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艾墨本

Learning Chinese via Internships

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艾墨本

A friend of a friend recently suggested learning Chinese by immersion via doing an internship. This suggestion carried extra weight because of how high his level of Chinese was (near native). I am interested in pursuing this as a possible option but am a little stumped with what sort of internship might be worthwhile with this as an aim. Theoretically, a job could also do this. 

 

My major question, then, is: What jobs or internships would suit someone whose primary interest is Chinese?

 

I'm hoping for a bit of a brainstorming session as I'm sure there are tons of paths that I simply haven't thought of. I'm very open to jobs or internships that aren't directly related to my goals, so my goals beyond improving Chinese are less important. 

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Lu

What kind of internship did your friend do?

 

The value, I assume, is mostly that you'd be surrounded by native speakers all day and will be forced to use your Chinese to interact with them. In that sense, almost any occupation would do. One Ben Ross had a blog about interning at a hair salon (years ago, so dig through the blog a bit). Back in 2002-2003 there was a girl at Beiyu who worked/interned at the local jiaozi place for a while, although I have no idea how that turned out. A classmate of mine at the same time was volunteering at an orphanage with mostly handicapped children, which is great if you can handle it emotionally. Grawrt did (or is still doing?) an internship at a fancy hotel.

 

If your Chinese is not great yet, I think you might be best off in something that is not an office job. You could perhaps just ask your local restaurant/gym/bike repair shop/what have you if you can intern there. I was going to add 'school', but they might be too eager to have you teach English and that's not the idea, of course.

 

Do make sure that your visa situation is in order, though.

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roddy

You could meet someone tomorrow who learned Chinese really well while studying at university, or studying privately, or while teaching English. I'd be inclined to suggest you're better off (particularly if you have no career plans to go with your internship) getting a low-impact teaching job (I'm delighted to see there are still minimal hours / enough money to live on / visa + accom deals to be had - eg) and making really good use of the rest of your time (or teach Non-English majors, those folk will be more than glad to talk Chinese to you all class long). Or if you can afford it, take the study route. The advantage of an internship is that it puts you in situations where you need to speak Chinese - but that's also the advantage of a really good attitude and lots of discipline. 

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889

Another thought, if your Chinese is middling, is to enroll in a local night school course teaching whatever catches your fancy: maybe something related to language, like calligraphy, or maybe not. A chance to meet people and engage with them in a setting outside yout usual environment.

 

You also need to distinguish between working on your oral language skills, which you can advance in an informal workplace setting certainly, and reading and writing skills, which you can easily let lapse when you're working, especially since the process of developing them is pretty boring compared with actually dealing with people in Chinese.

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grawrt
11 hours ago, Lu said:

Grawrt did (or is still doing?) an internship at a fancy hotel.

 

Yeah Lu I'm still working at the hotel. 


I would say the benefits of working an internship is that you're forced to use different language than you would in your average kouyu class. For instance, When I had to call and confirm reservations last week my boss heard me and was like nooooooooooooo lol. The way I said it was just way too informal and came off rude. It's also forced me to deal with difficult situations in Chinese with furious guests. Though honestly sometimes I take the cheap route and just pull cute waiguoren, and botch my chinese and exaggerate my nihaos or wanshang haos and that usually throws them off enough to forget their anger. 

 

But an internship is a commitment. I think reasonably you can improve your chinese wherever you go in China internship or not. You can go to discussion panels or lectures on topics of interest. Even going to a gym class can help. 

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atongmu

I thought I would add my experience here, although it is somewhat unique, it has really helped me push my Chinese skills! I work at a school for foreign school kids who have take Mandarin as a compulsory subject. I work with the Chinese teachers on curriculum design and implementation and dealing with student needs as they arise. So it has really given me a great chance to use mandarin daily when discussing all manner of work related issues. It forces me to think on my feet and make sure that I don't use poorly phrased sentences!! 

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艾墨本

These are all great and wonderful suggestions.

 

My Chinese level is good enough to operate on a college campus currently (@roddy at a technical school, too). But, as I teach English, I still split a lot of my time and attention with English. My oral is up to the point that I can kind of operate professionally, but not extremely well. Also, I spend a lot of time preparing for classes and helping students prepare for English exams of all sorts. 

 

@grawrt  Working in a hotel sounds great. I have experience working in hospitality in the states (at a DoubleTree by Hilton), which might get me the right foot in the door to work at a higher end hotel. Coincidentally, I currently teach a lot of Hotel Management students and have picked up some of the useful vocabulary from teaching them the English side of things. Can you say more about getting the job, work environment, and payment? Have you written about this experience someplace else?

 

@atongmu That also sounds great and would actually help me work towards teaching Chinese. How much Chinese are you using on a daily basis. Do you feel it's immersive?

 

@889 I'm not worried about that. I am good and and have been successful at improving my reading and writing skills (characters, not essays). Chinese has always been this way for me. The oral side of things is what takes me the most effort.

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Kherith

I have been working in a hair salon for a few months now, no one speaking english except one guy (not often there)  for 30 hours a week. Beside, I'm studying chinese at the university more than 15 hours a week (first semester). Well after two month and a half, my chinese still sucks balls and I dont improve that much at work cause I just cant speak. I believe it would be much more valuable if I had a better level of chinese already.

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grawrt
On 5/19/2017 at 0:20 PM, 艾墨本 said:

@grawrt  Working in a hotel sounds great. I have experience working in hospitality in the states (at a DoubleTree by Hilton), which might get me the right foot in the door to work at a higher end hotel. Coincidentally, I currently teach a lot of Hotel Management students and have picked up some of the useful vocabulary from teaching them the English side of things. Can you say more about getting the job, work environment, and payment? Have you written about this experience someplace else?

 

Yeah I wrote about it over here: internship in China you can take a look and feel free to ask me any questions that I haven't already answered. 

 

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atongmu

I am using Chinese whenever talking with staff in the department, so it is most of the day. We have many western staff in other departments, so I do need to use English a lot of the time, but mostly that's just in staff meetings and if I sit with the westerners at lunch! 

 

The upside (I think) of being the only Chinese speaking westerner is that westerns will ask me to randomly translate for them on a work issue, often with no prep time, so it really keeps me on my toes!!!

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