If you’ve decided to learn Chinese, you’re in great company. Chinese is the number one most widely spoken language in the world. In fact, there are currently 1.2 billion speakers and counting, so when you start to learn the language you’re opening yourself up to a world of people to talk to!
But… what if talking to people is difficult for you? This is a totally natural reaction to have when thinking about meeting new people, especially those who might have a language or cultural barrier with yourself.
Speaking to others in different cultures, especially cultures as big as China’s is extremely rewarding. It’s well worth overcoming your fears when you find Chinese conversational partners that will teach you about language and culture and broaden your viewpoint on the world.
Here, introvert to introvert, we’re going to give you some tips to talk to people in China when you have a hard time talking.
Chinese Conversational Online Resources
Before packing your bags and heading off on your adventure to China, there are ways you can make conversation with locals easier for yourself. One of the most important- and simple- ways you can do this is to study some Chinese online before heading off.
In knowing some of the language before heading out, you’ll probably feel a lot less pressure when you go and talk to native speakers. You’ll understand more of what they’re saying and be less likely to worry about messing up than you would otherwise.
Know Some Characters
Speaking of doing your research before setting off, it’s also a great idea to learn some commonly used Chinese characters. This won’t just be useful because you’ll learn to speak common words as you learn the characters, but it will also help in that it will let you read and interpret some common signs in China.
This is really helpful for a couple reasons. First, if you can read some common signs, you won’t have to use a lot of social energy trying to locate facilities or order food. Instead, you can use this limited energy to have conversations with people in Chinese about things you are curious about or find interesting.
Reading basic signs is also helpful because it will give you some sense of what you need to learn first in order to have successful conversations with native Chinese speakers. What common things do you need to know and talk about? Being able to read basic characters will answer this question!
Know Chinese Customs
When you travel abroad to any country, there will be traditions, customs, and expectations during social interactions that are sure to shock you. Before going to China and engaging in conversations with natives, it’s important to learn about some of these customs.
After all, you don’t want to offend the people that live in this great nation and practice the traditions of this magnificent culture. Knowing the customs that you’ll be expected to engage in when talking to Chinese locals will allow you to respect their beliefs and not cause insult.
When you know the customs of the people you’re talking to, it can also help you to know what to bring up in conversation. Are you interested in the history of a certain tradition or a specific aspect of Chinese culture? Ask away!
Chances are, people will want to talk to a foreigner who is respectful and polite. If you show a genuine interest in someone’s ways and beliefs, there will be a lot you can learn from them, and they’ll likely be more than happy to talk to you.
Overcome Your Fears
As an introvert, sometimes it feels downright impossible to strike up a conversation with someone… especially someone you don’t know well. This is totally natural and a valid reaction to social situations.
Still, it isn’t an immensely helpful reaction when you’re trying to practice conversational Chinese and get the most out of your time in China. That’s why it’s a good idea to learn some ways to overcome your introverted tendencies and branch out while abroad.
One extremely helpful thing you can do for yourself is to set goals for social interaction. It just isn’t realistic to assume you can go to a new place and be a completely new person who loves to be outgoing and socialize.
Don’t force yourself to do this. It will be painful and you’ll have a terrible time. Instead, set realistic goals.
For example, tell yourself you’re going to order alone at a restaurant. Set a goal for how many strangers you’re going to have a meaningful conversation in Chinese with that day. Then stick to it!
The single most important thing you can do for yourself when traveling to any country is to stay curious as to what’s going on. Recognize that there’s a lot you have to learn about the place you are and that the ideologies and sites of this nation have value.
When you maintain your curiosity, it’s much easier to strike up conversations with others. After all, you’ll always have something that interests you to ask about! Never give up trying to learn more and understand other people.
Become Part of a Group
Overcoming your fear of speaking to strangers is difficult in any situation, but is especially so in a different country. The good news is that it’s possible, and when you do you open yourself to Chinese conversational partners that can help you learn this amazing language.
Now that you know some tips to overcome your trepidations, go look into another option for learning Chinese: joining a summer study group.
These groups let you live in the heart of Beijing and be surrounded by conversational partners all the time! Plus, since you’ll get to know these people in summer camp, you won’t need to worry about them being strangers.
Have fun and good luck!