“Should I send my kids to learn Chinese in China during the summer?”, I’ve been asked about this constantly.
The short answer is “Why not?”. According to CNN, China’s economy is expected to overtake the US by most economic measures by 2030 (not fake news!), and having kids learn the language of China early on is setting them up for a bright future.
Obviously, there’s no better place for your kids to learn Chinese other than China. The question should be “Where in China”?
With so many options to choose from, it can be daunting to decide on a camp in China. Hence, I decided to research the best summer camps in China.
2022 updates: Don’t let current travel restrictions keep your kids from studying Chinese. Tell the schools or camp organizers you’re interested in virtual Chinese immersion too. They are all adapting their offerings now so your kids can learn Chinese online.
The Best Summer Camps in China
After reading extensive reviews, sending email inquiries, and even calling their counselors, here are the top seven choices that stand out to me. (They are listed in no particular order, and there are several more camps that may be good that aren’t on this list, but these are ones that seem particularly great.)
The 7 best summer camps in China are:
- That’s Mandarin Summer Camp (Shanghai, Beijing & Shenzhen)
- MandarinRocks Summer Camp (Shanghai & Beijing)
- LTL Summer Camp (Shanghai & Beijing)
- Mandarin House Summer Camp (Shanghai & Beijing)
- RISH Summer Camp (Shanghai)
- Hutong School Summer Camp (Beijing)
- YK Pao School Chinese Culture Camp (Shanghai)
To help you pick your best fit, I’ve compiled a few details of each of the Chinese summer camps. Here it goes.
1. That’s Mandarin Summer Camp
Location: Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen
Type: class only (7-17yrs), day camp (7-17yrs), full camp (12-17yrs), family camp (7+yrs)
Start Date (2020): June 15, June 29, July 13, July 27, August 10
Length: 2 to 4 weeks
Price: from 857 USD to 6,857 USD (read the chart to compare)
The Chinese summer camp operated by That’s Mandarin is the easiest one to find on Google and probably the largest as well. (They did an excellent job in online marketing).
The private Chinese language school That’s Mandarin was founded in 2005 in Beijing, with one branch now in Shanghai, and another in Shenzhen. That’s Mandarin is the first Chinese language school in China to combine traditional classroom-based teaching and online learning.
They’ve hosted Chinese language camps for kids and teenagers in Beijing and Shanghai in the past years, and this year, they will run a new camp in Shenzhen as well. According to their website, over 3,000 campers have attended their programs since 2008, when the first summer camp was held.
There are five camp start dates in the summer of 2020 – 15 June, 29 June, 13 July, 27 July and 10 August. A typical day consists of cultural activities in the morning and Mandarin classes in the afternoon. Kids aged 7-11 can attend the day camp or the afternoon class-only program, while older kids aged 12-17 can stay overnight in a selected hotel (shared room) near the school or with a Chinese host family. They also offer the option of customized family camp if you wish to come along and join your kids.
- At other camps, kids usually use paper textbooks, which are heavy and easy to lose. At That’s Mandarin, kids study Chinese using an online learning system, where all the learning materials are recorded. Kids can access multimedia features and their notes taken in class.
- There are often too many kids in the camp surpassing the scale of their school (over 300 campers every summer), and their activities/tours are joined by large groups, which brings down the overall Chinese learning experience.
- The program is somewhat pricey for what they offer compared with other camps, and their prices continue to rise sharply ever year.
2. MandarinRocks Summer Camp
Location: Shanghai, Beijing
Type: day camp (7-11yrs), full camp (12-20yrs), family camp (7+yrs)
Start Date (2020): June 15, June 29, July 06, July 20, August 03
Length: 2 to 8 weeks
Price: from 1,580 USD to 9,300 USD (read the chart to compare)
MandarinRocks is one of the oldest summer camp operators in China (since 2005) and their Mandarin immersion program has been the industry leader in Shanghai for many years. They started to host another camp for kids in Beijing from 2018.
Their school was founded nearly 2 decades ago, in 2001 and is accredited by WYSE Travel Confederation, the world’s most authoritative body to represent the global youth travel industry. (Members of WYSE Travel Confederation are recognized as market leaders in youth, backpacking, educational and student travel). MandarinRocks is also a member of NAFSA, the leading professional association dedicated to international education.
MandarinRocks has a relatively small camp capacity. Usually, only 30-40 campers are enrolled each year (in each destination), Participants mainly come from the USA, Canada, UK, Spain, France, Germany, Singapore, and Malaysia. Other students come from Russia, Italy, Poland, Holland, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, etc. Some of the participants are of Chinese ancestry or Chinese living abroad.
Their summer camp is a great balance between Mandarin Study, leisure and travel. Students are divided into different age groups. They take Mandarin lessons in the morning in small classes according to their Mandarin levels (average 3-4 students per class) and join activities together in the afternoon. The activities include city exploration, cultural workshops, sports, and recreation.
Students who choose day camp only attend from Monday to Friday while full campers will have the opportunity to explore a different city or interesting attraction every weekend. For youngsters traveling with parents, they offer customized family camps that offer family accommodation and give parents the option to take Chinese courses, activities and weekend excursions.
- Their Shanghai camp (in Jing’an) and Beijing camp (in Dongzhen) are both located in the city centers. It’s easy to arrange accommodation and logistics if you enroll your kids in day camps or travel with them.
- Their group size is small enough to give the camping experience a personal touch, but big enough to create a good social vibe. Your kids can make friends with others without feeling like they are just another face in a big crowd.
- Their camp size is on a small side, so the spots are easy to fill up. You may need to book well ahead of time.
3. LTL Summer Camp
Location: Shanghai, Beijing
Type: class only (7-17yrs), day camp (7-11yrs), full camp (12-17yrs)
Start Date (2020): June 14, June 21, June 28, July 05, July 12, July 19, July 26, August 02
Length: 1 to 8 weeks
Price: from 426 USD to 9,143 USD (read the chart to compare)
LTL has a relatively shorter history of running summer camps and their program is a replica of the before-mentioned camps.
Unlike That’s Mandarin and MandarinRocks that are 100% Chinese companies, LTL school is founded by a German national living in Beijing and managed by an international team. Their Shanghai school was born in 2016.
Despite the short history, the school has won many awards, such as the 2019 Excellence Award by languagecourse.net and the Exceptional Language School by languagebooking.com. They are also a trusted member of IALC, the world’s oldest and biggest international private language school association.
Most of the kids attending their summer camps come from Germany, the USA, Italy, and Russia. A day in LTL summer camp is typically longer than other camps, with Mandarin lessons divided into morning sessions and afternoon sessions, and activities finish around 18:30. (There are 20 hours of lessons and 5 activities each week)
The full camp is all-inclusive (less airfare, insurance, visa expense). Students can choose to stay in a student residence with other kids or a Chinese homestay (on average the distance to school is 45 minutes by metro/bus) and take day trips on Saturdays.
- They have an international management team that speaks multiple languages (German, English, Italian, Russian…), and this can make communication and issue handling easier both for parents/kids from certain countries.
- Their price is lower than other schools.
- Unlike other schools that have their own building or campus to offer a more genuine camp environment, your kids essentially go camping in their office packed with adult learners. (Both LTL schools in Shanghai and Beijing are located in office buildings).
- They’ve prepared overwhelming paperwork involving legal technicality. There are too many documents for you to read and sign in the enrollment process.
4. Mandarin House Summer Camp
Location: Shanghai, Beijing
Type: class only (7-19yrs), day camp (7-19yrs), full camp (15-19yrs)
Start Date (2020): June 22, July 06, July 20, August 03
Length: 1 to 8 weeks
Price: from 427 USD to 8674 USD (read the chart to compare)
Mandarin House is one of the most reputable Chinese language schools in China. They are recognized by the Ministry of Education of China as an official HSK (Chinese proficiency) test center and received the “World Language Provider Star Award” from Study Travel Magazine in 2009 and 2013.
Back in the old days, the school had a very large scale with more than 10 branches across China, but in recent years, it was surpassed by other schools and downsized to 2 only (Shanghai & Beijing), nevertheless, they’ve been running summer camps without intermission since 2004 and has accumulated rich experience. According to their website, over 1,000 kids have attended their programs so far.
Mandarin House summer camp is very similar to the others, with half-day Chinese lessons, half-day activities and weekend excursions. What’s different is that full campers will all stay with Chinese families instead of hotels or apartments. This gives your kids the chance to immerse in the Chinese language and experience the life, culture, and traditions of the ordinary Chinese family.
5. RISH Summer Camp
Type: full camp (8-18yrs)
Start Date (2020): June 23, July 04, July 07, July 19, July 23
Length: 16 to 18 days
Price: from 2,929 USD to 3,400 USD (read the chart to compare)
Unlike many other summer camp operators, RISH is not a language school, but an education travel service. They work with some top universities in Shanghai and host the summer camps on their campuses.
Their summer camp is more like a study tour. Kids will have intensive Mandarin lessons and activities on campus in the first two weeks, and at the end of the program, depending on which session you enroll your kids, they can explore a different city (Hangzhou, Beijing, or Nanjing) on a 4-day tour.
There are two major differences between RISH Summer Camp and the others.
1. Students in RISH summer camp live on campus (in hotels/dormitories owned by the universities which are only open to teachers, students and parents) while campers at private language schools usually need to commute between apartment/homestay and school on daily basis.
The benefit of living on a university campus is that the kids can have access to all the facilities there such as gymnasium, track filed, tennis court, swimming pool, library, cafeteria, school clinic, etc.
The downside is that usually the universities RISH works with are located far away from downtown or anything interesting in the city, making it difficult for mature students to explore Shanghai on their own outside of class. It will likely create a feeling of “isolation”. Besides, the accommodations operated by universities are usually not as good as the ones arranged by private schools.
2. RISH does not have any Mandarin teachers of their own, and they rely on university teachers to give the lessons. The teaching materials are written by BLCU language professors. (BLCU or Beijing Language and Culture University is commonly regarded as the best university for teaching Chinese as a foreign language)
Though this is advertised as a “unique selling point” by RISH, my personal experience with Chinese universities, particularly BLCU (I studied two years there) told me it could go both ways: your kids can end up with the best or the worst teachers. I haven’t tested out on RISH, but I had both the most experienced, interesting teachers and a bunch of awful teachers in my university – they were able to get a teaching position because of their personal connections.
Besides, universities’ teaching methods work on long terms but can be extremely boring for kids. During the two weeks, it’s hard to say how much your kids can perceive or progress in speaking as they’ll focus on characters and phonetics.
That said, RISH does include one hour 1-on-1 Chinese tutoring every evening in the program to give kids an extra opportunity to practice Chinese.
And if you are looking for a kid program in China that combines language learning and eye-opening trips, RISH summer camp does seem like the perfect fit! (Other camps only organize day trips)
6. Hutong School Summer Camp
Type: full camp (14-17yrs)
Start Date (2020): May 31, July 05, August 02
Length: 2 weeks
Price: 2204 USD (read the chart to compare)
Hutong School is another Mandarin school founded by a foreigner in Beijing (Belgian). The school has an international team formed of people from China, Belgium, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Argentina, the USA…to name a few.
The school has won many awards such as the Service Excellence Award by iStudy Global, Mandarin School of the Year by Bonapp. They have 7 learning centers in China and another 7 abroad. However, they only run summer camp in Beijing this year.
Their summer camp is only for teens aged between 14 and 17 years old. Students will stay in a youth hostel close to the school.
A typical day at Hutong Summer camp starts at 9:00 am when students take small group Chinese lessons till noon. After Chinese class, students will take part in a range of cultural activities through which they’ll learn more about the local culture of Beijing. They include some trips to the most important historical sites (the Great Wall, Summer Palace, etc), cultural workshops and lectures.
- They have an international team that speaks multiple languages. Some of them are previous students. Their personal experience of studying abroad helps them provide the students with the support they need to overcome culture shock/homesickness and enjoy their experience.
- Medical insurance is included in their program (not in other camps)
- They don’t have any program for younger kids or day camp.
- Compared with other camps, the accommodation in the youth hostel (bunker beds) is less than ideal.
7. YK Pao School Chinese Culture Camp
Type: Day camp (5-15yrs)
Start Date (2020): not released yet
Length: 2 weeks
Price: not released yet
You probably won’t find much information about YK Pao School Chinese Culture Camp online, because they don’t do any publicity other than on their own website.
However, YK Pao is one of the most well-known International Chinese schools in Shanghai. The school is a non-profit private institution founded in 2007, in memory of shipping magnate Sir Yue-Kong Pao, the renowned Chinese businessman, statesman, and philanthropist. There are over 1,400 students from China and overseas taking their year 1-12 education programs.
Every Year, YK Pao school hosts educational summer camps for both YK Pao school students and kids from other schools. Their Chinese Culture Camp is specifically designed for non-native Chinese speakers to learn about the language and China’s culture.
Their summer camp promises to enhance your kids’ conversational skills in Chinese, as well as hone their ability to read and write Chinese characters via activity-based lessons and real-life learning. Besides classroom-based lessons, your kid will also be taking part in fun-filled playing, calligraphy classes, martial arts sessions and community visits – that will enhance the whole learning experience.
At the time of writing, they haven’t published the dates/prices for the 2020 summer camp yet. You can contact them for more information via email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +86-21-61671999-8306
- There are lots of Chinese kids at the school attending different programs (sports, music, etc) during the summer, so there are plenty of chances for your kids to interact and practice Chinese with them.
- Essentially they are a K-12 school and their program targets Chinese kids and expatriate kids living in Shanghai. It could be difficult to arrange logistics if your family lives outside of Shanghai.
Price Comparison of the Summer Camps in China (in USD)
|That’s Mandarin||Mandarin Rocks||LTL||Mandarin House||RISH||Hutong|
*Note that most schools quote prices in CNY, and the prices in USD converted from CNY (7 CNY=1 USD at the time of writing) are subject to change with CNY/USD currency exchange rate fluctuations.