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Language Schools

If possible, you should start learning Chinese in your home city before moving to China. More and more western universities now offer 2-3 years of Chinese classes, or you can sign up at one of the language schools that can now be found in virtually every major western city. The best way to achieve fluency once in China is to enroll in a university program. At least one university in each large city has a Mandarin language program for international students.

You’ll also find privately run language schools that cater to foreigners. You can enroll in a group class or sign up for individual one-on-one instruction. Some crash courses are as short as 10 days, but most classes meet two or three times a week for a month. If you don’t know any Chinese at all, after completing an intensive one-month beginner’s course you’ll know about 250 words. This isn’t too bad considering you need to know about 800 words for basic daily life, but you’re nowhere near the 3,000 needed to read a newspaper. Foreigners who enroll in a school tend to learn at a much more rapid pace than those who just study on their own.

The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) test is a Chinese-language proficiency test. Just like Chinese students who take the TOEFEL test before studying in the United States, foreign students take the HSK to be placed at the appropriate level within a Chinese university. Foreign workers use their HSK scores to prove their Chinese-language ability to prospective employers. There is a preliminary level and then three official levels scored on a scale of 1 to 11. Elementary is 1-3, intermediate is 4-8, and advanced is 9-11. A minimum score of 6 is required to be admitted to study in a Chinese university program taught in Mandarin. You can take the test in China or at a number of overseas locations.

Beijing Foreign Studies Univeristy
2 Xisanhuan Beilu
Haidian District, Beijing

Beijing Language and Culture University
15 Xueyuan Rd.
Haidian District, Beijing
10-8230-3923 (Fax)

Global Exchange Center
229 Beishihuan Zhonglu
Hai Tai Plaza, Ste. 1215
10-6231-5029  (Fax)

International Cultural Exchange Center (Beijing)
Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications
10 Xitucheng Rd.
Haidian District, Beijing
10-6228-2797 (Fax)