From ordering food to taking a taxi, you may find it hard to get around in China without speaking Mandarin, especially if you are not in a big city such as Beijing or Shanghai.
However, the language barrier shouldn’t stop you from traveling to the Middle Kingdom. Here are some tips on how to make communciation in China easier.
1. Do not be afraid to mime
In China, be ready to mime! You may think you look ridiculous while doing it, but it is actually very effective.
2. Use pictograms
Using a photo book can also help avoiding misunderstandings. A phone, or a bathroom sign are universal pictograms that everyone understands and that you can point at from a photo book. You can order one from Amazon here.
3. Always have a notebook and pencil with you
Small accessories that will help you at all times, wether it is to draw pictograms or to write a phone number.
4. Have your important information written in Chinese
It can be useful to have an address written in Chinese so you only have to show it to your taxi driver. Therefore, if you have the chance to meet a Chinese person who speaks English, use this opportunity to ask them to translate and write the information you need for you.
5. Learn how to count with your hands… in Chinese
Chinese people sometimes use their hand to signify numbers, just like westerns do. The first five numbers are pretty easy to get as they only slightly vary across the world, but it gets tricky when counting up to 10. When not aware of the hand gesture differences, it might take some time before realizing that their special hand gestures mean, for example, how much you have to pay.
Here are the Chinese number hand gestures so you can count from 1 to 10:
6. Learn some basic Chinese
Even though dialects vary from one province to another, learning some basic Mandarin can be a good idea. You will feel more comfortable and will definitely amaze the locals! You can find our Basic Phrase Guide to China here.
7. Have a language translator on your smartphone
Downloading an app such as Papago can help you communicate basic information. You can also use the Google Translate app that also works when you don’t have access to the Internet. It is important to chose an app that works offline, as you may not have access to wifi at all times!
About our company: Teaching Nomad is an American owned and operated education recruitment company based in Shanghai, China. Our goal and purpose is to help great teachers find great teaching jobs. Year round, we have hundreds of teaching job vacancies. Whether your goal is to be an ESL teacher or teach in an international school, we have a teaching job for you. You can browse jobs online at www.teachingnomad.com/job-search for the latest job openings. Teaching Nomad is here to make teaching in China easier, so please feel free to reach out and contact us with any questions or inquiries!