Over 1.3 million people on the planet speak Chinese, making it the most commonly-used language in the world in terms of users, before English and Spanish.

Linguists count seven living languages in China, each covering a greater or lesser territory. The most commonly spoken Chinese language is Mandarin, with 850 million speakers.

Chinese language and culture, the history of the Middle Kingdom and its multi-religious patrimony seduces more and more people wanting to learn to read, write and speak Chinese.

The Chinese are not known for their English skills. Knowing this, studying the language of Confucius and learning to speak Chinese can also be a useful basic skill if you are planning a trip to China.

So why not recruit a tutor so you can take Chinese lessons? It's the best way to learn Mandarin quickly!

Superprof has prepared a mini-guide of things to consider when choosing a Chinese teacher.

Are you interested in taking Mandarin lessons?

What Qualities are Indispensable in a Chinese Tutor?

Before soliciting the help of a teacher to speak Chinese or Cantonese, its important to review what you expect from them: what qualities are you looking for in a Chinese teacher?

Anyone can style themselves a private tutor, even without official qualifications. But learning a foreign language rests greatly on the qualities of the teacher.

Start by verifying their C.V.:

  • Do they come from a Chinese-speaking country such as China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapur; or were they born of Chinese parents?
  • What are their qualifications? (Bachelor or Masters in Sinology, teacher certification for schools etc.)
  • How much experience do they have teaching Mandarin Chinese? How many years have they been teaching?
  • How many students have they had?
  • Ask them if they have lived in a Chinese or Taiwanese city
  • At what level do they teach - beginner classes, intermediate Chinese, advanced, university-level?
  • What kind of Chinese lessons do they offer: intensive Mandarin courses, summer Chinese courses, evening classes, classes during the week or on the week-end?
  • What is their availability - are they flexible and can they adapt to your schedule?
  • What Chinese language are they teaching? Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese Chinese, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Pinyin?

After having gathered all these facts, it is also important to meet with your future Chinese teacher face-to-face: human sympathy is vital for good progress.

Discover how you can learn Chinese quickly...

A Beijing native makes a good Chinese teacher.
A native Chinese speaker, from Beijing for example, has a lot of advantages when learning to speak Mandarin. Photo via VisualHunt.com

“It’s better to have a well-made head than a full one” wrote Montaigne.

To better memorise the Chinese ideograms and characters, you will need to understand them. This is where a private Chinese class differs from a university course in Sinology: the private teacher is expected to ensure that his student understands a lesson properly before moving on to something else.

Is that all? Not by far!

A good teacher should:

  • Listen to their students
  • Be patient
  • Adapt to the student’s level and character
  • Use a pedagogical and understandable approach so as not to discourage the learner
  • Teach without judging: everything is easy when you already know how to do it!
  • Be considerate, pleasant and benevolent - arrogance will turn students off
  • Be capable of simplifying things and illustrate difficult words

And while we’re at it: what does a Chinese lesson cost?

Where Can You Find Chinese Lessons in Britain?

Learning Chinese is considered a complex task. In fact, even the most educated of native speakers doesn’t know all of the Chinese characters!

Just like there are several types of Arabic - Modern Arabic, Classical Arabic, Arabic dialects or Quran Arabic, there are several forms of Chinese.

The most commonly taught is Standard Mandarin, the official language of China, Taiwan and Singapore.

This means that Standard Mandarin is the language spoken by most of those native to China and those countries previously under Chinese rule.

But what does that mean?

It means that there are enough people out there to give you the opportunity to learn to read Chinese vocabulary words and progress with your pronunciation.

And fortunately, there are several organisations in Britain that will help you learn this form of Chinese in the UK.

In fact, Britain has just launched a nationwide programme to promote learning Chinese in schools.

The goal is to have 5000 students learning Mandarin by 2020. Meanwhile, the first bilingual English-Mandarin school (with incorporated nursery) has opened in the captial offering Chinese classes London.

Over 30 universities in the UK teach Chinese at an undergraduate or graduate level.

Other private and public institutions for learning Chinese

Benefit from private or group lessons with a native speaker from China!

When looking for a Mandarin teacher to help you learn to speak the language of Confucius, you will find that many big cities have some sort of association or school for foreign languages.

Here are a few:

Mandarin classes London are possible with the Hutong School or Practical Mandarin

  • Also, the University of London has a Language Centre that teaches Chinese
  • Cactus offers courses in various languages, including Mandarin, in cities throughout the UK - learn Chinese in Bristol, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield
  • Durham University also offers Chinese language courses open to the general public
  • Many universities such as Manchester house a Confucius Institute that offers 10-week courses in Conversational Mandarin

An exhaustive list would take too long, but here, Google is your friend: simply type in “Chinese in + your city” and all of the institutions, public or private, teaching Mandarin near you will appear. From there, you can choose the Chinese teacher that suits you the best.

You can learn Chinese quickly with these great tools!

Finding a Mandarin Instructor Among University Students

Have you been looking for awhile but still haven’t found a Chinese teacher? Group lessons are not your thing? Going to and from a language school is too stressful or far away?

No problem. Why not look to students to teach you in private lessons? Giving private lessons is a good way for a lot of young people to earn a little extra money.

Some might not yet know how to prepare a Chinese lesson the same way that an experienced teacher would, but they have their own advantages…

Ask around at your local university to find the best native speakers willing to teach Chinese classes.

Students can make good Chinese tutors.
Your local university can yield a treasure trove of affordable Chinsese tutors. Photo via Visual Hunt

From 2015 to 2016, 91,215 Chinese students were counted studying within the UK system of higher education, with a steadily increasing trend.

A nice gold mine of potential teachers, all waiting for future students they haven’t even met yet.
In choosing to learn from Chinese students, you can:

  • Have proper conversations in Mandarin Chinese
  • Benefit from private lessons with a native speaker from China, Hong-Kong, Canton or Taiwan
  • Take lessons at reduced costs
  • Teach English to a student in a language exchange
  • Maybe make contact with someone from China and learn about Chinese culture
  • Take more time to perfect you pronunciation freely, without constraints
  • Learn Mandarin as it is actually spoken in China, in a more informal manner than in a Chinese course
  • Extend your vocabulary
  • Progress in reading and writing Chinese characters.

Here’s what you can do to find a Chinese student to teach you:

  • Go around to the university or other centres of higher education (HE)
  • Leave a note on their noticeboards with your name and telephone number
  • Speak to friends and family who are currently studying; they might have some Chinese friends willing to help out
  • Search through Superprof, where over 400 teachers, many of them Chinese students, offer their linguistical expertise
  • Join Facebook groups with foreign students whose mother tongue is Mandarin Chinese
  • Contact associations for Chinese students studying abroad, such as the local Chinese Students and Scholar’s Association
Use noticeboards to find a student teacher in Chinses.
To find out what these notices are advertising, make your own to find a Mandarin teacher among university students. Photo credit: Marc Ben Fatma - visit sophia.lu and like my FB pa via VisualHunt

What Are The Different Types of Chinese Teachers?

A Chinese proverb recommends: “never fear that you are too slow, fear that you have stopped.”

To choose your Chinese language coach, you will need to find an experienced person who will help you make significant progress.

By comparing the different profiles on Superprof - a bit like a dating site - you can separate the chaff from the wheat and contact the teacher that is the best fit for you.

Let’s have a look at the profiles of private Chinese language tutors on Superprof.

You will quickly notice some trends. You can find:

  • Tutors with a diploma from a Chinese university (Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, etc.).
  • Native Chinese speakers
  • Qualified Chinese teachers, teaching Mandarin in schools
  • Certified teachers already teaching in a language institute or at a public institution
  • Teachers giving refresher courses or beginner Chinese lessons
  • Individual home private lessons
  • Chinese lessons online via Skype or other webcam providers
  • Private Chinese tutors having studied Mandarin or Cantonese at a university (BA or MA-level)
  • Chinese students currently studying at university
  • Native English speakers who have spent several years living in China and started teaching Mandarin Chinese when they come back to England
  • Bilingual tutors who teach other subjects (maths, English, French,etc.)
  • Teachers offering coaching in learning to memorise vocabulary and how to learn a foreign language fast
Language exchanges are useful.
Use a language exchange to find an affordable Chinese language tutor. Photo via Visual Hunt

You will find the whole spectrum in most of the cities harbouring Superprof tutors.

A few clicks, some reading to decide which Chinese teacher corresponds to your needs, and off you go!

Immerse yourself in the Chinese language as though you were off to Beijing tomorrow!

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Sonia is an Egyptologist turned writer and translator. She speaks 3 and a half languages, can translate hieroglyphs and enjoys yoga, singing, embroidery and travelling through all of time and space.