Communicating with Chinese Kids


by Joseph - HCE Mentor

I have a lot of respect for people who can speak more than one language. I’ve studied second languages in school before, and I know that fluency is very difficult to achieve, so I was impressed with the English skills of my host siblings. Most of my siblings were classmates in 2nd grade and had a similar beginner skill level, so it could be a challenge to communicate with them at times. The one exception was Kevin, a teenager with much more advanced English skills.

I learned the importance of talking very slowly and using basic vocabulary that they’d understand. I also added gestures and other body language to my spoken English to help them understand the meanings of words they didn’t understand at first.

I learned the importance of talking very slowly and using basic vocabulary that they’d understand. I also added gestures and other body language to my spoken English to help them understand the meanings of words they didn’t understand at first. Two of the host families relied on their 2nd grade child as their primary means of communicating with me, so it was sometimes a challenge to express myself. Kevin already had a good grasp of English, so it was much easier to speak naturally with him. I’d still have to slow down sometimes, but he understood a great deal of English, so we were able to dive into deeper conversation topics. For future HCE applicants who aren’t fluent in Chinese, I wouldn’t recommend staying with a family that doesn’t speak English and only has young children. It can be a huge challenge to communicate with them, and it can also be hard to practice with or teach then. If you don’t have any experience with China or the Chinese language, try staying with host families whose parents have solid English skills, or whose children are already old enough to have studied a good amount of English in school.

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