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Making Friends In China (Even Though You Don't Speak The Language!)

Posted by Cherish Germaine on 1/27/17 9:49 AM

ILP China kids 123.jpg

Every semester, we hear tons and tons of stories about living life in a different country .... and about that (sometimes) tricky language barrier. 

Although it can be a little challenging at times to communicate if you don't speak the language, all our ILP volunteers figure out pretty quickly that you can still form friendships and relationships with those in your community even if you don't speak the same language! Seriously, I made it through two semesters in China without speaking Mandarin. 

Thinking you need an adventure? 
See what living in China is like here

Living In China (And Not Speaking Chinese) 

"I know no Chinese, other than hello, goodbye, and counting to ten. So as you can imagine, trying to live in China with only this much knowledge of their language is difficult.

"From ordering food, getting directions, or paying for something, to dealing with Chinese teachers, trying to figure out that your first grader is about to wet himself, and a whole lot more, not being able to speak the Chinese language has been difficult.

"But...The friends I've made are still friends, no matter the language. My first graders love me, although they can hardly understand anything I say. Our Chinese coordinator has become a best friend to some of us. He laughs at everything, maybe because he doesn't understand or thinks we're funny, but it makes it all so fun.

"At lunch and sometimes dinner, I sit by an old man. I don't know his name, or anything about him, only that he works somewhere at the school. He first sat by me because he had nowhere else to sit. Now we've taken turns sitting by each other. We sit down, say hello, eat our food, stand up and say goodbye, and that is all, yet everyday we do this, he leaves with a smile, and so do I.

"I'd like to call this man my friend, and yet I don't even know his name. Speaking different languages creates a lot of confusion, but the international language of smiling and other emotions can still be read by all. China has taught me this, and taught me to enjoy the little things, and to be kind and smile at everyone. Not one word needs to be said, and yet you can still make friends."

Friendships in China.jpg

Come to China with us! 

International Language Programs sends volunteers teach English to children in China (and several other countries around the world). Click the button below to learn more about how you can explore China and make a difference in the lives of children during your semester abroad with ILP.

We also have more tips on how to get around without speaking Mandarin to help you out ... it all just adds to the adventure! 

Discover China

Topics: Asia


We are ILP, a Utah based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time traveling and living abroad.

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