisure; Tengchong is the most popular touring destination on the border; Jianshui and Jingmai Tea Mountain can slow you down with its amazing natural and cultural marks. All of these destinations have been set up as the branch school locations of Keats School. When learning at Keats School, you can schedule your learning trip at different locations and save loads of money for traveling. 

DOWNLOAD LANGUAGE APPS, CARRY A DICTIONARY WITH YOU


While we don’t recommend learning a language solely using an app, these are helpful when traveling.

Once you’re on the ground, getting around can be challenging if you don’t know the language. Having an app that includes translation options, as well as a language-to-language dictionary, will allow your travels to go a lot smoother.

Remember, not only do you not speak the language, but you probably will have to make sense of a map, signs, and traffic signals. All of those combined can cause quite a headache.

Having some useful apps when living in China will allow you to communicate more effectively and settle well in the hustle and bustle around you.

BECOME OPEN

The most important thing to consider when you live in a country that you’re not fluent in is to be open.

You’re the student again, and you’re going to be confused for a while. Choosing to live in a country where you don’t speak the language is truly an admirable challenge.

It may seem daunting but if you’re willing to become open minded and flexible, it will work out in the end.

If you put these six tips into place, your travel experience will become more positive and less stressful. Your efforts will only make you stronger. Not only will you develop language skills you never had before, but you will also work on your self-confidence, body language, cross-cultural communication, and problem-solving skills.

Keats School in Kunming, China, helps students with travel, airport pickup, and visas to ease the stress of not knowing Mandarin yet. We can help you plan your trip abroad and help you decide on the right study option for you.

 

FAQ

1. Why should I study Mandarin Chinese in Kunming?

Why should you learn Chinese in Kunming, Yunnan?

Because it has the mildest and most pleasant climate in China, it will make your living in China more comfortable.

Yunnan is also the most popular touring province in China. It has amazing views of the landscape and colorful ethnic minority groups’ culture to experience.

By learning Chinese at Keats School in Kunming, you will have an unforgettable memory of both learning and touring.

2. What should I know about Kunming before travelling over here?

Kunming is located in the Yunnan-Guizhou plateau, which is about 2,000 meters above sea level. Therefore, the ultraviolet ray here is relatively strong and can easily hurt the skin. Applying sun-cream and using sun protection tools is a good solution.

Besides, 26 ethnic minority groups are inhabiting Yunnan, which greatly enriches the local diversity.  You can enjoy abundant choices of food and entertainment. At the same time, respect for ethnic minority culture is required too.

3. Is it convenient to travel to Kunming, China from abroad?

Kunming boasts the fifth largest international airport in China. Many direct flights between Kunming and other international cities, such as Paris, London, and New York. Besides,  Yunnan province borders Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos,  Nepal and is close to Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia at the same time. Therefore, Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan, is also considered the best base to explore the south-eastern Asian countries. It is convenient and easy to travel to Kunming from abroad.

4. Is the Kunming dialect difficult to understand?

The Chinese language includes Mandarin and various regional dialects, such as Northern, Wu, Yue, Hokkien, Hakka, Xiang, and Gan dialects. The Kunming dialect belongs to the subdialect of the Northern dialect, which is very similar to Mandarin Chinese. Therefore, if you’re learning Mandarin in Kunming, you will have fewer obstacles to deal with.

If you’re not clear about the difference between Mandarin and Chinese, find it out through another post on Keats School Blog.

5. Is there any expats community in Kunming?

Keats Mandarin learning community is the biggest and the most dynamic expats community in Kunming. Keats School gathered hundreds of international students from all over the world. The diverse backgrounds and cultures they brought to Keats form a unique environment for Keats students to enjoy life-long connections and friendships while studying here.

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OVER 7300+ STUDENTS HAVE STUDIED AT KEATS

Josh

Josh | USA

Small Group Chinese Class

I really had a wonderful experience at the school. The teachers are very very friendly. In my class, we practice speaking, listening, reading, and writing. We play games and other fun activities. We have trips around town. The staff at Keats is phenomenal. My teacher is one of the best teachers I have ever had in my educational experience. She comes in with a smile every day.

嶋田京子

嶋田京子 | Japan

Intensive One-on-One Chinese Classes

Kunming’s scenery is very beautiful. It is the best place to study Chinese in China. My favorite learning method at Keats School is one-on-one because it is suitable for everyone. My teacher is very good, very caring, and lovely. My life when learning Chinese in Kunming is very good and the weather is very good. The air is very good. It is good for the elderly’s body.

Claudia

Claudia | Australia

Intensive One-on-One Chinese Classes

I’ve been at Keats school and Kunming now for one month doing the one-on-one Chinese lessons with two different teachers. I really enjoy it. Both of my teachers are very friendly and patient. They really helped me to improve my Chinese, both of my reading and speaking. I really enjoy studying Chinese in Kunming as well. This city is really beautiful and the weather is nice, the air is clean. It’s one of the best cities in China to study Chinese.

Hilary

Hilary | USA

Intensive One-on-One Chinese Classes

I’ve had a really great time here. I’ve studied a lot with my teacher who was fantastic. Keats School tried very hard to match its students with really good teachers that their personality works very well together. I really enjoy studying Chinese at Keats and I will definitely come back.

Jean

Jean | USA

Intensive One-on-One Chinese Classes

I can’t tell you how much I liked it. The thing I liked about the teachers and the teaching method is that there is so much flexibility. The other thing I liked about the teaching is the combination of classic textbook learning and going outside. I loved it! I like getting to know other students. Everybody shared the same goal and that’s making their Chinese better. Kunming is a big city, but it is very safe to live here. Another thing I liked about Keats is the idea that people here help you. I can’t recommend it enough. I think it was a valuable experience. Looking forward to coming back!

Ramji

Ramji | USA

Intensive One-on-One Chinese Classes

The best part of the school is the patience the instructors had and the time to focus on the fundamentals like pronunciation. I think it is very easy to skip over those and go to vocabulary. But by learning the pronunciation, I feel like it helped me gain a better understanding of the language.

Mike

Mike | Australia

Small Group Chinese Class

I think Kunming is a great city, the weather is really good. I really like Keats school and found it is very organized. The teachers here are very good. They have a coffee shop and new classrooms, a new lounge area here now, so you can chill out with your friends and practice your spoken Chinese with natives. If you’re considering coming to Keats to study, I would really recommend it. It’s the best place to learn Mandarin and I think it will be a great experience for you.

 

Judith

Judith | USA

Intensive One-on-One Chinese Classes

Listening and speaking in the classroom every day has improved my communication skills. After three weeks, my new words and sentences became more and more natural and fluent. Now I am used to thinking in Chinese, and I understand better what other people say, to be able to have real conversations with other people.

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