I can’t speak Chinese at all! Can I really survive in China?
The answer is… yes!
If you’re asking this question, then you’re probably not in China! Because honestly, you can survive in almost any major city in China with limited Chinese at the beginning. Most people that study abroad to China are amazed at how resourceful they become for daily communication! Language is all about communication. And even without the Chinese language, you have a lot of tools at your disposal. Using a mix of hand signals, pictures, maps, phrasebooks, translation apps, and more… everyone can get by in China to a certain degree. That said, it depends on a few factors.
A Chinese tutor weighs in on speaking Chinese in China
Question: where are you going to in China?
Now, how much Chinese you need to know depends on where in China you will be going! China is an enormous country (about the size of the United States!). Just as you would prepare differently for rural Georiga than New York City, so too do you have to prepare for different regions in China.
For example, if you stay in a metropolis like Shanghai or other major cities along the southeastern coast in the country where many foreigners living there to work or study, you will see that not all of them can speak good Mandarin! English is widely used by foreigners and locals alike for business and even daily life. On the contrary, you may find people even use the local dialects much more frequently than Mandarin in rural areas, not to mention foreign languages other than English.
For many foreigners going to China, you are either going to a Universtiy or to a new job in a city. In both of those case, you will be fine at the beginning.
Local help, Emergencies and Contingency Plans in China
However, that is for daily life！There are, of course, situations where you will need an advanced speaker to sort things out. For example:
- A trip to the hospital
- Legal issues with a landlord
- Dietary issues and clarification
For these things, even an intermediate Chinese speaker might need help! This needs either a local/friend partner, a translator, or another lifeline.
Hopefully, your school/job has someone you can turn to for most daily issues. Also, there are apps like http://www.tourtalk.me/ that can instantly connect you to bilingual interpreters with local intel. In any case, you should have a bilingual emergency contact that you turn to if you have problems abroad.
Learning Survival Chinese
But, back to daily life. Survival Chinese can get you far and you’ll have plenty of fun. With just a few phrases you can do shopping, haggling with vendors, and exploring new dishes!
TutorMandarin gives away its survival Chinese ebook for free with signup. Get it now!
If you want to make sure you’re saying the phrases correct or even want to start learning Chinese, you can sign up for a free trial class with us as well. A live tutor will tell you if your pronunciation is good and how it can get better. Sign up here: student.tutormandarin.net