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7 Years in China and Google Translate Is Still My Best Friend

Jenny Andrea Jingkids 2021-10-19

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After seven years in China, you’d think that navigating the streets of Beijing should be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, it’s anything but. Just yesterday, I was trying to get to my school for some editorial work and spontaneously decided to take public transport for the first time in a long time, because I’m just that adventurous (and my phone was out of service so ordering a Didi was a no-go).


I thought I knew my way around the city pretty well. Boy, was I wrong. I couldn’t seem to find a bus station anywhere in the area. After walking for what felt like an eternity, I finally spotted my golden goose: the Jintai Lu subway station. I’m much more familiar with subway routes, which is why I was relieved to have seen a station on the horizon. Before I knew it, I was darting through the busy streets and running down the escalator to buy a subway ticket, so that I could reach school as fast as my little legs would allow.



I'm not entirely fluent in Chinese which is why I was not able to ask around for guidance or direction. Even if I had, I would not have understood a single word and would have probably hit them with a good old “Duì!” or “Shénme?” Worst of all, I couldn't rely on my best friend Google Translate (nor Google Maps) either. Tell me you're having a bad day without telling me you're having a bad day.


Living in a foreign country and not being able to speak the language is a struggle on the whole, and not just here in Beijing. The language barrier often sets us back and restricts us in countless ways: whether we’re ordering food, trying to find our way around town, or even something as simple as buying groceries from the local Jīng kè lóng


And honestly, I encourage everyone living in China who can't speak Chinese yet, to do the same.


Learning the language will not only keep you open-minded but also allow you to get the most out of your stay here in China. Becoming entirely fluent certainly won't happen overnight. However, it’s a great first step towards autonomy and having to rely less on the same three Chinese words you learned the first week you got to Beijing.


Images: Unsplash

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