Where to Learn Chinese in China Quickly & Cheaply

by Published

Explore foreign cities, tasting exotic street food, experience diverse cultures, and learn the language of an up-and-coming world power—China.

Choosing to learn Chinese in China offers the perfect foreign adventure:

  • It’s a fully immersive experience and one that is incredibly rewarding personally and professionally for those who take the leap. 
  • You’ll learn to speak Mandarin while living in a place where you can actually speak it randomly
  • Your entire world will be your classroom. All of it!
  • You can eat dumplings and dim sum to your heart’s content. And then some.
  • Camping on the Great Wall, riding a camel across the Gobi, having traditional tea along the Yangtze, taking photos of the mountains that inspired Avatar. Yup—you can do all of his and more while you learn Mandarin in China.

But making the decision to live in China is a biggie, so to help guide you, we put together some of the best places to study Chinese in China with program recommendations to boot! 

Hong Kong neon lights

Bright lights, big city, and dumplings. So. Many. Dumplings.

How to learn Chinese quickly

We know two things for sure:

One, China has a population of 1.4 billion people and the second largest economy in the world. Though it is slowing down, its yearly growth outpaces the United States and it has become a  major player on the global stage and the most prominent challenger to the US. Because of this, speaking Chinese has become a highly valued professional skill. For companies who want to crack the Chinese market, having staff that can speak the language is critical.

Two, any language teacher or linguist will tell you that the best way to learn Chinese quickly is in a full-immersion setting. So what better way to bring these two realities together than to learn how to speak Chinese in China?!

Here are a few places we think are the best places to study Chinese in China—because, let’s face it. If you learn to speak Mandarin while living in China, you’ll future-proof your use of the language, and wow the pants off locals regularly. ← This is pretty fun.

If you want to figure out how to learn Chinese quickly, you need to bite the bullet and move abroad to participate in an intensive Chinese program. But where? We’re glad you asked…

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Where to learn Chinese in China?

If you are interested in studying Chinese in China but are not sure which city would fit you best  as a place to live, here is a short guide to six of the best places to study Chinese in China. 

#6. Nanjing

The city of Nanjing is a stone’s throw away from Shanghai, and is situated right at the heart of the lower Yangtze River region—a hub for culture, education, politics, research, and tourism. What we’re getting at here is that Nanjing is a great place to find chinese language schools in China.

It’s one of four ancient capitals in China, so students will have no shortage of World Heritage sites to visit outside their intensive chinese program. It’s known as the “city of culture” and is a really pleasant place to live. Just goes to show that you can have it all when you learn to speak Mandarin in Nanjing!

Recommended Program:

Calligrapher working in China

After (up to) one year Chinese language courses in China, you’ll basically be a pro like this guy!


#5. Shenzhen

Though Shenzhen is located very closely to Hong Kong (you can transfer from the  Shenzhen Metro and Hong Kong MTR) and enjoys the same special economic zone privileges as Hong Kong, the two cities are very different. 

Shenzhen is a manufacturing city, but in the last 15 years, it has also become a vibrant city made up of young people who have migrated from around China and Asia to live there. It also has a lower cost of living than Hong Kong, so for a student, the cost of you learning to speak mandarin  will be far less living in Shenzhen, but with the convenience of having easy access to Hong Kong and all it has to offer. As far as places to learn to speak Mandarin go, and places to learn Chinese in China for cheap, Shenzhen is a great option.

Recommended Program:

#4. Hong Kong

Oh, Hong Kong. My personal home for six months in 2014, I have almost never heard of someone not liking Hong Kong.

It is Hong Kong’s distinct neighborhoods that help make it one of the best cities in Asia.  Want the hustle and bustle of a modern mega-city? Head down to Central. Want a more laid back vibe? Head to Mong Kok. Interested in a true Chinese experience? Take the ferry or MRT over to Kowloon. Want to grab drinks and rub shoulders with the wealthy expats? Soho and Lan Kwai Fong are where you want to be.

Did I mention you can also hit the beach? A 30 minute ride on a high speed ferry gets you to Lamma Island where you can swim in the ocean, lay out on the beach, and have dinner over the water.

Not only is Hong Kong a blast to live in, it is a great place to study and learn Chinese quickly. The International Language Center, Hong Kong Institute of Languages, and City University Of Hong Kong all offer language programs for learning Chinese. In Hong Kong  you have your pick of Chinese language schools in China to choose from! 

Recommended Program:

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rolling green countryside in China

Don’t buy into the misconception that China is all bustling big cities and crowded metros.

#3. Beijing

Beijing is large. With 20 million people, and plans to grow to 100 million (yes, you read that correctly) Beijing is a mega-city. Fortune 500 companies, limitless Chinese food from street stalls to high end restaurants, craft beer, and international goods, as well as numerous tourist sites from the Forbidden City to the Great Wall of China, there is a ton to experience in Beijing.

If you want to learn to speak mandarin, Beijing has a lot to offer. Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beijing International Studies University, Beijing Language and Culture University all offer language courses. And with so many universities, you won’t be short of people your age to meet and mingle with. For those interested in how to learn chinese quickly, Bejing is a great for a fully immersive Chinese experience.

Recommended Program:

#2. Guangzhou

You have heard of Shanghai (more on that in a moment) and Beijing (olympics) but Guangzhou may have flown under your radar.

Once China’s main port city, Guangzhou is more laid back than Beijing and with a more diverse mix of expats than Shanghai.  Guangzhou is also notably a bit more liveable than other Chinese cities. Great public transportation, clean (though not beautiful) streets, and delicious cuisine are all reasons to make Guangzhou home. It is also has a stronger presence of “old China” with mansions and temples scattered across the city. If you want to go a little off the beaten path, Guangzhou is a great place to learn to speak mandarin.

Recommended Program:

#1. Shanghai

Shanghai is the heart of it China. It’s  incredible skyline on the Yangtze River Delta is China’s symbol to the world that they are not just a developed country, but a global power player. The city itself is China’s main economic hub, making it a hotbed for Chinese and international businesspeople alike.

With 24 million people and being the main economic hub for the second largest economy in the world, the academic offerings are unsurprisingly extensive. Major language  Programs such as Boston University Study Abroad, New York University Shanghai and  CIEE all operate there.

You will sacrifice a bit on quality of life if you chose Shanghai. It is one of Asia's most expensive cities, it ranks 94th in the world in terms of livability, has sweltering summers and harsh winters.

Recommended Program:

[The 8 Best Language Schools in the World]

bright lights in Shanghai Big World

Although, there are certainly plenty of big cities for you to study Chinese in.

Recommended summer Chinese language programs

Casually dropping a “I am studying Chinese in China” as your answer to the “summer plans” question is pretty sweet. Sure hanging out with friends or going boating is fun but...living in China to learn Chinese? That is tops.

The great thing about learning Chinese in the summer is that you get to truly use your time wisely (learning a new language!) by traveling internationally to study. Your brain can be as fly as your Insta!

Below are two of our favorite options for summer language programs in China. 

1. Summer Intensive Chinese Language & Immersion Program with China Internship Placements

CIP is an intensive  summer Chinese program that provides a great combination of private Mandarin study and University Chinese language study in an immersive environment. For those interesting in learning to speak Mandarin, summer program may be perfect. In addition to learning to speak Mandarin, students enjoy adventure, study, travel and so much more.

2. Shanghai Summer Chinese Studies Program with Boston University

The core curriculum centers around approximately 15-20 hours each week of language instruction, emphasizing grammar, oral comprehension, and speaking. Students may expect to spend at least an equal number of hours in study outside the classroom. Courses are augmented by a five-day educational excursion to a historic city or to the countryside to experience village life, a weekend trip to a Yangtze River delta city like Hangzhou or another canal town, and visits to local cultural sights. This is an intensive chinese program.

3. Summer Intensive Chinese Language Program at Sichuan University

Study Mandarin for 9 weeks at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. This Intensive Chinese Language Program offers students to study the language while immersing in the culture and its traditions. Students can practice their conversational Mandarin from their daily interactions with the locals.

4. Chinese Study and Cultural Immersion in Taipei with Languages Abroad

Taipei is one of the best places to study Chinese abroad. It’s a city of contrasts, filled with Chinese and Japanese influences and an ancient history coexisting with its growing economic prowess, wealth, and expansion. You’ll study on two campuses across Taipei, giving you ample opportunity to get to know this sprawling city and its many restaurants, shops, tea houses, and night market.

[How Long Does it Take to Learn a Language...But Actually]

Nanjing, China

If you’re looking for lower-key, China’s got that too!

Recommended programs to learn Chinese in China for CHEAP

Study Chinese in China for free! Okay, nothing in the world is free, and that includes living in and learning a new language. However, experiencing China and learning the language doesn’t have to mean emptying your piggy bank. Below  are a few budget options for learning Chinese in China.  

1. Study in Hong Kong with Center for Study Abroad

Located in both the Yaumatei area of Kowloon and the Wanchai area of Hong Kong island, the program provides an intensive and comprehensive learning program in conversational Chinese and Chinese reading and writing.  Students take three hours of class per day, Mondays through Fridays, or 15 hours of studies per week. This includes a one-hour of language laboratory.

2. Mandarin Language Programs with China Study Abroad

Learn Chinese in Beijing at the Beijing Language and Culture University. BLCU is the sole university functioning as an institution for Chinese language learning to foreign students.  BLCU hosts over 3,000 foreign students per year to learn a wide range of subjects and experience Chinese culture. This is the chance to gain university credits while living in Beijing.

3. Hutong School

Founded in 2005, Hutong School provides students, graduates, and young professionals internships and Chinese language courses in Beijing and Shanghai in China. With a growing international network, we are the language school and internship provider of choice for hundreds of people every year.

4. Attend Chinese Language Schools with Eurocentres

Get excited about learning Mandarin Chinese in China with Eurocentres. The Chinese Language School is based in Beijing and will provide students with high quality academic and personal support as they begin their language journey abroad. You can also sign up for plenty of interesting extracurricular, cultural activities. Next stop? Fluency!

Now what? Next steps to finding programs that help you learn to speak Mandarin

Getting excited to study Chinese in China but need a little more support before you make the leap? Check out the resources below for financial support, expert advice, and further reading to help inform your decision.

Remember, thousands of people study abroad in China to learn Chinese every year. While it may seem overwhelming now, the resources above and the other information on GoAbroad are there to help you all along the way!  Be patient and keep an open mind and your time learning Chinese in China will be the experience of a lifetime. 

Hen hao, pengyou!

China isn’t going anywhere and its influence on the world socially, culturally, and economically is only poised to grow in the coming years. If you want to stay ahead of the curve and learn Chinese language and culture, you time is well spent heading over to China to learn Chinese in a full-immersion environment. 

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