A question we here at Asia Options often get asked is where we, and other language learners think is the best place for learning Mandarin Chinese? To really assess where you should learn Chinese it pays to take the time to carefully consider your options.

You have already made the best decision you could have in your pursuit of learning Chinese and that’s moving to China. While all students have the goal of speaking Chinese we all have different preferences of learning, different standards for housing, different reasons for learning Chinese and most importantly different budgets!

There is also a serious lack of independent information out there on Chinese language programs, some courses don’t even have information online in English! So to help you make the best decision, the Asia Options team has done the hard work for you and curated a list of Chinese language program reviews with insight from Chinese language students who have attended the best and the worst Chinese language courses at both universities and private schools in China.

 

Universities

The major universities in China run a similar designed Mandarin Chinese language course for foreign students and are typically structured as a pathway option for studying a degree program in Chinese. This is a very popular option for students from Africa, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and other countries in Asia, whereas western students typically only study 1-2 semesters of Chinese language and most do not continue to study a degree program in Chinese.

Semesters at universities are divided into two 16-20 week semesters with at least 20 hours a week of class time. Compulsory language classes for grammar, listening, comprehension, and speaking are typically held in the morning for 3-4 hours, and optional electives are available in the afternoon. Afternoon electives often include taichi, business Chinese, Chinese foreign policy, drama, calligraphy and Chinese history. Bigger language programs will offer a wider selection of electives than smaller language programs (or less well-known universities with lower foreign student enrolments). For those studying long-term, studying at a university will usually be cheaper than studying at a private language program and provides visa support.

In choosing the right university, it’s very important to consider location and the campus environment/atmosphere. Teaching standards, cultural activities, curriculum and class formats are relatively uniform across most universities. There are differences in tuition fees as well to consider. There are certainly some bargains to be found in less popular study destinations such as Chongqing, and you will pay a premium to study at the premier universities in Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing (which are very popular for foreign students). Some universities are known more for their great campus atmosphere, including Nanjing University and Peking University, while other universities are relatively secluded or isolated depending on how you look at it!

For more information on this topic check out where to study in China and how to pick the right university.

 

Private Schools

Private language schools in China cater primarily to the short-term study market and working professionals. Private schools offer a greater level of flexibility for international students with weekend classes, tailored classes and short-term (even one week programs!). Class sizes are also much smaller than university Chinese language programs, and whereas university courses are designed as a pathway to degree study, private schools have a much stronger curriculum emphasis on speaking and offer more practical study content. Private programs do provide academic orientated and HSK preparation classes as well.

Private language schools are usually well organised and offer engaging extra-curriculum activities as well as a fun environment to study, and offer helpful support from teachers and program administrators. The downsides are that the private schools in China cannot support a long term study visa as universities can (X visa), tuition fees are generally higher, and there is a lack of a campus environment (but there is more of a small family community feeling). Private schools are ideally suited to short-term students or full-time professionals looking to maximise their language and cultural immersion through a tailored and organised program.

 

Beijing

Universities

Private Schools


Chongqing

Universities


Shanghai

Universities

Private Schools


Nanjing

Universities


Suzhou

Universities


Tianjin

Universities


Xiamen

Universities