Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

  • Why you should look around

    Since 2003, Chinese-forums.com has been helping people learn Chinese faster and get to China sooner. Our members can recommend beginner textbooks, help you out with obscure classical vocabulary, and tell you where to get the best street food in Xi'an. And we're friendly about it too. 

    Have a look at what's going on, or search for something specific. We hope you'll join us. 
AdamD

Easy ways to have Chinese conversations in China

Recommended Posts

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

TheBigZaboon

Excellent, excellent, excellent!!! 

 

Excellent advice well expressed...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TheBigZaboon

Another excellent set of concrete proposals for really making your time in China, or Taiwan, a real "total immersion" experience. 

 

The advice in these two posts is also an antidote to the cranky laowai persona that some seem to so easily develop in China. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Johnny20270

good post!

 

I must admit, I am getting disheartened as I can't even make a basic dumb conversation no matter how much I study. Conversation either just reverts to English in seconds and or dies down to simply smiles and walking away.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Silent

 

walking through their park, smile and say '你好'

If you want to convey you know (some) chinese you might be better off saying 晚上好 or 早好. 你好 is very standard and is known by every westerner, one of the alternatives much better conveys you know Chinese.

 

I'm quite introverted too, so I know the problem. In your examples you basicly wait till other people start a chat. It's far better to start the chat yourself. Just ask silly questions, even if you know the answers, away from home you don't need to worry that you make a fool of yourself. You won't see them again. If really random questions are too scary ask for the way to something, ask for the time, ask what time the park closes, a good restaurant/pub/,,, nearby etc. And make the most of the conversation by re-iterating and asking confirmation questions.

 

If you start the conversations yourself there's less chance that the conversation partner wants something from you. However scammers and touts can be very good conversation partners too, they want to befriend you and will generally be nice and patient you just have to resist their attempts to get at your wallet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Silent

 

Conversation either just reverts to English in seconds and or dies down to simply smiles and walking away.

Reverting to English is easy to solve (in China), speak to people that don't speak English. Maybe you shouldn't set the goals to high. Just start with exchanging a few simple sentences, practice them over and over and slowly expand. If you've no trouble keeping up a conversation in English the issue is confidence, You can only build that by practicing, possibly with a tutor, a good one will not facilitate you reverting to English.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
889

Develop an interest in some Chinese collectibles and start visiting the markets you'll find all over China. Often the shops are run by retired guys who love to chat. Also a very good way to learn about a particular field of collectibles, since a lot of know-how you won't find in books.

 

And if you're going to drop RMB10,000 on a pair of walnuts, you ought to know why.

 

(Don't try this at busy, crowded places like Panjiayuan.)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AdamD

tysond: You've just tipped me off about phone use! I've always hoped it would start a conversation but of course it won't: I know I don't approach anyone's who's using their phone because it erects an invisible wall. And I've usually had success attracting conversations with a book or some writing, but never with flashcard apps. And all your other tips are fabulous.

 

Silent: Interesting you should mention scammers, because one of my better conversations last week was with a pair of tea scammers. They liked that I could speak some Chinese and eventually dropped the English. Right at the end they brought up the tea ceremony, I said I'm too busy, and they thanked me and said goodbye. Weird.

 

889: Yes! A bloke in a market was so disappointed that I didn't want his mahogany 象棋 set that he grabbed my arm and wouldn't let go. Good language practice though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
imron
I know I don't approach anyone's who's using their phone because it erects an invisible wall

I know this thread is about having conversations, but just thought I'd add that when you aren't looking for random conversations, putting headphones on (even if you're not listening to anything) is another great way to erect an invisible wall.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AdamD

It really is. I use headphones as a defence mechanism in Australia but don't wear them at all in China.

 

I've been thinking more about the phone thing. One night last week I went to a quiet Beijing cafe and had a beer, and felt a bit weird and lonely. Half a dozen westerners came in and talked about their respective experiences with Chinese. I really wanted them to invite me in, so I pulled out my phone and did a load of HelloTalk language exchange. And of course they didn't include me because I was on my phone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Johnny20270

You have a good point about the head phones and phones in general. The whole use mobile technology does create an antisocial environment in some respects. I am doing it myself now, that is , looking at my phone for no real reason other than pure habit. Of course many of us more 'seasoned' people remember growing up when phones weren't even invented and talking to strangers in coffee shops or on the street was normal, and when you met friends you actually talked to each other rather than sit in a group in silence staring into a phone.

 

I find the wechat voice message really strange, like a 70's CB radio. Guess we are all affected by our environment to some degree or other  

 

People who talk to me here are either old grandpas or babies, neither which are interested in phones :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Chris Two Times

Ditto, the phone/textbook issue.

 

Just today I was in the McDonald's near the East gate of BNU with a McCoffee and revising my lesson with my tutor. I was feeling sorry for myself because I got crushed during this morning's lesson and just wanted to revise as much as and as soon as possible in order to have a stellar next lesson. My nose was deep into my textbook but my Spidey sense was tingling; the Chinese mom next to me was hovering over my shoulder looking into my textbook. BOOM! Instant conversation.

 

That evaporated the self-pity and I just got on with a lengthy conversation with her. I am finding that my BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) are actually not bad in Chinese--I need to trust them more and just throw myself into conversation. It's just my CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) that is lacking. I will work on this in the next 18 months--my goal for July 2016 is to be able to attend academic lectures on topics in my field and be able to follow them.

 

AdamD, thanks for this topic. I have been in Beijing for two months and have neglected getting in my daily speaking. When I was in Chengdu, I was better at just pounding the pavement and talking with a wide variety of people. This thread has motivated me to get back into action and to make sure I get my daily speaking and listening in--it's easy to go several days without speaking Chinese and that is a bad habit.

 

Warm regards,

Chris Two Times

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
889

Not that I've ever tried it, but I've always thought that getting a cute dog and heading to whatever nearby place dog people congregate would be a good approach. The owners always seem to be chatting away with each other. And keeping the dog groomed and in good health would provide more opportunities to speak Chinese.

 

The more adventurous could consider birds or crickets.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

I used to go to that McD's regularly! Early morning coffee, McMuffin and the 新京报 in the sunshine. 

 

As a conversation starter, don't just pull your phone out and hope someone notices what you're up to - feel free to (make up, if necessary) a question. What is the correct stroke order here, how is this character pronounced, what bus should I get to...) Perfectly respectable ice breaker, and if they don't want a conversation they can just tell you and ignore you.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PaulSav

Great thread, I wish I had seen this before my last trip to Beijing!

 

Here are two from me:

 

  • If your significant other or friends are Chinese, they may have friends in China. These are great people to spend a little time with, either going to dinner or just walking around and chatting. I found I was more relaxed in this situation, because the person was already friendly toward me, and also we had things in common.
  • Go to a small, deserted restaurant. My wife was doing some shopping nearby and I just wanted to relax and have some tea. I found a small restaurant with no one in it and asked if it was alright if I just ordered tea. Then, since no one else was there I just drank my tea and chatted a bit. They may offer to give you the tea for free, but I think you still still leave a few yuan!
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DernierVirage

This is a great thread, which I hadn't noticed before, all the ideas are really good !

 

My own tactic is to admire babies or very small children.....the parents and/or grandparents are always delighted by the attention and conversation flows easily. Even a beginner in Chinese can have a simple conversation - a few compliments about the baby and you're in business.

 

Parks are indeed a fantastic way to get to know people, as someone said you usually meet older people there during the daytime, who always have time to gossip. My own favourite is 龙潭湖公园, it is not too far from the Temple of Heaven but is a really "local" place with lots of regulars and there is always someone to talk to.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

Even the big tourist parks like Beihai and Temple of Heaven have plenty of local life going on, but you might need to get off the main thoroughfares. Paying attention to kids is a great way, and much appreciated by the parents. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
yoyomicah

Great advice on going out there and getting to work practicing. I especially like tysond's advice below:

 

 

1. Use the same stable of standard questions that Chinese people ask you: Ask people where they are from, what is famous in that place (food, tourist site, etc), what the weather is like, the population, how much they earn, if they have children, what their age(s) are, etc.    Although this is controlling the conversation it does allow you to get more practice and repeat topics which helps cement them in your brain.

 

This can be difficult at times because Chinese people have so many different ways of asking (and answering) these standard questions. But if you are listening for certain keywords, you'll have a really good chance of knowing how to respond. Here's an article that explains it in great detail, and provides lots of audio sentence examples. It addresses the 5 main conversation topics you'll most likely hear when you first meet a Chinese person. They include:

  • 姓名 (xìng míng) - name
  • 家乡 (jiā xiāng) - hometown
  • 年龄 (nián líng) - age
  • 家人 (jiā rén) - family
  • 职业 (zhí yè) - occupation

Hope this helps you have an answer for those standard questions, even when they're asked in an unexpected way! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...