The Chinese Language Institute (CLI)

The Chinese Language Institute (CLI)


The Chinese Language Institute (CLI) is an innovative language and cultural center located in Guilin, China. Housed in its own 5-story language learning center and officially affiliated with Guangxi Normal University, CLI offers the fastest track to mandarin language proficiency through one-on-one training, constant interaction and complete immersion. With strong connections at private and public institutions throughout the country, CLI opens China to its students in countless ways. We warmly welcome you to study in China with CLI!


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Yes, I recommend this program

Fantastic immersive classes for our family

My family and I - two adults, one 14 year old - studied at CLI Guilin for two weeks in July 2021. We had individual classes four hours a day, five days a week.

The teachers were fantastic. We appreciated the three teacher system, where you did not spend the entire day with any one teacher.

We stayed at CLI over the second week. Rooms was clean, simple, economical. We'd stay there again.

Our 14 year old wasn't happy with us for 'making' her do two weeks of Chinese classes during her summer break, but even she came around. Her teacher took her on walks where they played games, and she beat most comers at Mahjong.

Most importantly, we all felt more confident with our Chinese language skills after two weeks. We'd definitely consider going back next year.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Stay at the school if there's space. Take part in the excursions. Lunch is delicious and good value.
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Yes, I recommend this program

2-week Immersion Program

CLI is fantastic and highly recommended! We loved our 2 week immersion program and only wish we could have stayed longer. Living in Beijing for nearly 2 years, my husband and I have taken Chinese lessons here and there, but our busy work schedules prevent us from spending enough time on it and really focusing. Our teen takes Chinese at school but finds it more academic, less conversational, and didn't feel confident speaking or navigating daily interactions. In China for the summer, we wanted to find a cool language program that would work for us as a family, all at different levels and with different learning styles. At CLI we each had our own 1-on-1 intensive classes during the day (the system of 3 teachers to 1 student is great) but met up in the kitchen at lunchtime for delicious communal meals with other students, and went out exploring Guilin or signed up for CLI activities in the afternoons. The husband liked the hikes, the teen loved the Mahjong lessons and volleyball excursion, and I was a fan of the CLI game room with ping pong table and well-stocked board game collection. The extensive library was great too. All of our teachers were excellent, patient and kind, the CLI team was super flexible with class scheduling, and you could choose the intensity of homework - relatively low in our case, to be honest, it was summer vacation after all! In general we could not have asked for a better experience (even the teen admitted she liked it, which is saying a lot). We stayed at a hotel in town for the first week, went on a weekend trip to a resort south of Guilin over the weekend, and then moved to the CLI dorm for the second week of class, which was comfortable and had everything we needed. We want to come back next summer!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would definitely stay longer. After 2 weeks I felt like I was just getting started and things were starting to click!
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Yes, I recommend this program

CLI - 2 Week Immersion Program

CLI is a warm and welcoming learning community where you will immediately feel comfortable, no matter your level of Chinese learning. The teachers are very kind and dedicated, willing to adjust your lessons to whatever content and style you prefer. I am a foreigner living long-term in China, and came for 2 weeks to give my language learning a boost. I had many colleagues recommend CLI to me and I have to say that it truly exceeded my expectations. Guilin is a beautiful place - it is a walking/biking friendly city with everything you need, great food and snacks, and parks everywhere. I found it easy to immerse myself in studying while still feeling relaxed and enjoying myself. CLI arranges plenty of activities and weekend trips and there are plenty of beautiful spots to explore in and around Guilin.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
I recommend the homestay option - I loved mine! Staying with a family is a great way to get more language practice, explore the city, and eat even more delicious food!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Jan 6 - Jan 17 Short-Term Immersion Program (CLI Dorm)

I first found out about CLI from a quick google search on "Immersion programs in China". CLI showed up high on the list, and some research verified that it was legit. After doing some comparison shopping into other programs, CLI remained the best-value, best-looking program for a short-term program. Another huge perk was its excellent location in Guiling, one of the prettiest cities in China (It's also a short train ride from Guangzhou and Hong Kong).

From beginning till end, it was an unforgettable experience. After an outstanding pre-departure experience, I arrived to the CLI center Saturday afternoon and was warmly greeted by an intern - one of the local Chinese university students hired to support the CLI program. She took me up to the recreational room and I was immediately thrust into one of the almost-constant games of Mahjong. An hour later, I was invited to dinner by another student, an Australian professor-turned-expat, whose colleague was throwing a fancy dinner for him. I couldn't believe my luck, as I had the chance to participate in a traditional Chinese formal-style event, complete with excessive delicious food and generous Maotai Baijiu toasting.

One of the huge perks of CLI is that its students come from literally all walks of life. Summers and semesters tend to have far more college-aged students, but my time at CLI had a large variety of ages, professions, and backgrounds. Some of my best friends here were law students on break, professors of music and engineering, other college students, and international people from everywhere. It's a great chance to not only improve your Chinese knowledge, but also your general knowledge of the world.

The actual city itself, of course, was incredibly beautiful. There are constantly activities scheduled and planned by CLI, and an intense guide-book constantly being updated with suggestions from current and former students. Guilin is a smaller city, by Chinese standards, which means it's cheaper and more authentic than the bigger ones like Beijing or Nanjing. You can get a bao for literally 1 yuan, or some famous Guilin Mifun for 5 yuan. The CLI campus is well-situated next to a busy city street, as well as walking distance to city center and a nearby Wanda mall.

In terms of Chinese education, it's absolutely excellent. You're assigned 3 teachers: Comprehensive, Reading/Writing, and Listening/Speaking. They are personally assigned to you, with flexibility in teacher-choice and schedule, and they coordinate amongst each other to ensure you get the best education possible. Classes run from 0820-1020, 1030-1230, 1400-1600, and 1600-1800. You can use any textbook you want, but they are very strong at teaching the HSK series as well as the Integrated Chinese series.

Overall, I cannot recommend this program enough. Come check out CLI as soon as you can!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
One of the teachers here, Oranje, loves to take students on expeditions to the local Escape Room. I've been to escape rooms in America, and they're nothing like these ones. In Guilin, they have horror-themed Escape Rooms in massive floors spanning multiple rooms. There are live actors that participate in the festivities, terrifying you as you try to solve puzzles to escape. The stories are constantly changing, with 2 to choose from at any given time. So much fun!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Immerse yourself in CLI's Chinese Immersion Program

The great thing about CLI's Chinese Immersion Program is that it is truly authentic. If you choose to listen, speak and communicate only in Chinese, the CLI community will respect your wishes. Not only will you get four hours of classes each day, staff and students who live at the CLI building will also be talking with you in Chinese. If you are an absolute beginner, no problem. Staff respect this and will communicate to you in English when necessary.
I found the support given to be fantastic. This happened from the very beginning when applying for the program, right through to post departure follow-up. When I arrived in Guilin, I discovered my phone was so out-dated that I needed to buy a new one. One of CLI's interns came with me and helped my buy an appropriate phone. Back at CLI, staff helped me with downloading and installing the necessary apps for communication like WeiXin (We Chat).
Since students, interns and some staff live in the same building, there is never any issues of not having support when you need it. This is one of the advantages of CLI, it is not only a school, but a living, breathing community.
Another advantage is that lessons can be molded to suit your own interests. If you like text-book learning, that is fine. There are plenty of options there. If you prefer another method of instruction, you have personal preferences, or would like to study a different way, that can also be arranged. I preferred conversation, and my lessons were based on this.

What was your funniest moment?
My funniest moments were in class. What I said and what was understood had two complete different meanings. The teacher(s) and myself would sometimes double over in laughter from my mistakes.
Things like "chatting with the driver" would be interpreted as "chatting up the driver" or "maintaining a house" would sound like "maintaining a mistress". Let us say, the list goes on and does not get any better!
This just highlights the importance of tones and a tonal language.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose CLI for two main reasons: 1) its structure, and 2) its flexibility.

1) Structure: The classes are entirely 1-on-1 tutoring. This has a lot of critical implications. Firstly, you can enter the program at any level of existing knowledge. You can be a complete beginner, or you can have any level of proficiency beyond that: even if it's lopsided proficiency (e.g. being able to read well but needing more work on speaking/listening). Furthermore, there's no opportunity to hide at the back of a big classroom from a mispronunciation or a lack of understanding: if you aren't grasping a concept, it will be immediately obvious and your teachers will guide you & work with you until you get it. On one hand, this may seem intimidating (and it certainly can be!), but on the other hand, this is exactly the kind of structure that will guarantee thorough, effective learning.

2) Flexibility: Because of CLI's 1-on-1 structure, there are no pre-set "classes" -- you can start whenever you want, and study for as long as you want. I had an existing 60-day Chinese visa and a limited amount of time I could take away from my job, so I chose to stay at CLI for 8 weeks. However, I made friends who studied anywhere from 2 weeks to a full year.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

CLI is so incredibly thorough! Their welcome packets (the documents sent prior to your arrival as well as the physical welcome packets you receive on your first day) include all the information you could possibly need about the surrounding area and more. They arranged my pickup from the airport, and the interns who greeted me when I arrived at CLI helped me with everything I needed on my first day: getting a meal, getting a new SIM card, and touring the school.

Beyond that, anytime I had a question or needed help, the staff and interns were there to assist. This was especially critical when I got very sick during my 6th week and needed to be taken to the doctor. Two very kind and helpful interns escorted me to the doctor, helped me pick up my medicine, and even made sure I got lunch afterward.

To be honest, I can't think of anything that they wouldn't have helped me with if I needed it. I would never take advantage of their kindness (as I saw some other students do: effectively treating the interns as personal servants) but the staff and interns are truly exceptional in this regard.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

SPEAK CHINESE. SPEAK CHINESE ALL THE TIME. Because there is no enforced language pledge, many, many CLI students fall into the trap of only speaking Chinese in the classroom and when interfacing with locals.

I know it's hard to express what you want to say in Chinese when you're first starting out, and I know that it's mentally tiring. But that's the point. This is the only thing that will make you better. And when you start setting the example of speaking Chinese outside the classroom, you'll be helping your fellow students, too.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

In total, you'll have three different teachers (one Speaking/Listening, one Reading/Writing, one Comprehensive). Each day will consist of two 2-hour classes: typically, you'll see your Comprehensive teacher each day, and then either have Speaking/Listening or Reading/Writing as your second class. Lunch is provided at CLI for a fee, which I highly encourage: the meals are delicious and the pricing is extremely reasonable.

After classes, you'll spend some time doing homework (a healthy balance is about 2 hours, in my opinion). Most days, CLI has activities you can sign up for. Some are as simple as playing volleyball together, while others are as involved as weekend trips to the rural rice terraces. I especially enjoyed the activity where we made moon cakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival, not to mention the awe-inspiring trips to Yangshuo and Longji.

There are many great dinner options nearby if you prefer to eat out (shout-out to the local 拌面 [ban4mian4: mixed noodles] restaurant with the amazing 荞麦 [qiao2mai4: buckwheat] tea!), though you can also use the CLI kitchen if you prefer to make your own food. Then, you can chat with interns, continue studying, play mahjong in the activity room, use the CLI computers, or explore downtown Guilin!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was not being good enough: not progressing fast enough, not learning as much as I wanted to, etc. I overcame this by realizing that I'm not a machine. I can't just cram a bunch of inputs and expect perfection immediately. Language learning, especially Chinese, takes time.

I learned how to be patient with myself. I learned how to forgive myself for missteps. And I learned how to swallow my pride and communicate with my teachers honestly about my shortcomings and where I needed more work.

What's something that surprised you about your stay in China?

I'm a big PC gamer, and I expected to spend a fair amount of my spare time in a local 网吧 (wang4ba1: PC cafe). However, after going to a Jimmy's exactly once and experiencing the cigarette haze (despite smoking being "forbidden"), grimy equipment, and less-than-kind employees, I ended up becoming a full-on mobile gamer during my stay.

As a researcher in video games, I gained a deep, tangible empathy for mobile gamers in China, and learned to love many new games! :) (Although it was a real pain to get a QQ account to verify my age...).

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Cory Donovan

Job Title
Director of Engagement

What position do you hold at CLI? What has been your career path so far?

Cory: I am currently the Director of Engagement at CLI. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point with a degree in Business Administration. After graduation, I worked for Incourage Community Foundation in Wood County, Wisconsin helping residents overcome the “digital divide”.

Having volunteered for many global organizations, such as the Clinton Global Initiative, I realized the important role that language plays in not only basic communication, but also in solving today’s global issues. Wanting to learn a foreign language and having desire to help the world, I decided to journey to China to learn Mandarin Chinese. I enrolled in CLI’s Immersion Program located in the picturesque city of Guilin. After four months of study, I was offered the opportunity to be a part of the CLI team as Director of Engagement.

Did YOU study abroad? If so, where did you go and what inspired you to go?!

Cory: My first experience studying abroad was a study tour of China in 2009 through my university. My teachers of course encouraged me to broaden my horizons and bolster my resume, but the true motivation came from within. I believe most who decide to study abroad are deep down an explorer, motivated to discover the world and themselves. This inner motivation also inspired me to study abroad in Ireland. I wanted to learn more about my family lineage and the history of the country my ancestors once called home. I returned to China in 2012 to start learning Mandarin Chinese, motivated by the desire to become bilingual.

What does the future hold for CLI - any new programs to share?

Cory: CLI is excited to announce the completion of a comprehensive renovation at its new 5-story language learning center located in the southern city of Guilin, China. CLI’s new and improved center is equipped with 36 dorm rooms, 18 classrooms, two public kitchens, numerous lounge rooms, and a library with over 100 Chinese language and cultural books – CLI is truly the epicenter for learning Chinese language and culture.

CLI is also excited to expand its fully customizable faculty-led study tours program. Institutions have the opportunity to design their own China study tour tailored to their specific learning needs and interests. Whether the program's focus is business and economics, art history, environmental sustainability, civil engineering, sociology, or intensive Chinese, faculty will be able to provide their students with an enriching and unforgettable educational experience.

What about the future of the industry? How do you think study abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?

Cory: As the world becomes more interconnected, the desire and need for students to receive a global education will continue to increase. The destinations students choose will provide the biggest shift in the international education industry. Governments have all ready identified critical or under-served languages, providing significant financial aid to ensure students have the opportunity to study these languages. Thus, Asia and the Middle East will continue to supplant European countries as top study abroad destinations.

Technology is also changing the way we think about study abroad. As technology continues to advance, there will be an increase in the amount of distance learning that takes place. One-on-one language tutoring over Skype, teachers teaching a classroom of students from halfway around the world, and the ability to listen to lectures from top professors at top institutions for free, makes one rethink the way education is delivered. Although nothing can substitute experiencing another culture firsthand, these new options may prove to be enough for some students.