Whether you’ve just discovered your interest in learning Chinese, want to rekindle your enthusiasm after years away, or your company is looking to engage with Chinese businesses, language classes can be a fantastic way to foster your interest and gain a more coherent understanding of the language. Additionally, it’s an opportunity to delve deeper into a different part of the world. In our increasingly globalized society, there are now more options than ever before, allowing you to choose a program that aligns with your learning style, schedule, and budget.
If you find yourself in London and are uncertain about where to start with Chinese classes, consider the following list of recommended schools in various parts of the city.
- Confucius Institutes in London
- Local Chinese Schools in London
- Online Chinese Tutoring for London-Based Learners
Confucius Institutes in London
Named after the famous ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, this organization was set up by the Chinese government to promote the Chinese language and culture overseas. Its branches are usually connected to a university. However, because they are a part of the same organization, the curriculum and teaching style is rather uniform. Due to the rigid structure, I would recommend these classes for anyone wanting to see what it’s like learning the language or wanting to pick it up again. They also offer HSK preparation classes. The HSK exam is the official government-recognized Chinese proficiency test; it is highly recommended to take it if you want to work or study in China.
Here are three recommendations:
- The Open University- They proudly offer the first fully online Confucius Institute, expanding accessibility to learners from diverse backgrounds and locations. According to their website, this approach allows them to reach learners who may not otherwise have the opportunity to learn Chinese and explore Chinese civilization and culture.
- London South Bank University- This branch specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This means that in addition to providing classes to prepare for the HSK exams, LSBU also offers classes teaching different types of TCM including acupuncture and therapeutic massage. They also offer a variety of art courses including martial arts and music. Furthermore, they are also an official registered HSK test center.
- London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)- While attached to a major university, this Confucius Institute in London focuses on teaching Chinese for business purposes. Consequently, their courses are more concentrated and may include one-on-one and tailored group classes. They also offer resources such as talks on conducting business in China and networking events.
Local Chinese Schools in London
Local language schools are spread throughout the city, providing convenience and face-to-face interaction with instructors and fellow students. This in-person experience can be highly beneficial for those who prefer real-life social interactions and seek a more immersive learning context. It allows you to share experiences and study tips with classmates at a similar level of Chinese. Here are some options:
- The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) – Instead of partnering with a Confucious institute, SOAS in London has designed their own set of curriculums for Chinese courses. They cater to all levels, from beginner to advanced. Classes after the beginner level are taught online. SOAS also offers specially tailored courses that can either be one-on-one or in small groups. On their website, SOAS not only highlights the course’s aim but also outlines their method of teaching and what each class covers. They also mention the textbook material the course uses. I like that they were able to take advantage of their university resources and develop shorter courses for non-university students to experience the SOAS teaching style.
- The Chinese School– Based in London, they offer two beginner lessons free of charge. According to their website, these sessions are “designed and taught to the same standard with our fee-paying courses.” The school outlines what will be taught in the free lessons, including learning basic pinyin and tones, starting on basic Chinese characters, greeting people and introducing yourself. I like that within this deal, they also provide a crucial introduction to Chinese culture, providing context for the characters. The school also offers exam preparation for HSK levels 5 and 6. In addition, they offer extensive classes for young learners from Beginner all the way to Advanced. The Chinese School offers structured trips and classes in China. Also, to help further reinforce the learning content, they regularly publish content on their blog about how language and culture interact.
- China Unbound- Also based in London, this school highlights their teaching as the “personable way.” I like that they offer a variety of class options. Classes include corporate training on how to understand Chinese business practices better, three levels of group classes and one-on-one sessions. The school also offers Cantonese classes. You can book a trial session on their website. According to their website, “we have developed a distinctive teaching approach that works, try it before you decide.” In the free trial, I like that China Unbound also offers to create a customised learning plan, showing the potential learner what they could study with them. The school also offers the free trial in-person or online to suit the needs of the prospective learner in question.
- Mandarin Manhattan- Originally established in the United States, this school has opened a branch across the pond, specifically for adult learners in London. One selling point I thought was very useful is tutors who are experienced in teaching the curriculum for the Chinese GCSE. In addition, the school provides a free trial, in which the student is paired with the teacher most suitable to their background and goals. The school also provides both the textbook and workbook, as well as any other supplementary material. Mandarin Manhattan also provides trips to the local Chinatown, providing more cultural background.
- Julie Private Mandarin Tutor– Julie is a tutor based in North London. Specializing in tutoring children, her teaching method focuses on learning vocabulary through activities and games. On Julie’s website, there is a gallery showing past sessions. However, for older students, not only does she offer tutoring for Chinese GCSE exams, but she also offers teaching up to A-level. Even though there isn’t a free trial available, on the homepage of her website there is a link to inquire about getting a quote, customized to your needs as well as being able to see testimonials of past customers.
- Lingo Class- A school based in central London, they offer classes for not just Mandarin but also Korean, Japanese and Cantonese. I like that on their website, Lingo Class offers additional online free resources. On the Mandarin resources page, they have free quizzes, such as one to find out your HSK level, or you can even take a mock HSK test. With their private tutoring, they offer both in-person or online sessions. According to their website, it is their most flexible option. The private classes also include a customized lesson plan. “These lessons are designed around your individual language goals, whether it be to pass language examinations, find work abroad or simply take up a new hobby.”
- Practical Mandarin- A school based in London, which also offers an impressive online option. They provide three different options to suit your level: Online Booster, Fluency Top up and Make it Regular. All three options are different prices and have different durations. On their website, Practical Mandarin highlights the fact that they have adapted their content with their new e-learning platform. As a result, it is available to teach to students who prefer having an online interface. Their claims are backed it up with testimonials from past students who were taught with their online sessions.
- City Lit- A charity based in central London, they provide tutoring for adults. One way they cater to adult learners is by creating flexible options, such as developing more online classes than in-person options. According to their website, City Lit “ [offers] a range of Chinese (Mandarin) courses at various levels to take you from a complete beginner to a confident speaker of the language.” Most of their classes are on weekday evenings. I like that they have a personal touch, posting a video of each of their teachers introducing themselves and showing their teaching style.
Online Chinese Tutoring for London-Based Learners
Whether you’re a busy professional or a student swamped with exams, if you desire a more customized learning experience with increased flexibility, a private one-on-one tutor might be an ideal choice for you. You can learn Chinese wherever and whenever you want.
- Preply- Preply is completely online. The website offers a large variety of languages. After you’ve chosen your target language, Preply asks a few short questions to help find the most suitable selection of tutors, for example reason for learning, level of Chinese and budget. I like that there are additional filters to help narrow down your search. For example, if the tutor knows any other languages, what your availability is or if they specialize in a certain area such as preparing for the HSK exam. I like that each teacher has a very detailed profile. This includes how many hours of lessons they’ve done and a rating out of five stars from past students. In addition, each teacher has an introductory video, with a link to view their schedule if you scroll over their profile.
- Touch Chinese – In contrast to general online language learning platforms that encompass Chinese among many languages, opting for a dedicated online Chinese school can offer in-depth and specialized instruction in this target language. There are numerous online Chinese schools to choose from. Take Touch Chinese, for example, where all their teachers are professionals in Chinese language acquisition with years of experience. Whether you want to enhance your speaking skills or prepare for exams, this school can help match you with a suitable tutor. You won’t need to spend time researching the tutors’ qualifications or stability because their course consultants will handle all of that. Moreover, they offer free trial classes, allowing you to determine if the tutor meets your needs. Even if the teacher doesn’t meet your expectations after the trial, you can always request a replacement.
From the multitude of Confucius Institutes and associated universities to local specialized Chinese schools and qualified online tutors, there is a variety of structured courses and custom learning plans available both in the capital of London and across the country. The numerous options to choose from make it more possible than ever to find the right school and right teacher to nurture your interest and enhance your Chinese proficiency. If you’re unsure where to start, pick a couple of resources from this article that interest you the most, research their course offerings and arrange a trial class. It could be the first step of a long-lasting relationship both with that school and with the Chinese language and culture.