The 5 Best Places to Learn Mandarin in China

At the dawn of the nineteenth century Napoleon hunched over a map, and pointing to China, he exclaimed, “here lies a sleeping giant, let him sleep, for when he wakes up, he will shock the world.” Napoleon wisely predicted an emergence that would take more than a century and a half to unfurl.

Today the giant is a now awake and the world is feeling the reverberation coming from the Middle Kingdom. China has the world’s second-largest economy with a GDP approaching $12 trillion.

Mandarin is China’s official language and with nearly a billion speakers, it is the world’s most spoken language. If this is not enough incentive to learn the language, here is another important reason: learning Mandarin can change your travel experience from a touristic one to an authentic.

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But travel in China is expensive enough and it can be pricey to get serious Mandarin instruction. With a country as vast as China, where do you go for the best instruction for your dollar?

1. That’s Mandarin

With locations in Shanghai and Beijing, That’s Mandarin can fit multiple travel itineraries. This school was founded in Beijing in 2005 with the idea that they would have flexible options for travelers who are serious about learning Mandarin, including small group sessions (no more than five in a class!) and one on one learning.

The school in Beijing is particularly attractive, getting plenty of light.

The school offers a summer camp and online classes for those who want to either get a head start before their trip or continue their study afterwards.

They go beyond spoken language and offer students the ability to have cultural experiences was well; they also offer calligraphy, dumpling making, and Chinese chess. The school also offers a free trial class so students can sample before they spend a dime.

2.The Chinese Language Institute (CLI)

Based in the scenic southern city of Guilin, Guangxi, The Chinese Language Institute (CLI) is an innovative center for Chinese language and cultural studies with the mission of delivering complete Mandarin immersion since 2009.

CLI’s core intensive track offers 4 hours of one-on-one language classes with three instructors every weekday and is customizable to your time commitment and language goals. Students can choose to stay in cozy on-site living spaces, private apartments, with local host families, or even with Chinese roommates. Daily activities like climbing nearby karst mountains or weekend excursions to hidden villages will give you a deeper perspective into real China. Study Abroad options through CLI’s affiliate Guangxi Normal University and competitive online courses are also available.

3. Keats Chinese School

In 2004, the Keats Chinese School was founded in Kunming. Located in one of the central business districts of Kunming, the school is close to grocery stores, restaurants, shopping, gyms, and bars. The central location makes enjoying the bustling city of Kunming convenient for its students.

The school has a comfortable lounge with flat screen TVs and plenty of DVDs for the downtime. Additionally, there is a well-stocked library with both English and Chinese language books to enhance learning. There is also a cafeteria where the staff is committed to serving clean and healthy food.

The school features individual as well as small group classes. The school has an online option as well as a stunningly cheap special: sixteen weeks of classes for $650.

The school has a fantastic track record; nearly half of all their students return to take classes again, which is a testament to the quality of their education. If you are looking for a tranquil place in Kunming to get excellent instruction, look no further.


Kunming Temple

4.  Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University

Xi’an is one of the most exciting places in China to visit because it is filled with history. The former capital, Xi’an, has much more to offer than the famed Terracotta Soldiers.

It is a place where you can immerse yourself in the rich, layered history of China. What better way to embrace Chinese culture and history than studying Mandarin in Xi’an?

Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University is an “international learning environment,” drawing students from over 50 different nations. It is a budget-friendly option for those looking to gain a command of the world’s number one language.

If you don’t want to do an entire semester (about $1,300), there is an excellent opportunity during their summer session to take two weeks of classes for $540.

drum tower

5. Mandarin Rocks

Located in Shanghai this school distinguishes itself from lesser schools because they pride themselves on quality and they are passionate about teaching and learning.

They have been in business since 2001 and Mandarin Rocks was recently given the Excellence Award by Languagecourse.net.

In addition to exciting options like their China Summer Camp and Two Cities Option, they offer a Study-Internship. The Study-Internship option allows young professionals to go out and learn about the Chinese industry in the city that is often referred to as the “New York City of China.”

This enables one to learn Mandarin while being able to directly apply their language skills in various industries.

shanghai night club

6. Get a Chinese tutor

Finding your own private tutor or a homestay with a Chinese family can be the ultimate way to learn Chinese for the right student. This way you are fully immersed in the language and you are able to tailor the experience to your learning style and needs much more than it is possible in a group class.

If this option sounds right, there are many options throughout China. Although you could find a tutor through the classifieds on an English language site like The Beijinger and Languagecourses.com.

Definitely, the place to start because they have already taken the time to vet and rate the tutors. In some cases you can live with your tutor, so the learning never ends!

Know of another language school that deserves to be mentioned in this article? Get in touch with us and provide us with the name, description and why you think that school is great. 

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Loren Mayshark

Loren Mayshark is an American published author and travel writer who has traveled extensively in S.E. Asia and studied Chinese art, religion, philosophy, and history while earning a BA in World History from Manhattanville College.

He has written for The Permaculture Research Institute and Uisio among other prominent outlets.

He is the author of Death: An Exploration (2016). For more visit his official website: www.lorenmayshark.com
Loren Mayshark
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