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no knowledge of mandarin, yet wanting to study it in Shanghai (+choosing uni)

Boung J

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Ni Hao everyone,

I'm a twenty three years old dude from Thailand, just graduated from university college london last year. Well, after that i decided I don't really want to work yet so I'm going to be using my savings (+loans from parents) to spent some time abroad learning a third language.

Admittedly, learning Mandarin is not the sole reason. I'm a city person, and all my life I spent in big cities, so naturally Shanghai provides an interesting change of scenery. Though I heard that Beijing, or any other second tier cities, would be a better choice for learning the language, I believe that it won't be much of an issue for me since at the moment I have got no knowledge of the language at all. Would that be a correct assumption to make?

So, I want to learn Mandarin, and spent some time (at least a year, possibly two) in Shanghai (and China generally) to learn the culture and get in touch with my heritage (since, well, I'm a forth generation Chinese immigrant. Does that still count?). But I've got some concerns.

1. Is it a good idea to start Mandarin from scratch here in Shanghai? I mean, between now and Feb I'll try to cram in as much materials as possible to get by once I arrived. But is it a good idea? Should I learn some basics first before going?

2. In that case, would private school be better than university for me? I have been reading around, on this forum and other places, that it would be more individually focused, and that class size would be smaller, thus speeding up the learning process. However, they are somewhat pricey. About twice or triple the cost of what university would cost, and that the student population will be more vibrant with university courses (quite important).

2.1 Anyway, do you guys have something nice to recommend with regard to private school? I heard few bad things about MandarinHouse. I've looked into iMandarin and Miracle Mandarin and they appear to be well respected.

3. What about university program? From what I've gathered most of them are pretty much the same, curriculum wise. The amount of english being spoken and number of foreign students might be a hindrance to learning progress. However, since I do not know a word of Mandarin apart from ni hao and wo ai nee I rather prefer to have a few english speaking people around me, or else I won't be able to communicate with anyone, at least for the first few months.

3.1 I've been looking into Fudan, ecnu and Jiao Tong uni. At the moment I'm dissing Fudan, since I heard more than a few complain about its course. It's also far away from the city centre, and I heard the amount of english speaking population with their party attitude would mean that I could get away with not learning Mandarin at all, but most importantly, that I will spent all my time drinking (I do not want to repeat the college experience for the second time, at least not all the time). So looks like it's between ecnu and Jiao Tong, unless someone can restore my faith in Fudan. I like the fact that they are closer to the city centre. But they might be more expensive, accommodation wise. What's a realistic price to pay for a good, single person room with built in bathroom facility? And is there much to choose from from ecnu and Jiao Tong?

Wow that's a long post. FInally is anyone else going to Shanghai, or to any of the aforementioned school next Feb? Would be nice to know someone beforehand.

Ah i know it's a long post, but I promise to buy you a pint, if i get a chance to meet any of you guys kind enough to give me some advice, next year! (beer ain't too pricey ain't it?) :)


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I bought a book (Practical Chinese Reader) and taught myself some basics. I got a Chinese friend to help me initially with my pronunciation and tones, and had him at a call away to answer things I didn't understand. Ended up paying for a few hours of his time.

After getting on to the second book, I went to Beijing to study full time. I started at their second level (equivalent of having already studied a semester). I probably should have started at the beginning, but I felt this would confirm that all the time I'd spent trying to learn on my own was a waste :)

Universities take on people with no Mandarin at all, so don't worry about that. I picked Beijing so can't help you with the rest.

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after that i decided I don't really want to work...

n Shanghai (and China generally) to learn the culture and get in touch with my heritage...

These leap out at me. I'm all in favour of not working for a year, and indeed as long as possible, but to what extent is this a year off, and to what extent is it a year of head-down study? Either are fine, but it's going to affect your choices. What culture and heritage are you talking about, specifically, because Shanghai isn't dripping in either - it's not the wasteland some make it out to be, but if you're expecting some olde-time China experience, you're going to be disappointed (although that might be the case in any Chinese city).

There's no need to commit to anything for a year - in the first instance you can sign up for a semester at a university, or just a month or so at a private school. Or find a private school for January, and if that doesn't work out try a university when the semester starts in February.

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ah, it's a figure of speech, really, rather than anything literal. Basically my entire family has a strong chinese root, but since I'm quite far removed from that root it's all but gone with my generation. My dad and other relatives could speak Cantonese but I know nothing about it. I figured I wanted to learn a chinese language too, since it will also be useful with China becoming a major world power, but Cantonese seems a bit too restricted in use, so in the end it's Mandarin. I have been meaning to learn it for some time now but have not been able to pursue it for various reason (college degree, part time job, etc.).

As for not working for a year. well, it's more like not working for another year. see, after i graduated i got drafted into the military (conscription is enforced in Thailand) for almost a year. now that it's done the natural course of action would be to find a job. But even though i got a degree from a uk uni, the job prospect here isn't looking very good. I have made more money from selling stuffs online than some of my uk graduated friends made working in Thailand. Most of the good jobs require a master degree at least anyway, and being bi lingual doesn't give much of an advantage anymore. I think that knowing Mandarin will surely open more doors in the future, and I would at some point be very likely needing it in a business environment. So I think maybe a year or two of Mandarin, until I can get the HSK qualification, and then maybe a master degree in China afterward. That is, as long as I am able to afford all the expenses.

Moreover I have heard that the older you get the harder it is to learn a new language, so I think now's the best time to learn Mandarin. And yeah, I'm quite serious about learning, more so than partying. Having said that, you need to blow off some steam now and then don't you?

So I'm thinking east china normal university would be the best choice atm, any other recommendation (i heard from some where that loads of pretty girls go there :wink: )

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I spent nine months at Fudan and agree that it is too far from the city center, especially if you plan to stay out a lot after the subway trains shut down (between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.). It is a good school and probably not more of a party school than any other university. However, I like being downtown near the historical architecture and (I'm not ashamed to admit) the Western restaurants.

If you're looking for "loads of pretty girls," you may want to add Donghua University (formerly, the China Textile University) to your list of schools to consider. Two words: hot models.

See, also, for one guy's opinion:


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