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ganmo

Studying Mandarin in Guangzhou

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ganmo

Hello,

I have planned to study mandarin chinese in China, and I have come down to the conclusion that Guangzhou will benefit me mostly for some personal reasons. But I have one big question I need an answer for. From most of the topics on this forum everyone says that in Guangzhou people first choice language is cantonese. I need to know whether it is true. If it is then it probably won't do me any good if I plan to learn mandarin.

btw my mother tongue is cantonese, will it help me someone giving me enough reason to study mandarin chinese in Guangzhou?

Edited by roddy

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kdavid

You're going to get plenty of people telling you that it doesn't matter where you study as all teachers will speak "standard Mandarin" in the classroom, and that everyone under the age of 35ish will be able to speak Mandarin on the street.

I don't buy it. I think that if you're coming here to study Mandarin, and you want to study for fluency and not just a semester abroad, you absolutely must go to the NE.

One of the most important factors influencing second language acquisition is dialect of immersion. Going to Guangzhou to study Mandarin would be like going to the sticks of Scotland to study American English. What you hear outside of the classroom is going to be very different from what you hear inside the classroom.

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jbiesnecker
You're going to get plenty of people telling you that it doesn't matter where you study as all teachers will speak "standard Mandarin" in the classroom, and that everyone under the age of 35ish will be able to speak Mandarin on the street.

I'm going to be one of those people. :mrgreen:

I studied in the northeast, and I'll tell you (in Changchun, at least) what you hear on the streets and "standard Mandarin" are pretty different, too. Not as different as Cantonese, perhaps, but 東北話 is not textbook Mandarin. I currently live in Shanghai, where the default language of the locals is Shanghainese, but because of the massive number of non-Shanghainese in the city, Mandarin is still the de facto language. Yes, the accents are different, and there are probably some word and expression differences, but they're not huge. When visiting Guangzhou I spoke Mandarin exclusively, and while there's some funny pronunciation its nothing that would greatly impede learning.

What I would be worried about if I were you is that, because you're a native Cantonese speaker, you'll just rely on Cantonese because its a lot easier than learning Mandarin. You'll be a lot more motivated to learn the language if you're in a place where your current language skills won't help you out.

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kurii

With a large population of immigrant workers in Guangzhou, you'd be exposed to Mandarin variants all over the country. I encourage people to speak in accents which add colourful charm to them. No Chinese, I believe, speaks textbook Mandarin in a real life situation. That's not even a Chinese equivalent of Queen's English; you can hear that nowhere but in textbook recording.

*Please note, no offence is intended to the fans of textbook accents whatsoever.

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ganmo

kurii

you say it is better to learn mandarin with strong influence of non standard accent?

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jbradfor

I'm not sure whether it is better or worse. But let me tell you my experience, and why it might be better.

When I studied Mandarin, I was exposed only to "standard" Mandarin and mild Taiwan accents. While I learned to understand them, to this day I am unable to understand any other accent. Even the slightly accent throws me off. This is a big problem.

Now obviously with practice I could overcome that. But the point is that I never had that practice, so I didn't.

If you study in a place with many different accents, it might impede you at first, but you will learn to understand more people.

And I serious doubt your accent will suffer, since you will get your accent mostly by copying your teachers.

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kurii

That isn't exactly what I meant. Like English, a variety of Mandarin accents are considered standard; the Beijing accent isn't the only standard form. I understand as a Mandarin learner, learning to speak properly may be your priority. But adopting the Beijing accent (as many do) or a general northern accent isn't of necessity by any means. An accent characterised by non-standard features is linguistically and socially acceptable, when the speaker is understandable. In fact, native Mandarin speakers of southern backgrounds may find foreign accents more intelligible than northern ones, depending on the individual, and not vice versa. Despite non-native, in the perspective of southerners, foreigners' Mandarin is more standard than northerners in the sense that they don't use the rhotic consonant (er). Though I'm aware that rhoticisation is a primary element of the textbook accent.

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imron
Like English, a variety of Mandarin accents are considered standard;
I would have said that Mandarin is the complete opposite of English in this regard. At least in mainland China, standard Mandarin is very well defined, as are the varying degrees of how close one is to this standard. See for example the 普通话水平测试 and the fact that various occupations require minimum levels on this test (e.g. level 2 for teachers, level 1 for broadcasters etc). It's also worth pointing out that despite common misconception, the Beijing accent is not standard Mandarin and 儿化 isn't just a feature of a northern accent, but is actually specified for certain words as part of standard Mandarin - with the addition of 儿化 changing the meaning slightly from the same word without 儿化 (again, look at materials related to the 普通话水平测试 for examples).

Which is not to say that different accents aren't understood or accepted, I'm just saying that for better or worse, standard Mandarin is very well defined, and (on the mainland at least) there are not a variety of accents considered standard.

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one_night_in_BJ

I live in BJ and traveled to GZ. I was surprised how rarely I heard GDH in GZ. You will learn anywhere you go and if you have personal reasons for wanting to go there, then it's settled. You can learn PTH in Canada, you can certainly learn it in GZ. Everyone speaks PTH there.

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anonymoose

I think probably the largest disadvantage (for you) studying mandarin in Guangzhou is what jbiesnecker said above:

What I would be worried about if I were you is that, because you're a native Cantonese speaker, you'll just rely on Cantonese because its a lot easier than learning Mandarin.

Since you are chinese, locals will probably speak to you in cantonese by default. Under such circumstances I think the temptation to respond in cantonese would be very difficult to resist when the alternative is having to force out some awkward mandarin.

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SirDude

Hi Ganmo,

I have to say I second the opinion of Jbiesnecker. More then likely you will end up using more Cantonese then Mandarin when times get tough. So for that reason alone I would say go to a place where you would be forced to learn only Mandarin.

Now, with that said, if you look up some of my old post on this forum, you will find a very insightful debate on "accents" between the north and south. In my opinion, what you are asking is like asking two people in the US which car company they like better, Ford or Chevy?

What I found while trying to learn Mandarin here in the US is a person needs to decide why they are learning or what they need the language for? If you are like me, and are going to GZ for work, love, etc. Then study in that area. If you are going to play tourist, then standard Mandarin works good enough everywhere.

Since I met my girlfriend (lives in GZ) I have learned that most of what I started studying doesn't sound right. I personally have put my studies on hold until I actually get to GZ. (hopefully in the mid of this year) For me, I need to be able to communicate with local people more then I need to talk with people from the north, etc.

I am sorry if I didn't give you a direct answer of what is best for you, but I hope my information has helped you define your goal or reason for studying.

Best of Luck to you!

SirDude

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jingatom

In most of the posts,it sounds like people in Guangzhou could not speak manderin. But as a person who was born and raised in Guangzhou,I have a different opinion of it.

Its true that many local people in Guangzhou speak Cantondse,but they can speak manderin too. I myself are capable with both Cantonese and Manderin.

There are thousands of Chinese from north coming down to guangzhou for work,school,love,etc. The Cantonese speaking learn to respect those non-cantonese speaking in an early age. For example,there are five of us are chatting. Even if there is only one person who cant understand Cantonese,we will talk in Manderin.

On the other hand,the percentage of the people in guangzhou who dont speak cantonese is increasing. Especially the younger generation in guangzhou whos parents are mostly from north are not good at cantonese. In my four-years studying in a university in guangzhou,I rarely speak Cantonese. Why?Because 90% of my classmates are from north.

Some people also argue that cantonese-speakers have a strong accent. I wont deny this fact. But. considering that there are hundreds of different dialects in different areas around China,the only "standard" manderin may only exist in Beijing. I had a teacher before who has strong northern Chinese manderin accent which was his speaking speed was extremely fast!I still missed some points he was lecturing when I pay attention to it.

Thank you for reading,it was just my opinion about learning manderin from guangzhou.

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winny

Hello, I'm planning to learn mandarin starts this September in China. But i still haven't decided which university to choose between Wuhan University and Universities in Guangzhou.

Could anyone please give me information which one is better to study mandarin for a year, in Sun Yat Sen University or Jinan University? I need to hear the point of view from students in each university, especially about the class condition (how many student in a class), teaching quality (is the teacher easy to comprehend) and are you satisfied with the uni (because there are some students who wished to be in another uni).

Thanks in advance.

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xuefang

Hi Winny!

Check out this new thread for Sun Yat-Sen University: http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/35498-sun-yat-sen-university/page__fromsearch__1

What Takeshi wrote could help you to decide between the universities. I also study at Sun Yat-Sen University, but us degree students have different courses and sometimes different teachers.

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Takeshi

As I said in the thread, Sun Yat-Sen University is almost like a Mandarin enclave inside of Guangzhou. (Okay, that's quite a bit of an exaggeration, I could write another post agreeing with jingatom but you get my point.) The people in SYSU have a significantly higher % of Mandarin use than the rest of the city either way though, because it is a prestigious university with lots of people coming from outside.

I haven't been to Jinan University, but from the rumours I hear, there would be more Cantonese speaking Chinese students, less Graduate Student teachers, less students per class etc etc. Perhaps the Jinan learning environment itself may be better, but Sun Yat-Sen University is definitely much more "prestigious" if you care about that at all, and I think the out-of-class environment might be better.

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brettb

Bump!

Hi all,

I'm a 40yo male and I'm interested in living in China for a while. I've previously visited Gz twice in 2011, so I know what I'm letting myself in for :lol: . I like the idea of studying Mandarin at a Gz University, but I'm not sure which one is best for me. I was thinking about Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS). My friend studied there and it seems a nice friendly campus. What's putting me off is the limited accommodation options for foreigners - I'm too old to share a room again!

I guess I could find off campus accommodation, but I'm wondering if I would be better off at Sun Yat Sen University or South China University of Technology or somewhere else?

I guess my priority is:

To find somewhere in Gz that will give me an X Visa. I'm not interested in any other Chinese cities.

Not too many teaching hours as I'm fairly burnt out and need to take things easy for a while.

Good quality single room on campus.

Closeness of campus to central Gz

Good options for foreigners to find accommodation off-campus.

Opportunities to gain some teaching practice or build up my contacts in Asia.

Are any of these Universities in the Tianhe area? My favourite restaurant is there :mrgreen: .

I'm not really fussed about teaching quality. Money's not a problem either. I've already done a 5 month Mandarin course so I know the basics. If I like living in Gz I might stick around and do an MBA (taught in English).

Thanks for your help!

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xuefang

I don't have all the answers but here are a few:

- If you study at the south campus of South China University of Technology it's located at the Guangzhou Higher Education Mega Center/University Town/University Island. There isn't any off campus accommodation. (There is, but foreigners aren't allowed to live in the villages. I lived there for 6 months and got kicked out by the police.)

- There isn't enough dorm room for everyone at the south campus (main campus at Haizhu District where foreigners study Chinese) of Sun Yat-Sen University (SYSU), but there are lots of possibilites to rent off campus, like I'm doing at the moment.

- If I'm not mistaken, at SYSU non-degree students usually have lessons from 8.55 to 12.25 OR from 14.25 to 17.55.

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brettb

Thanks XueFang. I need to do a lot more research. The trouble is without being able to read much Chinese it's kind of hard to find out that much about Chinese Universities.

South China University of Technology looks interesting because of my IT background. But I don't really like the idea of being so far from the centre of Gz, I certainly don't want to hang round on campus 24/7.

I'll do some more research on Sun Yat-Sen University. I've not really been to Haizhu district.

I'd quite like to find out more about Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS). It's in Baiyun district, so the air should be a little better. On the downside the "countryside" round there is a bit shabby.

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Lyn

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hanaxsan

I know this thread is a bit old now (oh my, 2 years!) but I'd like some help regarding studying Mandarin in GZ.

 

I am about to start my last year in high school now, and I want to study Mandarin for a year before I enter university later in my life. I'm of Chinese decent and have been using Cantonese in my home. But seeing how convenient Mandarin could be, not only when I'm visiting, but also online, I decided it could be a good idea to study it. GZ is, perhaps, the only city I'd prefer the most to study in, as I have family there, so it'll be easier for me.

 

Anyway.. I'm looking for some suggestions or help regarding where I could study Mandarin in GZ, the costs, etc. I know from some brochures that only Bejing and Shanghai offers that, but after reading this thead - though it is 2 years old - I start to doubt it, and am willing to search again. 

 

Well, thanks in advance!

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