Best Places to Learn Chinese Outside Mainland China

There is still very strong interest among students around the world to study Chinese and explore Chinese culture. However, at this point, mainland China’s border is still closed to most foreign students (see updates here). What options are there to study Chinese outside of mainland China?

You can learn more about studying around the world on Global Admissions here.

Studying Chinese outside of mainland China can give rise to unique opportunities and insights into Chinese language and culture. In countries like Malaysia and Singapore, a long history of Chinese communities overseas has given rise to a vibrant blend of Chinese and Southeast Asian culture. Many Chinese communities overseas continue to speak their traditional languages such as Hokkien or Cantonese, in addition to Mandarin, which means that you may actually have increased chances to learn non-Mandarin Chinese languages if you choose to study here.

You may find the learning styles or local accent different than in China, and you may learn traditional Chinese characters instead of simplified! (What’s the difference?)

Outside of Asia, the global Chinese diaspora and Chinese-speaking community has also diligently created opportunities for students to explore Chinese language even as far away as the US!

Here are the best places to study Chinese outside of China.

Can you learn Chinese without living in China?

YES! There are many places outside of China where learning Chinese is not only possible, but an excellent opportunity! Mainland China is not the only place in the world with Chinese as its main language, and its definitely not the only place with a large amount of Chinese speakers. You can surround yourself with Chinese language and culture in Taiwan or Singapore, or learn Mandarin in the diverse cultural melting pot of Malaysia or the United States. While the mainland Chinese border is closed to students, it can be a great investment to learn in one of these locations instead.

You might also get a greater chance to learn a non-Mandarin Chinese language outside of mainland China. Mandarin Chinese, or Putonghua, is the primarily spoken form of Chinese today. In the PRC, you will learn Mandarin Chinese written in the Simplified script. However, outside of China, you may find greater opportunities to learn Traditional Chinese or a non-Mandarin language including Cantonese, Taiwanese, Hokkien, or Hakka.

If you study in a country with a high percentage of native Chinese speakers, of course it will be easier to immerse yourself. However, if you dedicate yourself to your studies, you can achieve a great level of Chinese from anywhere in the world.

Taiwan, China

Border Status: Borders to open for Chinese language students (here, here)

Type of Chinese Taught: Traditional Mandarin Chinese

Taiwan, an island in the South China Sea, has a robust tradition of teaching Traditional Mandarin Chinese to foreign learners using a unique curriculum that’s quite unlike that used in the mainland. Rather than being based on the HSK, Mandarin students in Taiwan will follow the Taiwanese curriculum and learning style to explore an entirely different side of the Chinese language. Students will also get to explore Taiwanese culture through exploring the island’s unique perspectives and traditions that aren’t found anywhere else.

You can apply for the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship, which is full funding for Chinese language study over the summer or during the school year. Earning the HES scholarship can make it easier for you to enter Taiwan.

Taiwan is the best option for students who want to experience Chinese culture and immerse themselves fully in the language and society. All universities in Taiwan have Mandarin Training Centers (MTC) that provide Chinese classes at all levels to international students.

Taiwan’s top universities all offer high-quality, affordable, and effective Mandarin courses.

Singapore

Border Status: Open to Vaccinated Travelers (more info here)

Type of Chinese Taught: Simplified Mandarin Chinese + opportunities to learn Hokkien, Cantonese, and Teochew

Singapore is an island-state in Southeast Asia. Mandarin Chinese is one of the official languages, along with English, Malay, and Tamil. Most Singaporeans are bilingual in English and another language. Over 70% of Singaporeans are of Chinese descent, but the nation has cultural influences from Britain, Malay culture, and Indian culture.

Here are some excellent options to study Chinese in Singapore:

Confucius Institutes

These schools, located around the world, are funded by the Chinese International Education Foundation and teach Simplified Mandarin Chinese. There are Confucius Institutes in over 160 countries and regions.

It is highly probable that you will be able to find a Confucius Institute in your country or in a nearby country, and can take classes there! This is a great way to both improve your Chinese and build connections with Chinese institutions even though you are overseas.

See a list of all Confucius Institutes here.

Malaysia

Border Status: Open to vaccinated travelers (here)

Type of Chinese Taught: Simplified Mandarin Chinese, opportunities to learn a non-Mandarin Chinese language

Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia. The main language in Malaysia is Bahasa Malaysia, and the country has deep cultural influences from indigenous Malay culture, Islam, China, India, Persia, and Britain. English is widespread, and Chinese Malaysian communities typically speak either Mandarin or one of the languages of southern China including Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainanese, and Fuzhou.

Given the high prominence of Bahasa Malaysia and non-Mandarin Chinese languages, Malaysia may not be the best place to study Mandarin Chinese intensively. But you can still obtain a unique cultural experience as well as build connections with the overseas Chinese community with roots in Guangdong and Fujian.

Here are some excellent options to study Chinese in Malaysia:

The United States of America

Border Status: Open to vaccinated travelers with valid visas

Type of Chinese Taught: Simplified or Traditional Mandarin Chinese + Cantonese and other languages

The USA is a very diverse country with plenty of education opportunities for nearly every language. As a melting pot of global cultures, you are sure to be able to find Chinese tutors or private education institutions in most cities and towns in the country. In the USA, you will have the chance to observe how Chinese culture and language develops and grows in the west.

However, the US is a majority-English speaking country and the cost of living is very high. It may be hard for you to pursue full Chinese immersion unless you choose to take a total immersion program. You also will not get the chance to immerse yourself in Chinese culture or lifestyles.

Here are some great options to study Chinese in the USA:

Are you interested in studying around the world?

You can learn more about studying around the world on Global Admissions here.