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

jobm

Breaking the Exchange Student Barrier

Recommended Posts

jobm

My first semester of learning Chinese here in Dalian has just ended and I just could not believe that I am already in Dalian for one semester! My Chinese really improved but what I am sad about is that my interactions with the Chinese are very few. Besides our teachers and the staff of the place I stay, I do not have any regular Chinese friend that I could talk with everyday. I have joined a student organization, befriend with some students in the university, and went to church where I also have met some locals. My Chinese friends from the university are very busy with their school stuff while since my classes are much higher than my level, I need to exert extra effort to prepare for our classes; thus, I have much time to go out and explore and meet with random strangers. Meanwhile, I could only meet the people at the church on Sundays. I have the WeChat account of most of my Chinese friends but it turns out that I am only practicing my typing and reading skills most of the time but what I wanted more is to have a face-to-face conversations with them. :(

 

It turned out that most of my exchanges in Chinese are only with my fellow exchange students and inside the classroom with my teachers. Because of that, I got some of the habits of my classmates which are not good. I really want to really improve my spoken Chinese that's why I even wrote a letter to the school stating I want to transfer to the Chinese dormitories so that I could have as more interactions with the Chinese as possible. But I think they won't consider it.

 

Has anyone of you experienced this problem? What did you do? Do you have any suggestions?

 

I am afraid that my foreign friends would be more than my Chinese friends. I came to China to meet Chinese, not fellow foreigners :D

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

anonymoose

You need to find more friends outside of the university. Maybe you could find some language exchange partners. Of course this means you will have to sacrifice some of your time reciprocating in English or your native language, but as your Chinese improves, you will probably find many people are happy to talk to you entirely in Chinese.

Maybe this is more difficult in the winter, but the other thing to do is just strike up conversations with people you see sitting around outside, in parks for example. If you are shy at making the first move, that makes it a bit more difficult, but even so, if you look like a foreigner, then you will probably get people proactively start talking to you.

You could also offer to volunteer in an old people's home or orphanage or something like that. You'll have plenty of opportunities to speak Chinese like that.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ZhangKaiRong

Your problem is quite typical. My experience is that you have to invest a lot of efforts to maintain your relations with the Chinese, which can be achieved on long-term. Are you trying to be friends mostly with boys or girls? I found that most girls tend to care more about their friends than boys, so if you were focusing on getting on with guys, you should try to make some friends from the opposite gender. Of course, this way you run the risk of romantic exposure... But getting a girlfriend can also do the trick for your problem :D 

BtW, when I was in China, most of them spent their time playing DotA2 or LoL when they said they were "busy" during afternoons, so maybe saying that they are "busy" is just an excuse in your case as well.

 

As anonymoose suggested, you could also try getting friends who are not university students, but already started to work, however, it is possible that they have no freetime on weekdays due to the regular work overtime.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Silent

 

What did you do? Do you have any suggestions?

At one time I decided to avoid my countrymen in order to improve my English. But I was traveling making it a lot easier then in your situation. Alternatively join some local club e.g take tai qi, painting or music lessons outside the university setting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
hedwards

I think this is a problem that's mostly in ones own mind. I think the big challenge here is to be willing to go an entire day or more without speaking at all if need be. I made it a regular habit to not speak any English at all when I left school. I would speak at school because that was my Job and I'd do a skype call back home a couple times a week. The rest of the time was basically 100% Chinese. When I go back to China, I'll take it slightly easier, I'll schedule one evening a week where I do things that are in the ex-pat bubble to help keep myself sane, but the other 6 days out of the week will be pure Chinese when I'm not at work.

 

This works out relatively well, and it gets easier the more you know. Especially if you know the phrase to write something down in Pinyin for quick reference in a dictionary. (In case you're not already doing it, carry a notepad or similar and regularly enter any learned vocabulary into a flashcard program and memorize them. discard the page after entering it)

 

OK, now on to the actual question. The best thing is to find a hobby or activity where you need some Chinese, but where you don't have to be talking constantly in order to take part. Things like Tai qi, dancing and perhaps art would work. Although, I'd recommend against art as the language demands there are extremely high if you're wanting to do anything with that.

 

The point is that the activity is mainly a method of meeting people with the language learning being a secondary concern. Ideally it should be something that has vocabularly that you either know or could learn in the near future. You'll still get some stretching, but you shouldn't be struggling to communicate during the activity. If it's a lot of work to communicate with you, it's going to restrict the number of people that are going to be comfortable trying.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Silent

 

I think this is a problem that's mostly in ones own mind. I think the big challenge here is to be willing to go an entire day or more without speaking at all if need be.

I don't think that going mute is going to help improve language skills. One has to communicate but outside the social circles where English is the main language, he needs a change of scenery.

 

 

If it's a lot of work to communicate with you, it's going to restrict the number of people that are going to be comfortable trying.

The solution to this is not to seek out easy situations, it's too improve. Get the exposure and learn to communicate, no need to do so in full fluent sentences, simple childish sentences usually get the message across too. If people around you see you willing and improving and consider you amicable they will communicate no problem.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
hedwards

@Silent, I never said to be mute. Also, it's incredibly self centered to try and get people to talk in activities where you're not yet ready with the language ability to handle most of it. It tires people out and decreases the amount of time they're going to be willing to spend time with you. The OP's issue here is socialization, not necessarily language ability.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
grawrt

I have the same problem as you, but I'm trying to work on it.

Try and ask your Chinese friend what wechat groups they're in. At BLCU they have a ton but foreigners are only introduced to the International students club group and a few others. I found out about the rest after I joined a few clubs and saw the other groups they were forwarding their messages to, but a lot of my classmates weren't even aware. You can find out about a lot of cool activities like hiking or new clubs etc.

Aim for the opposite sex like ZhangKaiRong said, and join a sports activity. I joined ping pong and made two very good friends from it, but it takes a while. You can try basketball too, I see the courts dominated by Chinese guys. I might see if I can join them when I return in the spring, I do miss playing basketball..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ChTTay

Make friends with Chinese people who share your interests outside of learning a language. For example, if you like playing a sport... find out if your University has a club for that where anyone can join and sign up. If they don't have a club or won't let you join, just find people to play with. It doesn't matter if they study English or care about English, what ties you together is doing the shared activity. Even if your Chinese isn't that good yet, you can at least be doing something together and getting by with your Chinese/their English.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Silent

 

@Silent, I never said to be mute. Also, it's incredibly self centered to try and get people to talk in activities where you're not yet ready with the language ability to handle most of it. It tires people out and decreases the amount of time they're going to be willing to spend time with you. The OP's issue here is socialization, not necessarily language ability.

With respect to mute, you didn't use the word, but clearly stated "the big challenge here is to be willing to go an entire day or more without speaking at all" to me going a day(s) without speaking is going mute.

 

Maybe we have a different picture of the activities, but many activities require little communication and that what's needed is relatively easy to learn. And without joining it may take ages to learn so don't be too strict on being ready. Sure don't join a literature club if you're hsk1 and are barely able to put a sentence together. But I think pretty much every activity goes unless they're intellectual/communication based. He's not forcing himself onto anyone by joining a club. The goal is to get contact outside his regular social circles and the socialising around activities is a way to meet that goal. Several people for just a couple of minutes can all together result in decent practice. He will improve quite fast and the chinese people will slowly get used to communicating with him.

 

I don't know what the language level of OP is (though 1 semester is an indication). I didn't bring up the subject but strongly believe that if language level is an issue seeking the easy solution ain't the quickest way to improve things. Unless of course OP is not interested in improving his Chinese and is satisfied with communicating with Chinese in a foreign language (i.e. not average chinese). In that case he could better go to an English corner.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
hedwards

@Silent, reread the post, I think it's plenty clear that one isn't going to be mute.

 

It's really easy to avoid actually learning anything if you're willing to fall back to your native language. A day where somebody is truly unable to do anything in their target language is a huge learning opportunity. By avoiding ones native language, one gets a real sense of what language one needs to be studying. As I said in my previous post, one would be writing words down and such in a notebook, so those words are available to learn in the future. In practice, a day where one truly can't say anything at all day is rather unusual. It's more representative of somebody with a phobia than somebody who doesn't know much. 

 

Having that determination also makes it somewhat more difficult to avoid the language just because it's hard.

 

As far as the level goes, I have no meaningful knowledge of what level the OP really is, but art is a really, really hard area in terms of the language. You get a lot of tier 3 words and trying to express the same things with tier 1 and 2 words is quite difficult. The objective here appears to be socialization more than language, so the language burden should be rather less than the OP can handle so that the OP is able to comfortably meet people. Once he's met people, I'm sure the language challenges will return as appropriate.

 

Anyways, just my 2 cents.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Silent

 

@Silent, reread the post, I think it's plenty clear that one isn't going to be mute.

 

It's really easy to avoid actually learning anything if you're willing to fall back to your native language. A day where somebody is truly unable to do anything in their target language is a huge learning opportunity.

Sorry, it's probably me but I really don't read in your post how it's not getting mute. Maybe you meant "willing to go an entire day or more without speaking at all _in you native language_" instead of not speaking at all. However I agree that listening is important, I don't see how avoiding to speak is going to help you learn the language. In contrary I, and I think many perhaps even most students, would benefit of more speaking practice. Actually by active use such as speaking you learn where your skills are wanting specially concerning larger errors as these will result in no-verbal responses and questions to get clarification.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jobm

Thank you very much, guys, for your answers! It is very nice to know that I am not the only one who has this problem. It seems that my other classmates even do not bother not having a lot of Chinese friends :/

 

I am a Filipino and my mother tongue is Filipino but I speak English as my second language (a little less than an American I guess). With my studies here in Dalian, my classmates do not English that often so we use Chinese as much as we could but of course using Chinese with a genuine Zhongguo ren is much more ideal and useful, right? I am a higher intermediate student but my skills just do not manifest in my kouyu. :/ My syntax is so scattered, I speak so slow and with incorrect tones sometimes, etc. But I could use Chinese practically.

 

Sometimes I just feel frustrated because I am already in China but it seems that there is just this wall that hinders me to have a regular interaction with the Chinese. I am an extrovert so I really love talking with other people but I just do not have the chance to be with them. :( It seems that I am caged and sometimes, I really feel the division between the foreigners and the locals, for example, how separated the dormitiories and the classrooms of the language students/foreigners and Chinese students, etc. So, I joined the volunteers of the school of international education of our university which I had language exchange with the Chinese volunteers but our meeting is just only once a week. Whenever I ask my Chinese friends to have some lunch together or go somewhere, I always here they have kaoshi (I really get goosebumps with that word, it is so scary when I hear them say kaoshi). :/

 

Actually I made friends with the staff of our dormitory so I talk to them sometimes when they do not have something to do. Yeah, you're right, it is winter and it is hard to stay outdoors (Dalian is dry in winter so my nose bleeds once or twice a day :( ) Oh, I will now try to meet more people outside the university.

 

Fortunately, the Chinese students I know have an intermediate command of English so we use Chinese most of the time but I also teach them some English if they initiate to and when I feel I "used" them too much. I know their main reason to make friends with me is to practice their English also hahaha!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jobm

There was a time when I was with some Chinese speakers and some foreigners who speak Chinese just like a native speaker (like throwing chengyus and suyus is a piece of cake) and I was only there, could not add spice to our conversation..So I listened to them generally, figuring out what they were saying. Yes, it could be intoxicating but that kind of language exchange is something I want. I regret I did not record it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
realmayo

Don't underestimate the benefits of talking Chinese to your foreign classmates. Yes, their Chinese is no better than yours so you'll be hearing some incorrect Chinese, but you can remedy that by making sure you put extra effort into listening to Chinese podcasts or TV shows when you're on your own. The benefit is you get more and more used to expressing yourself in Chinese.

 

Is there any way on QQ or Wechat to show that you're a Filipino guy studying in Dalian with great English who wants to make Chinese friends?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
studychinese

Go out and get a girlfriend. Not to bad mouth your Chinese ability, but who except a girlfriend will put up with broken Chinese, or very limited Chinese (compared to a Chinese person)? This is the catch 22 of making friends. People won't be your friend unless you can communicate fluidly with them, but you won't be able to communicate unless you have friends.

Getting ala girlfriend is the loophole.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jobm

@realmayo Not that I do not like speaking with my classmates but I just want more access to native speakers since I am in China. :) Hmm, there is a preassumed fact here in NE Asia that we, Filipinos, speak only English so when I meet some NE Asians, one of their first questions is "Your mother tongue is English, right?" which in my case is not. What do you mean? In wechat? I use my real name together with my Chinese name.

 

@studychinese Yeah, my teacher strongly suggests me that haha! Did you succeed in finding one? :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
hedwards

@Studychinese, it really depends where you are in China. When I was living in 石门 in the North of Hunan Province I'd regularly meet people that were more than happy to put up with my broken Chinese. They hadn't ever met a foreigner before and any effort at all to express things in Chinese of any sort was greeted with great enthusiasm.

But, I do agree with your suggestion. Dealing with people with a low level of skill is a lot of work and it gets old relatively quickly. I greatly admire teachers that teach students that are just starting out as it can be quite trying.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
French

Like many people already pointed out, it all comes down to your Chinese level. Even in basic language exchange, more often than not, the default language became the one people speak the best.

Try to join some outside events (sports, language exchange nights, etc...) and if you can, force Chinese as the default language.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password 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...