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I want to major in chinese

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     ni3 hao3 tong2 xue2. Last year I started learning Chinese on my own, and I became fascinated with the language. I am still a beginner, but I would like to be a translator, interpreter, and teach Chinese as a second language. I live in the U.S  and I am finishing my Associates degree this year. After I finish my A.S I would like to devote my time to studying Chinese, and get a degree in Chinese language. There is only one school in my state that offers Chinese as a major and it is four hours away. Right now I do not have the money or the resources to study at that school. Even though I can not attend that school, there is a university thirty minutes away that has a Confucius institute. The university has an agreement with Nanjing Forestry University. I was thinking of Studying at the Confucius Institute and then getting a scholarship and finishing at a Chinese university. Is this possible, and has anyone done this before on this forum. Any advice would be helpful.

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Having an interest in Chinese is great, but remember that learning it to the point where you can do good work as a translator or interpreter is a long and tedious marathon that will offer very little in terms of tangible rewards in the years to come unless you are very good at keeping yourself motivated. Getting to the point where you can do it is a great achievement and very rewarding, although not necessarily in financial terms, but remember that right now, considering your level, you are standing at the foot of mount Everest and talking about becoming a professional mountain guide. If you know any other languages to fluency already, that would be a huge asset - as if you'd've scaled Mount Kilimanjaro already. It gives you a perspective and skills that would make the goals more easily attainable. Otherwise you should make sure to know exactly what you are getting into, and plan accordingly.


Don't get me wrong, that is a great place to be. You have a clean slate, and you get to discover all the things that make Chinese interesting and quirky and odd and fascinating all for yourself. If you are able to enjoy the process, you can absolutely get to a point where you can use Chinese to be productive, to have relationships, read novels and watch movies. But many of the people who are at the place you are right now end up changing their goals half way, and a substantial number never continue to improve their Chinese after 4 years of college classes and see it wither - and let me tell you, the Chinese you will know after 4 years of college Chinese classes is going to do a lot less for you than you might think, unless you do a lot to improve your Chinese on your own, and preferably stay in an environment where you are fully immersed. David Moser wrote the following about his experience learning Chinese:  


Someone once said that learning Chinese is "a five-year lesson in humility". I used to think this meant that at the end of five years you will have mastered Chinese and learned humility along the way. However, now having studied Chinese for over six years, I have concluded that actually the phrase means that after five years your Chinese will still be abysmal, but at least you will have thoroughly learned humility.


I think many of the people who have learned Chinese can attest to that fact. The point I want to make by all this is that learning the language by itself, while very rewarding, is also going to put you on a path where it can be very difficult to know what level you end up at in a few years, and the decision that you want to solely rely on your knowledge of the Chinese language for your career could change further down the line, since it does for many others. It could therefore be wise to consider if you'd like to combine your study of the language with e.g. a degree in linguistics, comparative law, history or literature. If you feel that you are fully informed about the risks, then go right ahead - but plan accordingly. At any rate, learning Chinese is very rewarding, and an interest that has helped many of us in many different careers where Chinese isn't necessarily the primary focus. 

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Confucius Institutes are basically made for people like you, who are interested in learning Chinese. Perhaps you'll love it and become everything you're planning to be, perhaps you'll abandon ship after a year or two, but either way, go for it. I assume the university you're considering also offers other courses that are of interest to you, in which case going there and studying will be worthwhile either way.


Good luck!

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You might find (parts) of this thread helpful: To be or not to be a Chinese Translator


Also, I would recommend finding someone as a mentor or who has the job you think you might want to see how they got there and how they make this into a sustainable career in the US or where ever you see yourself potentially working. Your interests may develop as you study Chinese and you may find that you can use it in different careers so you don't necessarily have to narrow it down quite yet.


I recommend exploring all possible avenues, so go talk to the university and go on an information gathering mission.


As for "finishing" at a Chinese university, I am not sure if this refers to a degree or language training, but ultimately studying abroad on scholarship is of course ideal. There are US scholarships available too though--even US government scholarships--available however, particularly b/c Chinese is a critical language. Something to consider in your educational planning. ( Such as: Boren Awards for International Study  & www.nsep.gov)

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