My Chinese degree was a slog, but it was absolutely worth it

时间:2017-11-16 单词数:5680

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Chinese has overtaken French, Spanish and German to become one of the most lucrative foreign languages for jobseekers in the UK. Research shows graduates in Chinese earn an average yearly salary of 31,000 pounds or more.”


“For students today, saddled with rising debt, a degree in Chinese promises to set them apart in the workplace.”


“Chinese students set themselves up for a different university experience from their peers who are taking traditional essay subjects. While an English student may have as little as six hours of contact time a week, those studying Mandarin are in class for most of the day.”


“I had a lot of friends on other courses who didn’t do much in first or second year. You can’t blag Chinese. You literally have to spend hours and hours writing characters,” says Hannah Jackson, who graduated in Chinese Studies from Sheffield University in 2009.


“The first year was really difficult. Most of my friends admitted at one point to crying in the first week because of the intensity. I was almost told at one point that I might want to reconsider and drop out.”


Liberty Timewell, who graduated in Chinese from Cambridge University in 2012, spent at least eight hours a day studying during her degree, which increased to 18 hours a day at times during her finals.


“I found studying Chinese an incredibly hard slog throughout every year. It was a challenge – there is no way you can bullshit your way through it. If you don’t put the hours in then you will fail. That’s it.”


For Zak Clements, who achieved firsts in his first two years studying Chinese and Global Studies at Nottingham Trent University, this came as a shock. “You get to China and think you can speak quite well, but when I got to China I couldn’t speak anything. You learn how to get by in class, but when thrown into the deep end it was a struggle. When I got there I couldn’t even order some food. It’s difficult to get used to at first,” he say


Hannah had similar problems during her year abroad. “I remember we arrived in Shanghai and we couldn’t even say the number 100 – the taxi driver didn’t understand it. We had to point to characters. The pronunciation doesn’t sound like anything you know – you can’t compare it to English, French or Spanish. You use your mouth or tongue in a different way.”

汉娜也有过类似的体会: “记得刚到上海时,我们连100这个数字都说不出来,出租车司机完全听不懂。我们不得不用手比划。中文的发音是你从未听过的,你没有办法将其与英语、法语或者西班牙语相比较。你的嘴型和舌头的发音方式完全不同。”

So are the evenings in spent learning characters while your friends are at the student bar really worth it? Despite the ups and downs of their degrees, all three graduates think so. They each use Chinese in their chosen careers, and would not be in the jobs they do now without their knowledge of the language.


Liberty now works for the civil service in Beijing. She earned a place on the Department for International Development graduate scheme a month after finishing her degree, and was earning a salary of over 30,000 pounds within two years.


“The degree was absolutely worth it. The slog has paid off. Looking around at people I know who have studied French or Spanish at university, there’s not such a chance to use it in the workplace.”


Thanks to his ability to speak Chinese, Zak helped to create a role for himself in a company selling health supplements to the Chinese market soon after graduating. Starting as a research assistant at Simply Supplements in Peterborough, he was able to prove there was enough commercial interest from China, earning him a promotion to online operations executive within six months.


He earned 26,000 pounds in the role, with the potential to earn as much as 50,000 pounds as an account manager if he stayed at the company. “Studying Chinese definitely makes you more marketable in the workplace. People I studied Chinese with have found it easier to find a job,” he says.


She has found having a degree in Chinese has set her apart in the workplace, but warns ambitious students to think about whether they would really want to live in China in the future before setting their sights on a lucrative career path.


“Some people think they are going to learn Chinese and then be a majorly successful entrepreneur, but I think it’s important to be quite realistic about that.”