Not only is Chinese the most widely spoken language on the planet, it is the most sought-after language by international companies. China is one of the leading economic power houses and the language is in demand. Consequently, learning Chinese can be a great career move.
But you don't have to study Chinese in China. Singapore is a superb choice for those looking to study Chinese overseas. It's a dynamic metropolis and has been ranked as one of the top three student cities internationally. English is one of the official languages (in addition to Mandarin Chinese), making it an easy language environment for beginners.
Singapore offers an excellent quality of life. The city is multicultural, crime rates are low, services are efficient, and transportation is cheap. Restaurants, nightlife, and attractions provide fun options when you're not studying. There are a plethora of language schools and Chinese is widely spoken, so learning can take place in the streets and not just in the classroom.
With plenty of good quality language schools in this tiny country, there is a great array of courses to choose from. Whether you are an absolute beginner seeking a combination of Chinese language and cultural studies or a more advanced student looking for an intensive language experience, you are bound to find a suitable course.
Signing up for a course at a language school is the most common way for international students to learn Chinese in Singapore. Other options may include public colleges and local community centers. Although there is not much in the way of official homestay or volunteer programs which include learning Chinese, you can still arrange homestays in Singapore on your own. Living with a Chinese Singaporean family can be a great way to expediate your language skills!
You can choose from full-time or part-time courses and there are options to accommodate all levels, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced learner. Here are a few of the course types that may appeal to international students:
- Conversational - These courses are designed to help students build the confidence to get by in day-to-day situations.
- Business - For those who are wanting to learn Chinese for working in the global market. The courses are specifically structured to include common phrases and sentence structures used in corporate situations.
- Intensive - Especially for students looking for a fast-track to learning Chinese, these courses usually focus on real-life scenarios to help students learn quickly and effectively.
- Immersive - These courses combine the study of language with Chinese culture so that the student can obtain a deeper all-round understanding of the literature, art, and music of Singapore.
Why Learn Chinese in Singapore?
Along with Malay, Tamil, and English, Mandarin Chinese is one of the official languages of Singapore. For students whose first language is English, Singapore is a perfect destination to learn Chinese. With both English and Chinese being widely spoken, Singapore is a gentler introduction than studying in China where English isn't commonly spoken yet there are still plenty of opportunities to practice on a daily basis.
Singapore is cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and an ideal country for anyone traveling to Asia for the first time. It's clean with lots of green spaces, great street food, cool nightlife, and plenty to keep you busy when you're not studying.
There are no specific qualifications required to sign up for courses at language schools in Singapore.
Popular Locations to Learn Chinese in Singapore
Because Singapore is such a small country consisting of only 272 square miles in total, you won't have many options! Most of language schools are conveniently located in the downtown area of the city. The advantage is that the attractions, shops, and accommodation options are all situated nearby.
Choosing a Chinese Learning Program in Singapore
With so many alternatives available, it can be tricky deciding on the type of course that would benefit you most. There are several things you will need to think about before committing yourself to a course.
First, you may wish to check the maximum number of students per class. Although you may not be too concerned about the teacher-student ratio when you start, it is likely that you will appreciate having more access to your teacher as you progress. Private schools tend to have smaller numbers.
Decide how many hours of tuition per week you feel is manageable for you, bearing in mind that you will probably be spending time outside the classroom studying as well. Are classes held in the mornings or afternoons? Make sure the timetable fits in with the life you are planning for yourself in Singapore.
Lastly, think about what type of language course best suits you. What you learn in a conversational language class is substantially different to what you study in a business class. Your choices may depend on what is affordable to you, so keep a budget in mind and don't overstretch yourself. You many want to ascertain whether the tuition fees include a registration fee and materials or if this is charged as extra.
Cultural Immersion in Singapore
Singapore is less likely to be a culture shock than most of the other major Asian cities, but there are some things to be aware of. Although English is widely spoken, some of the older residents only speak their native tongue and a language barrier will sometimes arise. Singlish, a colloquial Singaporean dialect of English, is commonly spoken and sometimes confusing to English speakers, but you will find that generally people are generally happy to translate if you look baffled!
Singapore has some pretty strict rules on littering, drunk and disorderly behavior, chewing gum, and smoking. You can even be fined for not flushing a public toilet! Make sure you adhere to the rules in order to avoid a hefty fine.
Exploring the various neighbourhoods in Singapore is a great way to experience cultural immersion. Katong is home to traditional Peranakan houses, Chinatown is an enclave of Chinese culture old and new, and in Little India, you can visit Singapore's oldest Hindu temple and sample some delicious (and cheap) Indian food.
Average Chinese Language School Tuition in Singapore
The tuition fees vary greatly, depending on the number of hours, whether it's group or private tuition, and whether the course is intense or regular. Fees can start at around $400 for 10 two-hour lessons, but can also rise to $2000. Some schools offer trial lessons, which can be a useful way of ascertaining whether you feel the course is right for you.
Scholarships for Learning Chinese in Singapore
There are many opportunities for international students to be granted with scholarships to study in Singapore. A number of websites, including Scholarship-Positions, WorldScholarshipForum, and ScholarshipAd, feature the latest scholarships that are available. Another option is to apply for the bi-annual study scholarship offered by Go Overseas.
Cost of Living in Singapore
On average, the cost of living in Singapore in terms of rent and supermarket food is comparable to the cost of living in Seattle or other "second-tier" American cities. You can save more money by eating the tasty street food and using public transport, which is very cheap. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Singapore is $2,000 per month and a restaurant meal costs approximately $25.
Visas & Other Relevant Information
Students on full-time long-term courses require what is known as a "students pass" to study in Singapore. For short-term courses, it is best to contact your nearest Singapore Embassy to check the requirements. Depending on the length of your intended stay, you may fall into the tourist category.
It is fairly straightforward to extend your stay if you need to. All visitors to Singapore need a passport that is valid for six months beyond its expiry date and a return ticket or proof of onward travel. No inoculations are required for entry into Singapore.