As part of the Beijinger’s Mandarin Month series ahead of today's (June 25) Mandarin Mixer, we present Hao Laoshi, a series of Q&A's with teachers and students at various Mandarin learning centers around town. Today we speak with Yuanxin Hu, a Beijing-born Chinese teacher at Beijing Information Technology College (BITC).

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am from Beijing, and I studied economics in my undergraduate degree. But eventually I realized that economics wasn’t my passion, and that I was instead more drawn to learning about cultures, and engaging with foreigners. I began to teach and quickly fell in love with that. I get a lot of satisfaction from engaging with foreigners, and even more satisfaction from helping them improve their Chinese and seeing them progress.

Before coming to teach at BITC, I took a job with the Confucius Institute in Quebec City, Canada. While there, I quickly had to adapt to a new culture. I learned so much about foreigners and about the English language because it was immersive, so it was a very beneficial experience and has helped me relate to my foreign students. But it was a challenging experience— I lived on my own, and Canada has such harsh winters, so it was a bit of a lonely and cold experience at first. It forced me to grow and learn though, so I very much enjoyed it.

Your school has a well reputed HSK preparation course. It seems like a very challenging test— what are the benefits of taking it?

Many foreigners are now coming to China and looking to study at a local university, then get a good job here. In order to do that you need to at least have an HSK level 4— in fact some university like PKU need HSK level 6.

Another reason is that some foreigners are genuinely passionate about the language, and want to just improve their Chinese and immerse themselves in the culture more. So the HSK is one of the ways to show how much progress you’ve made in that regard, though it’s not the only one.

So preparing for, then taking the HSK, can help enrich a foreigner’s life while living in China?
Yes it can, though it’s obviously not the only way to do so. China, as you know, is developing very quickly, so now there are new policies that can help fast-track a foreigner’s education and career while they are here. This is very encouraging for foreign students, and can give them many professional prospects. Aside from that, becoming more proficient in Chinese obviously just makes you more employable. Many businesses may very well want to hire you for your native English speaking, but being able to speak Chinese very much helps you enjoy company culture more, and helps you make friends with your Chinese colleagues.

How do you help prepare your students for the HSK?
In my opinion, the best way to be ready for the HSK is to just study Chinese and try to build your vocabulary naturally over time. People can sometimes put too much emphasis on the HSK, and they don't seem to realize that it is only a test, and that it is far from ideal to study solely for it.

However, not all students have this luxury. A good number of our students come to China from abroad without speaking hardly any Mandarin, and they plan to enrol in University within a year. It is possible to reach HSK level 4 within a year, but it’s very hard. So in the beginning we will use fun teaching techniques to get them interested in Chinese, like playing telephone or other speaking games to get them comfortable with vocabulary. But as we go through the program, and especially in its last few months, we teachers are very strict and push the students quite hard. They will take mock tests twice weekly, and quite frequently they will take older versions of the HSK, in order to familiarize themselves with it. As the course intensifies they will take two mock tests per weeks, and each of those tests requires them to learn 20 new vocabulary words, two new grammar rules and several new characters.

It is a lot of work and it is not easy. But our students that are there with the goal to get into university, and get an exciting and fulfilling job, will find that they have the motivation to succeed.

Come meet some BITC reps, and teachers from a dozen other Mandarin schools at our free event. For more information, click here.

In the meantime, be sure to follow our month-long Mandarin Month coverage here.

Mandarin Month is brought to you by Pleco, Project Pengyou, Ninchanese, BenCham, BritCham, and MexCham.

This post is sponsored by BITC.

Photos courtesy of BITC


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