Written by Bryn O’Hara, (College of the Holy Cross) Student Correspondent CET Beijing, Fall 2018
Living in China and learning Mandarin is all about getting out of your comfort zone and practice, practice, practice! Below are three ways CET helps me practice speaking Chinese outside of the classroom while having fun doing so:
One activity I look forward to every week is Chinese Table. After our exams every Friday, our professors take us out for lunch at various local restaurants. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn about and try a variety of different Chinese foods, as well as engage in casual conversations with classmates and teachers. It is also a great way to practice ordering food at a Chinese restaurant. This is a picture from my favorite Chinese Table at a local Sichuan restaurant, which I would not have known about if it was not for eating there at a recent Chinese Table. I have discovered some of my favorite Chinese dishes from past Chinese Tables, including Xinjiang style roasted lamb, pineapple glazed chicken, and of course, Beijing Kaoya, or Peking duck!
At least every other week our professors design language speaking activities that allow us to practice using the grammar structures and vocabulary we have learned in class in a real-world setting. These opportunities can be as simple as interviewing our Chinese roommates, or slightly more challenging, for example going to a local park to conduct interviews. While it felt slightly out of my comfort zone at first, I have found that when interviewing, most Beijingers are very enthusiastic about the opportunity to tell foreigners about the way of life in China, such as this older woman who shared her perspective on divorce and growing old in China. It was such a great feeling being able to connect with her speaking only Chinese as she showed my classmate and I pictures of her grandsons who are triplets!
One of my favorite components of CET’s Intensive Chinese Program in Beijing has been weekly opportunities to participate in group trips. Sometimes these trips are local spots in Beijing, such as the Summer Palace, while other times we have traveled more extensively. This past weekend we had a fantastic trip to Xi’an! Trips like these have not only been a great way to learn about areas outside of Beijing, but also a great way to practice speaking with locals, especially while ordering food, traveling, checking into the hotel, etc. Plus there’s nothing like playing card games in Chinese on an overnight train to Xi’an with your roommates and best friends!