Studying Mandarin in China

Dec 1st, 2006, 07:03 AM
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Studying Mandarin in China

I was wondering if anyone has ever studied Mandarin at a language institute or Uni in China? If so, would you recommend it? Thanks.
quebec is offline  
Dec 1st, 2006, 02:28 PM
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I'm sure this will irk some...

But consider learning your Chinese in at a university in Taiwan. Here is my reasoning:

1. The Mandarin accent taught in Taiwan is historically more "proper" given that it is closer to the accent spoken by aristocrats and bureaucrats (i.e., the educated elite) at the founding of modern China (early 20th century). These are the same folks who fled to Taiwan when they were ousted by the Communists in 1949. Nowadays, you will find that the most educated people in mainland China have accents similar to most everyday people in Taiwan.

2. Traditional characters are taught in Taiwan. If you're serious about learning Mandarin, you're going to have to learn characters as well. Traditional characters are historically correct, and down the road, it is far easier to read simplified (what is taught in mainland China) having already learned the traditional, than the other way around. Not to mention that traditional characters are used pretty much exclusively in Chinese restaurants in the western world.

If you want to visit China, you can always do so. Living standard in Taiwan is far better than most of China (save the new parts of Shanghai).

That all said, I highly recommend the course at National Taiwan Normal University. It is a teacher's college, and their language program is excellent.
kevinsu is offline  
Dec 1st, 2006, 06:33 PM
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Hi quebec
I studied Mandarin many moons ago in Beijing. At the time, it was taught in an old fashioned classroom environment. Cos it was so long ago, I advise you to take a look at this forum which has tonnes of info, and do a search.

I can't comment on Taiwan vs. Mainland China. A lot depends on why you want to learn.
bkkmei is offline  
Dec 1st, 2006, 07:04 PM
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Hm... The subject of traditional vs simplified Chinese is a sensitive one. But even though I grew up in Hong Kong and am personally partial to traditional characters, I think its debatable what a foreigner should learn first. It's hard to enough to learn one set of characters and simplified ones are used in China and Singapore, and increasingly more and more in Chinatowns around.

But there's another issue, which is pinyin. The mainland system is much more easy to use and more standardized. It's also one of the main ways to input Chinese characters on a computer. In fact, I use the mainland pinyin input myself, even though I am a native Cantonese speaker.

The easy way for a Chinese writer to input is using a tablet, but for a foreigner not knowing the written language to start with, I think pinyin will be easier.

In mainland, many of the road signs and store names, etc also has pinyin to go with the Chinese characters. That makes it easy to remind yourself how to pronounce the characters.
rkkwan is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2006, 07:11 AM
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I believe pinyin is widely taught in Mandarin courses in Taiwan universities these days. I do agree that it is easier.
kevinsu is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2006, 07:41 AM
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While pinyin is certainly easier, it's a mistake to rely on it. I took a few language lessons before my last trip to China, with an American who had only been to Taiwan and had a Taiwanese wife, and the phrase book he recommended had pinyin and no characters. I quickly found that I absolutely needed a phrase book with characters. Wait staff and taxi drivers, for instance, simply did not use pinyin! In seven weeks in China I don't think I saw a single menu with pinyin, although I did spend most of my time outside the big east coast cities. My Beijing, Shanghai and Xian hotels were a bit more upmarket than the places I usually stay, and they had English language menus, but my upmarket hotel in Datong had neither English nor pinyin on the menu. Did have pictures, though.
thursdaysd is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2006, 07:48 AM
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Pinyin is not a substitute for learning the characters. But it's a tool to learn the pronunciation of proper names, as well as for computer inputs. It's no help in everyday conversations or to write a sentence.

The pinyin of Taiwan uses a different method from the mainland. For example, the capital of Taiwan would be pinyin-ed as Taibei in China, not Taipei. Chiang Kai-Shek would be Jiang Jieshi.

rkkwan is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2006, 07:50 AM
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Oh, sorry for the last example.

Chiang Kai Chek is basically a English pinyin from the Cantonese pronunciation.

With Taiwan's pinyin, it would be Chiang Chieh-shih.

With China's, it's Jiang Jieshi.
rkkwan is offline  
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