Beijing runners club helps new expat arrivals learn Chinese

Published:  21 Mar at 6 PM
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Tagged: China
For newly arrived expats, keeping fit may not be the priority, but one Beijing social running club is great for practicing the local language.

Learning to speak Mandarin Chinese is probably the most challenging aspect of a move to China, not only because it’s one of the world’s most difficult languages to master but because of its hidden cultural aspects. Also, just like all other languages, Chinese has its slang expressions and words, most of which aren’t included in the formal language schools and private tuition taken by most new expat arrivals.

At the same time, keeping fit, healthy and positive about relocation to this amazing country is important, with taking up exercise as a hobby the best way to shrug off frustrations and worries. Expats based in Beijing have the perfect opportunity, along with a surprising added bonus. With its over 300 members, the Heyrunning group has been a hub for both foreign and Chinese runners at all levels since its establishment in 2010 by elite Swedish runner Linus Holmsater. The meet-ups and runs give newly arrived expats the chance to practice their Chinese in a way impossible during structured lessens.

Over the years, it’s also become the best way for new arrivals to socialise with local Chinese runners as well as other expats. Post-training dinners now provide face-to-face lessons in contemporary Mandarin unavailable through private lessons or expensive language school classes. The expat runners are treated to Chinese slang, known as cheng-yu, becoming familiar with the everyday language spoken on the streets by the Chinese themselves. According to the foreign runners, the club’s frequent trips to running events have helped them become far more fluent in the language than they ever expected.
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