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Learning Chinese in China — Choosing the Best Place for You

No place can be better than China itself for learning the Chinese language. Once you take the leap, you will see that it is a rewarding experience. From the thrill of exploring new places to meeting new people from around the world and developing lasting friendships, this new venture will take you far beyond the realms of just learning a new language. Find out your options and some guidance on where the best places to study are here.

Choices for learning Chinese

Foreign Student in ChinaForeign students in China sharing their experiences at China Highlights.

The main options to study Chinese in China are private schools and universities. In addition to formal study, immersing in the local population and trying to speak as much as possible will make you learn a lot faster.

Private schools

There are many good private schools for learning Mandarin. These schools cater for a number of programs like Intensive Chinese, Part-time Chinese, Online Chinese Lessons, Summer Programs, HSK Preparation Courses, and they can also design tailor made courses suited to your particular requirements.

Private schools can be a good option if you are working and need a flexible routine. In these schools, you can start study any time during the year. In addition, you pay only for the classes you attend and in case you have to miss a class for any business engagement or other issue, you don’t have to pay for that class.

The down side to private schools is that not all of them might be able to able to arrange a visa so it is better to check this beforehand. In addition, the supply of services is far more than the demand so some schools might lower the fees and this compromises on quality. In case some students choose to leave, the class might be abandoned altogether.


Make Friends in CollegeChina's colleges are great places to make friends.

Studying at a University is a good option for beginners. You will get a visa easily and can also get a reasonable accommodation at the university dormitories. You might be lucky to get some good teachers, and will have the unique experience of studying in a class with foreigners from many different countries.

There will be many Chinese students on campus from whom you can get help and practice your Chinese. All universities have a large central library which is a good place to sit and study and there are always many Chinese students studying there whom you can ask if you need help in any of the lessons.

The courses at a university however, require full time commitment, i.e. at least four hours per day, Monday to Friday, so this is only possible if you are not working. Courses start at fixed times during the year. You can’t join in anytime.

Choosing the City

There are so many cities that can be the destination for your Chinese study. The following information can help you choose the area that is most suitable for you.


In a country as vast as China the climate varies, with freezing temperatures in the North and a milder climate in the South. Beijing and the Northern Provinces would not be a good option if you want to stay in a moderate climate. Shanghai has a milder temperature while the coastal cities in the South like Guangzhou and Shenzhen have a mild temperature even in winters, though the summers are hot and humid.

Cost of Living

Prices vary from city to city, with large cities like Beijing and Shanghai being more expensive than second and third tier cities like Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Xi’an . Rent and general cost of living can vary widely so you might need to check price bands in China while deciding the city you are choosing.

Local Dialects

The local dialects in different cities might deviate from the standard Mandarin dialect, especially cities in the West and South. If you are thinking of learning Chinese by immersion, you will have to take this into consideration. However, the good thing is that most of the educated youth in all cities know Mandarin and have a standard accent.

Social Life and the Expat Bubble

In the larger cities, it is possible to survive while speaking little or no Chinese. There are many foreigners and so many attractions that you are likely to get yourself fully involved with friends and other activities. You will find yourself speaking English or your mother-tongue most of the time and your active social life might hardly leave you with any time for studies.

On the other hand, in a small city, you will be surrounded by Chinese friends and so will have to be speaking Chinese most of the time. There would be more time for studies as there are not so many distractions compared to a big city.

Here are some of the places that can be the destination for your Language study.



The most renowned international metropolis of China, Shanghai is a very popular destination for foreigners. If you don’t want to miss a pulsating lifestyle, comfortable environment, access to foreign food and the most stylish restaurants, then Shanghai is the place for you.

There are a number of private schools that you can choose from. Learn Chinese in a relaxed atmosphere at EasyMandarin, in groups or one on one. GoEast, The Mandarin House and The Hutong Schoolare some other options.

Shanghai has many Universities that offer the Non-degree Chinese Language program for foreigners. Some of the famous universities are Fudan University, Shanghai Jiaotong University, and Donghua University.



Beijing, the capital of China is a vibrant city with many opportunities for education. There are many universities and schools, including the two top universities of China. The dialect of Beijing is considered to be the standard Mandarin dialect and the best to choose when learning.

Beijing is a cultural hub with a lot to experience, from the Hutongs and street food stalls to impressive tourist sites like the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.

However, the freezing temperatures, quality of air, long distances in the city and high cost of living are some of the negative points.

Private schools in Beijing are The Hutong School, That’s Mandarin and Joy Mandarin Center.

Some of the renowned universities are Tsinghua IUP program, Peking University, Beijing Language and Culture University and Beijing Foreign Studies University.



Famous for its scenic beauty with green hills, fascinating rocks, beautiful lakes and mysterious caves, Guilin is one of the most beautiful cities of China. It is a small city with a relaxed atmosphere not as fast paced as the bigger cities. The cost of living is comparatively low and it makes an ideal destination for learning Chinese while at the same time immersing in the culture and enjoying the beautiful landscape that China has to offer.

The Chinese Language Institute, CLI is a famous private school in Guilin. It attracts many foreigners who want to learn Chinese.

Guilin has some universities among which Guanxi Normal University is famous for learning Chinese.



Home of the giant panda, Chengdu is a city in the heart of China that is rapidly growing into a vibrant metropolis. Choosing this city will give you the chance to see pandas in their natural habitat, witness a unique culture and enjoy the tasty and savory cuisine that this area has to offer.

Some of the private schools here are Mandarin House, The Hutong School and InternChina.

Among the Universities, Sichuan University is a renowned University that has some good Language courses.

Other cities

Almost all cities in China where there are foreigners have universities that offer Chinese Language courses. One can select short term courses in winter or summer, or go for the semester-long programs that last four months. You can select a city that suits your requirements.

If you are interested in trade, you can choose Guangzhou which is a large city and has a number of wholesale markets. It has many good universities and private schools.

You might choose a city near a business hub like Yiwu, a small town which has the largest whole sale market of small commodities in China. Jinhua is a small city near near Yiwu and has a few universities where you can learn Chinese.

Shenzhen is the ‘Silicon Valley’ of China and has many booming businesses and the largest electronic market in China.

If you are interested in doing business from China, you can choose any of these cities, have an insight into things and at the same time learn the language.

Cost of Courses

The cost of courses varies from city to city. On average, the cost of a group lesson in the renowned private schools is around 80 RMB, and a one-on-one lesson costs 160-200 RMB on average.

A two week long program normally costs around $500-600 , whether it is in an institute or at a university. However, longer programs are more expensive in the renowned private schools, but this varies from school to school. While the cost of a whole semester is $1300-1500 in a university, an 8-week program at a renowned private school might start at $2000.


For learning Chinese in China, you can also explore the possibility of getting a scholarship. There are many scholarships available that can fully or partially fund your study in China. Some of these are the the Chinese Government Scholarship, the Confucius Scholarship program, and University Scholarships which some universities offer to Chinese Language students. Who wouldn’t love to have some free money to learn a new language and explore a new culture abroad!

Student Visas

You will need a visa to come to China. Tourist visas do not enrolment in university courses. Business and Work visas only permit part-time study. If you are planning to study full-time, or study is your main reason for coming to China, you will need to apply for a Student (X) visa before you leave from your country.

Get the Help of Experts for your China Travels

Oversea students travel in ChinaOverseas students are spoiled for choice for travel options and ways to enjoy China.

As a student in China (and a student of Chinese), you’ll have plenty of know-how to visit the most popular tourist destinations in China, but you may still find you get far more out of China's sights with a knowledgable guide and expert tour design. For a superior experience, consider our day tours.

If you want to go to more remote destinations, having local experts to plan and guide can help you save time and help you dig deeper into local culture. Get a group of friends together or let us help you plan a tour for when your family or friends visit. All our private tours are fully customizable.

For weekend getaways, check out our shorter trip ideas.

Our Train Booking Service has also helped many studentints in China with their travels.

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