8 Reasons To Pick A Chinese Language School Over A University

by | Mar 6, 2020 | 0 comments

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20th Century thinking had us believe that the proper way to acquire knowledge and skills was through enrolling in a formal university course and getting that piece of paper at the end. But we are in the 21st Century now, and people and companies are starting to catch on to just how overrated that pathway is for the 21st Century. Today you can watch free MIT and Harvard University lectures online and learn everything a formal graduate learns in a quarter of the time and with no student loan debt.

You can do a 3-year internship at an organisation and acquire practical skills in half the time of someone who is learning the theory for 3 years at a university. Today, skills are what matter, not certificates.

Chinese language group classes at Keats school

The same goes for learning Mandarin. Here’s 8 reasons why you should consider studying at a Chinese language school instead of a university.


When you enrol in a formal Chinese language course at a university, you have to enrol in all of the compulsory courses plus pass all the exams. But what if, for example, you don’t care about learning how to write Chinese because typing is enough for your purposes? You don’t have that choice to opt out of writing classes at university, but you do have that choice at a private Chinese language school, thereby saving you time and money. If you want to tailor-make your Chinese language course to suit your needs, private language schools are the way to go.


20th Century thinking says that what you know is what matters. 21st Century thinking – rightly or wrongly – leans towards placing a premium on networking more than your know-how. If you attend university, particularly in China, most of your fellow students will be under 30 with little work experience and connections. But if you attend a private language school, such as Keats, you will meet people of all different ages from all walks of life with more established network. By studying at Keats, I got to hang out with an Irish pilot who lived in Hong Kong, a Finnish engineer who worked in Dubai, a New Zealand lawyer who lived in America and a Mandarin lecturer who lived in Italy.

students taking an activity at the chinese school


If you are over the age of 35 and want to study Chinese in China, unfortunately the door is already closed to you at most universities. China doesn’t have age discrimination laws like in Western countries, so you will need to look for other alternatives. The easiest visa route to getting into China for those who are over 35 is enrolling in a private Chinese language school such as Keats.


If you enrol at a university, you don’t get the option of having daily one-on-one intensive Chinese lessons. But at a private Chinese language school such as Keats, you do get that choice. When it’s just you and your teacher, you will feel freer to ask questions, you can slow down or speed up different parts of your lessons, and you are guaranteed to have your pronunciation and grammar corrected. These are benefits you don’t get when you’re lost in a crowd of students in a university lecture theatre, nor are such benefits guaranteed at other private Mandarin language schools in China. My experience, having studied at 5 different language schools across China, is that it’s really only Keats that allows you to have full control over how you are taught.


The private language schools usually provide an option of small group classes in addition to the intensive one-on-one Chinese course. This would create an opportunity for students who are on a budget but want to learn Chinese well. For example, at Keats School, they offer the small group Chinese class with no more than 5 students in one class. Compared to the class size in a university which is usually around 30 students, class at a private language school greatly provides more attention to each student. Due to the small number of students in each class, the class structure and the materials can be more customized, tailored to each student.


When you study Chinese at a university, you are normally confined to the big capital cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. For me, however, if I want the glitz and glamour of a city, I can get that back in my home country any time and have a much easier time at it. What I crave is to get away from homogeneity and be confronted with difference – different lifestyles, different outlooks, different customs, etc. Difference thrown in my face forces me to question my own presumptions and way of doing things, ultimately making my life richer and more fulfilling. This is where studying Chinese in Kunming with Keats was the best choice I made for myself. So many fascinating areas are within a day’s travel from Kunming, such as Dali, Shui Zhen and Xi Shuang Ban Na. The kindness of strangers is a recurring theme in these parts of China, and the local’s curiosity about me and my curiosity about them brought us together many times in many memorable ways.


Private language schools tend to use the most advanced teaching methods or techniques to help you master Chinese in the shortest possible time, while universities would more likely to stick with traditional teaching methods. Students will have more classroom interaction with the teacher and other students in private Chinese schools. The teacher in the Chinese language schools will also employ various activities/games to make the class full of fun or more effective than you expect.


The Keats Chinese Language School is run by a team of professional and enthusiastic Mandarin Chinese teachers. My experience and the experience of others has been that whenever you’re feeling anxious, confused or unwell, Keats teachers are there to take care of you like family. Universities are too big and bureaucratic to afford such attentiveness. If you are coming to China for the first time in particular, being in a place that feels like home is very important while finding your feet.


If you’re looking for the best way to learn Chinese in China, my opinion is doing an intensive one-on-one immersive Chinese language program at Keats in Kunming is the way to go. But don’t just take my word for it, check out the many testimonials on the Keats website.

image of a cute little alien asking for advice
Have you studied Chinese in China yourself? If yes, please share you own experience with other readers.

Jaq James
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