Learn Chinese Abroad: A Guide to Chinese-Speaking Countries in the World
Learning Mandarin Chinese? Want to immerse yourself in the culture? Take the opportunity and study abroad.
While there might be some hesitation, studying Chinese abroad can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only will you learn the language faster, but you'll also learn more about Chinese culture and make connections with locals.
Whether you're looking for an established university or an informal language school, there are plenty of Chinese-speaking countries where you can learn Chinese abroad.
Here's a guide to how to get started on how to study Chinese abroad.
Why study abroad?
Studying abroad, in general, is a great language learning opportunity to take while studying any foreign language.
Here is a list of benefits of studying abroad
learn the language quickly and efficiently
learn more about Chinese culture
make connections with locals
experience a different academic system
gain independent living skills
develop cultural understanding and appreciation
increase knowledge of local customs and traditions
Being in a different country is one of the easiest ways to learn Chinese. China is one of many Chinese-speaking countries out there. Chinese is 2nd most widely spoken language, with over 1.30 billion native Chinese speakers in over 20 countries recognizing Chinese as their official language.
Where can you study Chinese abroad?
There are many places to study Chinese such as China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, etc. The dialect may vary between different regions, such as Cantonese, Mandarin, Shaniganese, and so on, as well as the script, like learning traditional vs. simplified Chinese.
1. Study Chinese in Mainland China
The most obvious choice to learn Chinese abroad is Mainland China. While Chinese has different dialects throughout the country, the official language is Mandarin.
There are a lot of opportunities for china study abroad programs. For example, university programs like the Boston University Study Abroad Program or the University of California Study Abroad in China programs exist.
China is a vast country, and the experiences are limitless! You won't only learn Mandarin but also learn about China’s culture, experience new cuisine, explore new terrains, and see wonderful sights!
2. Study Chinese in Taiwan
Taiwan and the Mandarin language have a deep history together. The original language of Taiwan was Taiwanese Hokkien, a Chinese dialect. But then, Taiwan adopted Mandarin as its official language to standardize the language with mainland China in 1945.
Although there are slight differences in how Taiwanese people speak, Mandarin in Taiwan is still mostly intelligible from mainland China's Mandarin.
That's why Taiwan is one of the best countries to learn Chinese. While it is a small country in size, it still has a great culture and new experiences to take in.
Many renowned institutions offer language courses, such as the National Taiwan University and Taiwan Mandarin Institute in Taipei. The great thing about studying Chinese in Taiwan is that all their institutions have Mandarin Training Centres for international students at any level, including those starting to learn Chinese characters.
3. Study Chinese in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a diverse country.
While Mandarin Chinese is often spoken and taught here, another dialect, Cantonese, is also popular.
Many people believe Hong Kong is one of the best places to learn Chinese. There are Chinese courses at the Hong Kong Institute of Languages, or you can take language lessons at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Not only is Hong Kong a bustling city for tourists and businesses, but it is a global melting pot. With such diversity, you will feel welcome. So if you speak English or other languages, you are bound to meet people you can talk to.
Additionally, you won't have to feel homesick while studying Chinese in Hong Kong. However, that's not the point of living abroad to learn Chinese! Living abroad will broaden your horizons, meet new people, experience new cultures, and explore various regions in Hong Kong.
4. Study Chinese in Macau
Macau was under Portugal's rule but transferred to China in 1999. Because of the transfer, the locals use a mix of Portuguese and Cantonese called Macanese.
Cantonese, similar to Hong Kong, is mainly used by the locals. However, the younger generation is slowly adopting Mandarin Chinese in schools and their everyday speech.
While Macau might not be the obvious choice when it comes to learning Chinese, there are a lot of opportunities to learn Chinese in Macau!
5. Study Chinese in Singapore
Singapore is a diverse melting pot of different cultures. They have four official languages: Mandarin, English, Tamil, and Malay. Their schooling uses English or a mix of Singaporean and English.
However, it is still common that at least half the population knows and speaks Mandarin Chinese. Like Hong Kong, you won't feel too out of place.
You can study Chinese in Singapore through a Chinese language course at Nanyang Technology University. There’s also a language program from the Singapore Chinese Chamber Institute of Business.
According to Forbes, Singapore is the best country for expats! So, an international student studying Chinese would enjoy living in Singapore because of their higher living standard with affordable transportation, quality education, and endless entertainment options.
How does a study abroad program work?
All programs follow a similar structure where you must apply and get accepted. Afterward, there will be an orientation session describing what the program entails.
Study abroad programs are offered by:
Third-party program providers:
Chinese Language Institute
Education Abroad Network
US Department of State's Gilman Scholarship Program
EF Education First
Most students will take classes or do a full-time internship at the host institution for college credit, usually towards a degree. Many programs offer cultural activities and excursions for students to give them a deeper understanding of the culture.
How long can a study abroad program last?
It varies on the program, but the most common time frame is:
During the summer abroad
Fall or spring semester
Are there scholarships to help fund learning Chinese abroad?
Yes! There are plenty of scholarships that help fund a student's abroad program.
Each program provides a certain amount of financial aid for each applicant. Additionally, there are several scholarships that specifically fund those studying Chinese.
Many of these scholarships are competitive, so it's important to start early to give you time to:
Research each scholarship opportunity (deadlines, requirements, etc.)
Prepare a strong application
Here are some of the most well-known scholarships to study Chinese abroad.
1. Confucius Institute Scholarship
The Confucius Institute is a non-profit organization affiliated with China's Ministry of Education. They offer a scholarship that can provide full or partial tuition coverage for Chinese language study at universities in China.
2. Critical Language Scholarship
The US Department of State funds the Critical Language Scholarship. This scholarship can fully fund an intensive language program in a country's language, which is considered critical. A "critical language" is a language that the US designates where there is a great demand for professionals but little supply. Mandarin Chinese is included in this list.
3. Freeman-ASIA Scholarship
This scholarship is open to any US citizen or permanent resident who demonstrates a financial need to study abroad, specifically in East or Southeast Asia. The student can receive up to $7,000 to cover expenses such as airfare, tuition fees, and living costs.
More information can be found on their website: https://www.iie.org/programs/freeman-asia/
4. Boren Awards for International Study
The US government funds these scholarships to support undergraduate and graduate students who want to study abroad. There are two types:
Boren Scholarships: An undergrad can receive up to $25,000 for those who want to study abroad in areas critical to US national security interests.
Boren Fellowships: An graduate scholarship of up to $24,000 for those who want to pursue intensive language study and research in world areas critical to US national security interests.
More information can be found on their website: https://www.borenawards.org/
5. Fulbright Scholarships
The Fulbright program offers scholarships for US citizens, including opportunities to study Chinese abroad.
The selection process is highly competitive and is based on academic merit and leadership potential.
More information can be found on their site: https://fulbrightscholars.org/
6. University study abroad scholarships
Many universities partner with other universities abroad, allowing students to easily travel outside your home country. Some of these programs allow your home scholarships to apply while abroad.
So, check with your study abroad office or advisor to see what scholarship opportunities are out there for you.
Frequently asked questions
Why learn Chinese abroad?
Studying Chinese abroad is a great way to improve your language abilities and immerse yourself in the culture. It is also a great opportunity to widen your horizons and get the chance to experience living in a different country.
How much does it cost to study Chinese abroad?
The cost of each program will depend on which country you choose. Countries like Singapore and Hong Kong have a higher cost of living but cater to international students or foreigners because of their diversity. Taiwan and Mainland China have more affordable options, especially in the provinces and away from bigger cities but may not be as diverse as the metropolitans.
Is studying Chinese abroad worth it?
Yes, most definitely. You get to learn a language, experience a new culture, meet new people, and have a chance to live in a different country. They say that experience is the best teacher, and experiencing learning Chinese firsthand is great. There are a lot of different countries you can learn from, each with different cultures and experiences.
Is studying Chinese abroad hard?
Studying Chinese abroad can be hard, and learning Chinese can often be daunting. Aside from the rigorous academic lessons, students would also have to adapt to the way of life in their chosen country. However, this should not be a barrier for International students as it should serve as a challenge and an opportunity to widen their horizons.
To learn Chinese abroad is a worthwhile adventure. It will help you make broader connections across the globe. There are also many ways to learn Chinese—maybe you can even find a Chinese course near you!