Have a go learning for a trip

You might think that it’s not worth taking the time to learn any of the Chinese language for a short trip in the far east. However, even one or two words can make such a big difference.

I went to China for a week recently knowing not a single character or word, but I quickly worked out how to say hello, thank you, good bye, etc. It made such a difference.

Even when the communication was comprised mostly of gestures, people seemed to appreciate the effort I made to at least start a conversation in Chinese from my phrase book. And street signs became more usable once I realised what north, south, east and west were.

Learning the Chinese characters may seem like a daunting tasks – some of them are very complex, but even here, I found I could soon recognise some basic ones, like the signs for male and female – pretty handy when you’re trying to find your way to the bathroom! Menus were another good place to pick up a few words.

Learning the names of a few favourite dishes was certainly a good move. Although I could hardly conduct a conversation in Chinese, the thing about learning a few words is that opens up so many more possibilities for social interaction and just makes the trip more personal and meaningful.

And, paradoxically, because Chinese is so different to European languages, you almost feel less worried about aspiring to any particular standard – just having a go is the main thing.

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