Written by Stacy B, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for CET Beijing JSA Diplomat Program in Beijing, Summer 2019*
After spending a little over two weeks in Beijing, I’ve come to realize that the best way to improve in Chinese is to constantly use it outside of the classroom, particularly in “real life” situations. Before coming to China, I had never really tried haggling for prices in stores or malls in the U.S. However, after spending some time shopping at the Pearl Market, I was able to pick up the skill of haggling quite well. Not only was this a great way to get some items for an affordable price, it also helped me improve my Chinese in so many different ways.
Shopping at the Pearl Market showed me a very niche part of Chinese culture that I thoroughly enjoyed. I noticed that the employees at the market would go through enormous ends just to get you to stop by the shop and purchase an item. Coming from a country where haggling culture is almost nonexistent, I was not only shocked by the pearl market but also incredibly intrigued. In fact, I think I enjoyed shopping at the Pearl Market more than any other normal mall back in the U.S.
The Pearl Market has a huge variety of items that you could buy. Anybody that takes a visit to the pearl market can find something that they’d want to take back home whether it be candy, electronics, clothes, or even children’s toys.
As you walk by the Pearl Market, you will see a great deal of employees trying to lure you into their separate booths or stores. Once you find yourself in one of them, they will ask you what you would like to buy. It is up to you to haggle for a lower price. Often, this haggling will turn into a number game in which you are trying to get the lowest price possible while the employee is trying to get the highest price possible. Some techniques that you can use to acquire the lowest possible price include: claiming you’re a student and that you have no money, claiming that you only have a certain amount of money on you, or saying that you won’t settle for a price any higher than a certain amount. Another technique that I used was to walk away saying that the price was too expensive, usually resulting in the worker chasing after you and offering to lower the price.
By doing all of this haggling, I feel as if I used a great deal of the Chinese that I had learned in class over the past two weeks. In the heat of the moment, I found myself using vocabulary words that I quite frankly don’t even remember learning. Moreover, because the employees were generally very skilled in English, I used a mixture of Chinese and English as I was speaking with them. I believe that using Chinese in this high pressure, practical scenario helped me apply the Chinese skills that I had learned as well as truly see all the work I put into learning Chinese pay off.
Besides the haggling, the Pearl Market also had a great food court with a multitude of different options. Before we went upstairs to haggle, the CET students went to grab lunch at this food court. This was another great opportunity for me to use my Chinese. As I was ordering from various spots at the food court, I practiced simple Chinese words such as “xié xie” and “bào qiàn”.
Overall, I feel that the Pearl Market not only allowed me to purchase some great things to take back home, it also acted as a place for a valuable lesson. I realized that learning in the classroom will serve as a foundation for basic language skills. However, it is when you use the language in real life that you understand the true application and substance of the language.