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The most significant problems I encountered in China were. (in order of importance)
1. Language (being surrounded by beautiful women 24/7 and not being able to talk to them)
2. Culture Shock (the first few weeks in china blew my mind!)
3. Problems with my job (teaching)
4. Problems getting prescription medication (some brands are not available)
5. Food (about 5% of chinese food is good by western standards)
6. Finding clothes and shoes that fit
7. Climate is very hot, humid and overcast in the south, you'll sweat constantly
Chinese is one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn. Having a chinese girlfriend that can teach you everyday will help you the most.
Believe it or not, oral Mandarin Chinese is not that difficult for an American. I've approached several foreign languages and dialects from a foreign perspective (American) - Chinese (Mandarin, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Sichuanese/Chengdu), Thai, Spanish, and Portuguese and found Mandarin to be the easiest to pick-up in many ways.
Here is why:
- Mandarin has very little grammar compared to Latin based, Germanic, and other Asian languages. You indicate past/present/future by adding a bit of context (yesterday, now, tomorrow) or a simple suffix instead of modifying the verb. Pronouns are much simpler. And sentence word order is very simple for us us.
- Most of the sounds used in standard Taiwan or Beijing Mandarin have exact or at least rough equivalents in standard American English. This is not as true for the most popular Chinese dialects such as Cantonese or Taiwanese.
- Mandarin uses tones on each syllable (one of the biggest challenges for a westerner) but there are just 4 of them plus an infrequently used neutral one. This compares to 5 to 9 for many other Chinese dialects and some other Asian languages (Thai, Vietnamese, Khmer, etc.) Plus, the Mandarin tones are probably the easiest and most straightforward of all the Asian tonal languages/dialects.
With 2-4 hours of intensive verbal work per day, 5 days per week, in a Chinese living environment, I believe a typical American young person should be able to pick-up a very decent working command of Mandarin in just a few months.
A non-English speaking Chinese girlfriend would speed the process.
Master, now you're overgeneralizing. Like I said, I've never been to Ukraine. I just know from news stories that Odessa has a lot of crime, but there are hundreds of other cities in Ukraine. Ladislav grew up there and has traveled back there many times. You should listen to his opinion about Ukraine. Maybe you should ask him about personal safety in different regions of Ukraine. He's the expert on that country.
I just said that a few cities in Romania creeped me out. But yes, generally poorer countries have more crime.
For an American who has only studied a bit of French or Spanish, yes, Chinese might seem a bit scary at first, but it's not the hardest language in the world, by far. Rock's post above is right on. I took a semester of Mandarin Chinese using the simplified communist characters (Taiwan still uses the more complicated traditional ones) in college. I got an "A" in the course and would have continued learning it, but I didn't have time because I was taking lots of other difficult courses.
I would classify the Mandarin Chinese language like this:
Grammar - easy
Pronunciation - medium
Writing - hard
Chinese grammar is very simple. You don't conjugate verbs. You just change the personal pronouns. It doesn't have any of the ass-rapingly-complex grammar that languages like Hungarian have.
Also, there are no shortage of books and websites in English about learning Chinese. So don't be scared away by the language. If you end up liking the country and you're willing to put in the time to memorize characters, you can do it.
Here's the only Chinese character I remember:
That's understandable, but you have less options for places to go because you don't have a bachelor's degree. The first thing you should do is to make a list of all the countries which will hire foreign English teachers who don't have BAs. Then you can narrow it down from that.
No, you can get a CELTA outside of Britain. But usually, only major cities will have CELTA or TEFL programs. There are both TEFL and CELTA programs in Prague, for example. Just do a search on google and do a bit of research.
I don't know. This depends on your qualifications, the ease of getting a visa, the quality of life, the quality of the students, the amount you're paid, etc. It depends what's most important to you, and I've only taught English in Hungary, so I don't have first-hand experience of teaching in other countries.
The rumor I heard is that you make the most money teaching English in South Korea, but they work you to death there and life is very boring there.
You've already expressed some interest in China. That might be very good for you, indeed. DiscoProJoe who used to post here went there to teach English. Maybe you could ask him some questions if he ever decides to come back.
Hmm...all this talk is making me hungry. I'm going out for a lÃ¡ngos.
I am currently deciding which CELTA Program to take.
Here is a link which gives you the CELTA program by country where you can take it.
They seem to have a big center at CELTA Thailand. Does anyone recommend this?
The daily life in Ukraine is quiet and private. Criminality exists but I think it is even safer than the US. Just don't wonder into working-class neighborhoods at night alone.
Odessa used to be dangerous because Jewish gangsters ran it- ala Dutch Shultz. No more. It is a dreamy, Paris-like city. Nothing much ever goes on.
A brain is a terrible thing to wash!
A quick search gave me this:
Be sure to change the text encoding to Traditional Chinese for Windows, or something to that effect, if the characters don't show up correctly.
It helps if you take a course in pinyon so you can learn the correct stress and pronunciation. There is also software you can use but nothing works better than having a chinese person to talk with.
I completely disagree. Do not assume your talent is common. It is not.
While it is true that there is no grammar in Chinese, the tones are extremely, EXTREMELY difficult for almost all Westerners to pick up. Then there is the specific pronunciation.
In Chinese if you have an accent, you are speaking another language, and the locals simply won't understand one word of what you say.
The problem is the pronunciation. Most expats who live in China never learn more than Ni Hao and Xie Xie and leave it at that. There are hundreds of thousands of teachers and expats here who do not understand one character.
In China if you travel 15 km they speak an entirely different version of Chinese than the one in the next town over. Until the past 3 to 5 years few, if any, Chinese traveled at all. Thus there was no mingling of these many different languages, dialects and accents.
I explain it like this:
Imagine if someone from NYC pronounced a word as 'Bat' and another person in Boston pronounced the same word as 'Cat'. Imagine that someone from NYC could not understand but 25% of what a Bostonian spoke.
THAT'S what China is like, language-wise.
This happens to me all the time. When I travel by train or bus the clerks don't understand me because my pronunciation is for clarity in the town I live in, and they are not from that town. They are trying to figure out what I am speaking, they think it's a version of Chinese from some far flung province, but they cannot understand.
-There is the local slang
-There is the local language that dates back millenia
-There is the localised version of Mandarin Chinese
-Finally there is the standardised version of Chinese - Office Chinese, Mandarin, Beijing Dialect, Hanyu, Putonghua, The Common Language.
The first 3 change every 15 km.
You are learning the 4th one, everyone you meet speaks a combination of the first 3.
Once you pass the hurdle of the tones, you can make quick progress. 2 years of study will get you oral proficiency to a decent level. Written is another matter entirely. That takes 2 decades of study, just like the Chinese do to learn it.