Chinese Language Institute (CLI) Program Review


Asia Options is excited to review a Chinese language program that exudes outdoor adventure and an amazing location called the Chinese Language Institute (CLI), based in south China. Located in the beautiful southern city of Guilin and officially affiliated with Guangxi Normal University, the Chinese Language Institute has a language program which we think is hard to beat.



The Chinese Language Institute offers two primary study options: Immersion Chinese and College Study Abroad.

Immersion Program

Unlike mass-enrollment language programs at large universities, there’s no hiding at the back of the classroom or messaging about your nighttime activities under the table during class time with this program. The immersion program consists of four hours (Monday through Friday) of one-on-one instruction daily with three unique CLI teachers. CLI’s Immersion Program integrates all aspects of the Chinese language (reading, writing, speaking, grammar, listening, pronunciation and vocabulary) into a completely unique learning experience. This option is perfect for students who want to enforce discipline into their study and want optimal results. CLI also organizes daily Chinese cultural activities and travel excursions. Enrolments into the immersion program are flexible and you can start on any Monday of the year.


College Study Abroad

If you are interested in gaining academic credit from your study, CLI offer this option in partnership with Guangxi Normal University and is open to all ages. Credit-seeking students must begin coursework at the beginning of the university’s Fall or Spring semester (usually mid-February and early-September) and students are required to stay enrolled for at least one academic semester. The type of lectures students attend at GXNU include English-taught courses on the Chinese Economy, Politics, and Humanities.

In addition to GXNU coursework, Study Abroad students will also attend between 3 and 10 weekly hours of one-on-one Chinese language training at CLI. This means that you get a nice mix between a Chinese university campus experience along with the extra attention from small classes at CLI and the support of their community, while also gaining a lot more exposure to new potential new friends.



Situated along the Li River and tucked between breathtaking limestone mountains, Guilin offers a unique study experience that few other cities in China can offer. The Lime Karst Mountains jut up randomly throughout the city and the natural beauty of Guilin has made the city a scenic destination for centuries, inspiring many artists, poets, and even the China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation!

Guilin inked into the 20 RMB note

The history of Guilin can be explored as you wander the city streets and explore traditional villages and farms in the nearby countryside. The picturesque Dragon’s Back Rice Terraces and town of Yangshuo are also a short bus trip away.

CLI is situated at the base of one of the smaller lime Karst Mountains and is close by to a Buddhist temple built inside a cave, soccer fields (which are popular among students), and Seven Star Park.

Outside CLI campus

The city of Guilin offers convenient access to dance clubs, bars, gyms, yoga studios, department stores and a vast variety of restaurants, all within walking distance of the school. Public transportation is also very convenient (public bus 4 RMB), and public bicycle sharing options (e.g. Ofo, Mobike).

In addition, Guilin is an excellent starting point to explore other areas in south China via the high-speed train network., including easy access to Guangzhou (2 hours) and Shenzhen (3 hours). Shanghai is a 2-hour flight away. Guilin is also just on the doorstep of Southeast Asia, which is a popular before and after-study destination for students.



The total cost of studying at CLI is higher than that of a run-of-the-mill university language program but as you would expect, CLI offers a much higher quality program, and in fact, the fees are more than fair when you factor in everything that’s included. For instance, four months of one-on-one classes (20 hours a week) amounts to $9,070 USD, including accommodation (private room at CLI). To put these numbers into perspective, the IUP program in Beijing, which offers a similarly rigorous immersion program, charges slightly higher than that amount on tuition fees alone and only offers a 25:75 or 50:50 split between one-on-one and small classes (3 students) – plus you have the expense of living in Wudaokou, Beijing. Whereas with CLI, your accommodation is included in the price and you get four hours of one-on-one tutoring a day, as well as lots of free extracurricular activities!

The total cost for one month of one-on-one classes (20 hours a week) amounts to $2,290 USD. Please see the CLI website for full details regarding tuition fees.

At CLI, accommodations include a private room, heating and A/C, hot showers, and Wi-Fi. Apartment options additionally include a washing machine, refrigerator, and cable television. Weekly maid service is included in all housing options.

There is also the option of a Homestay program for accommodation. You can find information here under ‘Housing Options’.



Interestingly – probably due to its location – CLI is not as well known as other language programs in China like popular programs in Beijing, Nanjing, and Shanghai. Also, because CLI is not a university, it can’t ride the international and local university ranking systems like Peking University and Fudan University, which are a magnet for international students. CLI, therefore, has a relatively low profile but those we’ve met who have studied at CLI  rave about it and this is definitely the metric that matters most when it comes to reputation. You can check out former students’ reviews of CLI on Asia Options here and here, and see other reviews on the CLI website.



Well away from the skylines of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, Guilin offers a relaxed environment and students that make their way to Guilin tend to dedicate their day around language, fitness, and local adventures. As most people in Guilin don’t speak English, students have plenty of opportunities to use and practice Chinese.

The busiest season for CLI is the summer, from June to August and the school attracts students from all around the world with the top five countries for enrolments being the USA, Australia, UK, Canada and Germany. Approximately 30% of students are aged between 18-24 years old, the majority of whom are college students passionate about learning Chinese language and culture; they come year-round, especially during the summer and other vacation periods, with the main purpose of improving their Chinese skills. A quarter of students are between the ages of 25-34 year-olds. These are mostly young men and women who are passionate about China and taking the opportunity in between jobs or after academic degree to study in China and travel. Some of them plan to come live in China or other countries in Asia. A further 10-15% of students are aged between 45-54 years old. Students also tend to travel extensively throughout China, from Nanjing to Longsheng to Xizhou, and many towns and cities in between.

The school offers a flexible language pledge program, which allows students to opt in or out at any time by wearing a red wristband. if you wear the CLI Language Pledge wristband, you’re “opting in” to the language pledge program and you must speak only Chinese and members of the CLI Team will speak only in Chinese to you. But the school doesn’t require the language pledge, and if you prefer not to, you can “opt out” at any time simply by removing the wristband.



CLI organizes weekly activities and monthly travel excursions designed to immerse students deeply in Chinese language and culture.  You can join other CLI students and team members for bamboo boat rides down the Li River, hike up Guilin’s breathtaking Karst mountains, photography excursions to the Longji Rice Terraces, cooking lessons with Chinese chefs, tea house visits to Daoist monasteries, and more.


Final Verdict

All in all, CLI is a hidden gem in the market of Chinese language programs, and we hope more students consider CLI as an option to hone their Chinese. CLI offers a nice alternative from the standard path of Beijing/Shanghai/Nanjing/Hangzhou where most foreigners study. CLI’s location, personalised service and language environment make it a great option for those who want true language immersion and adventure at their doorstep. The Institute is also well established and professionally-run which means they’ve thought of everything when it comes to giving students the best experience possible.

CLI make a good point on their website: “Most study abroad organizations overstretch themselves across dozens of countries, but CLI is focused solely on China and we pour every ounce of our energy and extensive resources into our China-based programs.” Technically, they are only based in one city in China, which means that all their effort goes into that five-floor building at the base of a karst mountain, and we reckon that’s pretty cool.

9 Total Score
10 Users Score (1 vote)
- Amazing location
- Full immersion
- Great community
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What Students Say... 1 Leave your rating
Couldn't have picked a better programme
I did a 4 weeks immersion course at CLI in May 2019, and couldn't be happier with my experience. If I had had more time, I would probably have extended my stay by a couple of weeks. If you're considering doing an immersion course in China, CLI should definitely go on your shortlist.

First of all, I made great progress on my Chinese fluency in those 4 weeks, even though that is a relatively short time. Each week, you have 20 hours of completely tailored one-on-one lessons with three dedicated tutors (comprehensive, reading/writing and speaking/listening), moving at the pace that you need, focusing on the things you want to improve most. We used a textbook as a guide, but we did a lot of stuff outside of it, too. If you have a specific direction you want to take your Chinese in, or have a specific learning style, CLI is definitely really good at accommodating that. I arrived having studied a little Chinese beforehand, but there were also people there who arrived not speaking a word of Chinese, and people who were fairly fluent already, and they all seemed to be very happy with their individual programmes.

Outside of class, you're also in an environment where you can practice your Chinese all the time if you want. There are interns from the nearby university in the common area of the building at pretty much all hours, you can chat with them or ask them questions and they're really helpful if you're trying to do things like get a Chinese SIM-card or order things online.

Guilin is pretty laid back as a city, and because most people do not speak English, you really do get to practice "in the wild" every day. So even though it's not as vibrant as Shanghai, say, it's a better learning environment in my opinion.

Getting to know the other students was without a doubt my favourite part of the experience. Everybody's motivated, you get to meet people from all sorts of different backgrounds, and there's always people around to grab dinner with, have drinks on the roof with, or go places on the weekend.

So, definitely highly recommended, might even go again myself some time!
October 1, 2019, 5:12 am
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