Learning Mandarin Chinese at Kent and abroad

By Joe C.J. Day for CEWL

Today we hear about one of our students’ experience of learning Mandarin Chinese in CEWL and abroad.

In short, living and studying in China for a year drastically changed my approach to learning Chinese. Studying at CEWL at the University of Kent for 2 years prior, the excellent and very dedicated Chinese teaching staff prepared me with a very comprehensive and foundational language ability. The great benefit of studying Chinese at CEWL is that the course is structured in such a way that students learn not just to speak Chinese but also to read and write Chinese characters as well.

When I arrived in China, there were exchange students from other universities whose spoken Chinese was, like mine, passable, but they were often held back by an inability to read signs and documents. During my two semesters at Renmin University of China in Beijing, I continued to study Chinese in the classroom, but the real advantage of being there was the language environment which Beijing provided me, and I found that the spoken Chinese ability which I developed at CEWL became incrementally more fluent and authentic. Thanks to my time at CEWL, I had a strong foundation in all aspects of Chinese language, and thanks to my time in China, I learnt very fast how to use this language skill in a meaningful and day-to-day fashion.

Forewarned is forearmed, and I must stress that Chinese can be difficult to learn. It requires dedication and persistence in getting to grips with the basics, and in order to learn it well I personally have spent at least an hour a day studying it, every day for the past 4 years. My advice to students who want to learn Chinese is to go for it with all your enthusiasm and strength, and even as you inevitably get stuck, never give in! For, eventually you will begin to see the patterns and conventions of this ancient language, and your Chinese skill, like mine, will keep getting better and better.

In fact I strongly recommend people study Chinese alongside their degree, as it not only gives you a much needed break from your academic course, but it helps you develop the discipline and diligence to be a successful person.

I hope to continue to develop my language skills well into the future, and to use them to pursue a career in diplomacy or cultural exchange. Mandarin Chinese is perhaps the most important foreign language that a native English speaker should learn, as contact and relations between East and West become ever deeper. Learning Chinese opens up new opportunities to converse with China’s 2 billion-strong population both in China and across the world. Who wouldn’t want to be able to communicate with the largest group of people on the planet?


For information about our Mandarin courses see https://www.kent.ac.uk/cewl/courses/world/index.html or contact cewl@kent.ac.uk.