Monday 21 September 2015

Learning the local Lingo - Chinese classes in Singapore

Being an Expat is exciting for many reasons; a new life and being in a new environment. The new environment can mean new sights, smells, foods and even another language. Having been in Singapore for awhile now, I had always thought about learning Chinese, and to really adding to my Expat experience. How cool would it be to be able to communicate in one of the many dialects present in Singapore? I started to look around for some tuition options. They had to be a classroom scenario for me; I like the interaction with fellow students, and also getting to know more people in Singapore is always nice.

It was by pure coincidence that whilst I was searching; Elite Linguistics came along, and offered to have me join their sessions and learn some Chinese. I was trilled as it was just so timely. The commitment factor was great too. At Elite Linguistics; it is one class a week, a total of 12 classes per module. This suits a working person very well as I could finish work and still get to my lessons; which start at 7pm, and finish at 9pm. It isn't too bad for a 12 week programme and in order to successfully complete a 12 week module, you must attend at least 80% of all classes.

The location of the classes were also very important to me. I didn't want to travel too far after work. Elite Linguistics has a few locations; Jurong and Bugis, and the Bugis one worked out very well for me.

The emphasis in the classes is on conversations so you're not expected to learn how to write Chinese characters. This was ideal for me too as I wanted to concentrate on getting as much practical usage as possible. It was also good to have a text book that listed the many common phrases and words/characters.

First night of class is always exciting. It was so good to see that it was a small class of 5 people. It meant that the teacher could really focus on each of us and provide us more help if needed. The class size was also perfect for more interaction. All of us were encouraged to make sentences, translate and speak to each other using the new Chinese vocabulary we had learnt that night.
Our tutor was great as well; taking a lot of time to answer questions and ensured we all got a chance to contribute. Each of us took turns to complete Chinese phrases and sentences. Our tutor was really committed; even staying back for a few minutes to help those who needed it.
Learning a new language is very invigorating; as it made me want to use it every chance I got. When I started to pick up a few more phrases from more lessons, I found that I could have lunch at a hawker centre and use Chinese to ask the price and also to communicate the time of day to my colleagues for meetings in Chinese. They were really supportive and amazed that I was willing to try and make an effort. This was really motivating as you can see the results as you pick up more.

The topics for the module are also interesting and so far we've learnt to talk about:

  • Greetings and Family
  • Time and money
  • Shopping
  • Food and ordering
  • Directions and places
  • Going to see the Doctor

The modules are structured well so that students can use them in everyday scenarios. As you learn more during each lesson, you find that you can make more complex sentences and phrases.

I'm nearing the end of the module now; having just finished class number 10. Of all the lessons the one on asking for directions has been great and I've found it the most useful in my daily life. I've taken the MRT on many journeys and now I'm able to ask for directions; and understand, them in Chinese. The sounds can be hard to pronounce but the people in public are great and very patient. They've been most helpful as sometimes I don't remember all of the directions and get them to repeat it. I've been able to find a few shops lately using Chinese to ask for directions so I'm very proud. And most importantly; I've also been able to talk about prices too and gotten some good deals on my shopping!
Another great initiative that Elite Linguistics organises from time to time is a kind of "cultural evening". It's an opportunity for the different classes to get together one evening and listen to a guest speaker. You can learn more about Chinese culture, not just the language. Each of the students can also show off their skills by doing a short speech in Chinese. It's very good for getting feedback from other people, testing listening skills and getting to meet even more people. The text book also has great little sections called "Did You Know?" to give more insights into the Chinese culture.

So if you're planning to really capitalise on your Expat experience, do consider taking up a language. My choice was Chinese in this case as I decided it would be great for my daily life and it has been very useful in the office. Learning Chinese has made me interact in a different way and it's so good to see people being most supportive when you attempt to speak to them in one of the local dialects. I have appreciated the practical structure that Elite Linguistics has put around their lessons so very keen to carry on and sign up for the next module.

Elite Linguistics has kindly extended a special offer to our readers! The price for 12 lessons (over 12 weeks) is usually SGD$420.00; but you can get 10% off for one person (or 15% off for two people) when you quote "ELN-KIWI", when you call them on +65 6565 7166.

If you're unsure; you can do a quick trial session for SGD$3.00 before committing to the 12 sessions.

To find out more, you can also visit their website

Have you started learning a new language on your expat adventures? Which language?

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