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gkaa

Best place to study Chinese (nr. of foreigners, climate, dialect etc)

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roddy

Used to live near BNU and I'm a big fan. Actually, Chris, have a read and tell me how much it's changed...

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Chris Two Times

Roddy,

 

Thanks for pointing that post out to me. I read it and I like your words.

 

I've been in Beijing a month exactly so I am still getting my bearings set. I'm living in this area and I don't even realize how good I have it!

 

To be honest, that write-up of yours of this area, despite being seven and a half years old, still seems to fit according to my limited experience here. You verbalized very nicely why I do like "the feel" of this area. I like "down-to-earth" Chinese places and I don't need all of the flash of Sanlitun and whatever to keep me going.

 

In my continued search for "my place" to study for 2015-2016, BNU and its environs are starting to look better and better.

 

Continued thanks for all your work on chinese-forums. I've been perusing them every day, and every day I always come up with another valuable nugget of information. Good stuff.

 

Warm regards,

Chris Two Times

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roddy

No worries - just keep asking questions and sharing information you find. Might not feel like it now but in a year you could be a guru on BNU and the nearby area...

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Huina

I'm currently studying in Nanjing and I'd say the local accent is pretty close to standard putonghua. It's a quieter city, really nice, lush. I'd say the accent is soft spoken and a little lispy, the "sh" is very very soft. Not too many people here speak English. 

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AdamD
I usually just stick around Haidian District near Beijing Normal University. [...] I was the only foreigner there and the older guys started to get curious when they saw me show up every day. It was then easier to break the ice and start chatting with them.

 

Chris: Brilliant! I'll get over there and have a look around. Do you have any tips about places where I could get myself into language trouble (that don't involve fitness!), or just have a good chance of talking to people? I'm conspicuously not a student there, so I don't want to be one of those people who hangs around campuses trying to start conversations.

 

roddy: Thanks for posting that link. Excellent 海淀 tips that I can use. (I considered staying there but ended up going with 鼓楼 for convenience.)

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roddy

Adam, my knowledge of that area is a few years out of date, but I get very enthusiastic about it and can't help weighing in anyway. So bearing that in mind. 

 

It might feel a bit foreigner-heavy, but I always found the branch of Sculpting in Time at the south gate of BNU to be a very friendly place. Sit on the bench seats and put something interesting on your table and the chances are someone'll start a conversation. 

 

Head west along 学院南路 to 文慧园西路 on the south side. That *used* to be a strip of small food stalls, restaurants, etc. Stop off and ask vendors about their products. Sit on a stool and smile at people. Ask some questions. Keep doing that by say... keep heading south, crossing 文慧园路 to what I think is 文慧园斜街? (Google Maps has it as 'byway', it's the diagonal one. Wander the streets between 文慧园路 and the river for a while. Come out on 新街口外 and either head home, wander back to BNU, or maybe try the same on the east side of 新街口外 (which I don't remember as being that interesting). Alternatively, cross over 二环 and walk round the lakes. 

 

I'd dearly love some photos from around there. Hell, stick a new topic up with photos and a report on your afternoon of wandering a random Chinese neighbourhood and starting conversations. 

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AdamD

Thank you! Fantastic.

 

I'm terrible at just starting conversations with strangers (the classic 内向的人 here), so if for some reason I don't get beyond chatting to vendors, I'll at least take photos and write accounts.

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AdamD

roddy: Thank you so much for your tips. I did exactly what you suggested and had two solid conversations in the area: one with a bloke who was maintaining the toilets (he said '老外', I said '对' and it went from there), and one in a dumpling place with two customers and the owners that lasted about half an hour. I also went to Sculpting in Time twice with no success (the bench seats were full the first time and empty the second), but the cake is incredible there. This area was in fact my first real success with talking to people beyond pleasantries or unrelenting 听不懂 on my part, so it was a huge turning point for me.

I've got a heap of photos and will start a thread about the area once I've sorted myself out. Not sure what to call it (四道口? 北师大的周围?) or where to put it just yet. I'll also start a thread for the best ways to get into conversations in China, because I discovered a few delicious and failsafe ways to get talking to people.

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Johnny20270

Interesting thread. Actually I think the problem with Beijing is that although you immerse yourself as Adam says, there is a natural 'pull' to English environment

 

I see this everyday in Beijing. Its just easy to say "sodd it, I'll just speak English and go to starbucks, pop in pizzahut and read the English menu and start hanging out with class mates etc" For example if I turn on 'look around' in whatsapp, I get about 10 people a day will contact me all with good English. 

 

I guess it depends on what stage in life you are and what you are looking for. I meet my friend in Beijing and she wants to go to Sanlitun, western restaurants, Irish bars etc. I can see why they like that but for me its just a sh#tty version of the UK. (more people, more expensive, more annoying and more polluted). If I was 25 or so I'd have liked this, but now I have no interest. Actually I really like Nanjing. I was only there a few times but I saw very few foreigners and had a good feeling about it. Same with Xi'an. In both places whether it be sitting in a coffee shop, in a park, more often than not, someone came up to me (not scamming, just wanting chit chat) and could barely speak English. 

 

I ended up in Beijing as it was just too hard to organize anywhere else. My friend set up up with mobile phone, apartment etc.  Also long term visa (X1) was just not possible anywhere else outside a university.  

 

As soon as I get to about HSK4 level I'll go to another city. 

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AdamD

A thread for this area

 

Easy ways to have conversations in China

 

Johnny20270: Have you considered the look-around function in WeChat? WhatsApp is naturally going to find English speakers; WeChat is where the Chinese people are.

 

I agree with you re Sanlitun and Irish bars. No point flying 9,000 km to hang around with westerners.

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roddy

Adam, I'm so glad that worked out for you. 

 

You probably walked through a few areas. The ones people are most likely to know if you refer to them are 北师大 and 小西天 (there's a big archway, the 小西天牌楼, which is a bit of a landmark). 

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msittig

Counterpoint:

Standard Mandarin is taught in classrooms across China. Dialects are dying off, especially in the big cities where you have a mix of locals and domestic immigrants needing to communicate, and where public school teachers have to pass standard Mandarin tests to get certified. Study Chinese wherever you want -- as long as it's a tier-1 or tier-2 city you'll learn functional standard Mandarin.

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abcdefg

#73 -- @James W --

 

By the way, don't just ask for Chinese language teaching as there are many, many dialects (over 200 dialects as different from each other as are English, French and German).

 

I live in Kunming, where a lot of dialect is spoken on the street between natives as well as in their homes. It would still be extremely unusual and odd if one were to post an ad for someone to help you learn Chinese to get a teacher who assumed you wanted to learn dialect.

 

You want to study the standard dialect, Mandarin which is used in most parts of the country (and every part you will probably travel to).

 

Agree with this of course. And that's what any Chinese teacher you hire will try to teach you.

 

One of the best summer teachers I ever had here was a vigorous young lady who taught 语文 (Chinese language as a subject) during the academic year at a local 高中。She said one of her hardest tasks was getting the students to speak 普通话。Said many of them resisted and only did it grudgingly.

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anonymoose

One of the best summer teachers I ever had here was a vigorous young lady who taught 语言 (Chinese language as a subject) during the academic year at a local 高中

It should be 语文。

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abcdefg

Oops, you're right. I'll go back and change it.

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GrahamTiger

How about Xinjiang?

 

I studied at Shihezi University (石河子大学) for a year and I had a great time.  I studied there 2011-12 and there were only 7 other foreigners there studying Chinese at the time (plus a bunch studying medicine) and most were from central asia and as I didn't speak Uzbek or Russian and they didn't speak much English we had to use Chinese.  It is a big university and it was easy for me to make friends willing to chat in Chinese.  The city is pretty small for Chinese standards and because it was founded by an army group in the '50s everyone has to speak Mandarin. 

 

The air is clean in the summer (in the winter the central heating gets pretty dirty).  

 

Mountains not to far from the city.   Everything had a bit of a "wild west" sort of feel to it.

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Johnny20270

6 months on front my post above, I  feel that the "avoidance of westerners" is of great importance for speaking Chinese. I think this ultimately dependent on personal style but for me, I just don't have the discipline to get out there and converse in Chinese. I only do it when I "have to" hence the preference to non western style locations

 

For example, I have been in Beijing for 7 months now. i can't recall a single person speaking to me at all in a park, coffee shop etc

 

I went to Guilin a few weeks ago. In 3 days I had about 7 curious Chinese come speak to me and many others looking for an opening :)

 

Having said that, many others do, depends if you're an introvert or extroverted kindof of person I guess.

 

Also I'd add that benefit of local interaction is not to be underestimated. I pay a language teacher just basically chit chat with me. I have all the necessary info in my head. I just need the practice. Not the most efficient in terms of money I guess.

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AdamD

@Johnny20270:

 

I have been in Beijing for 7 months now. i can't recall a single person speaking to me at all in a park, coffee shop etc

 

My brief experiences are different from your much longer ones, but these points might help you:

 

1. Locals want to talk to me because I actively trigger their interest. In a restaurant, I'll order in Chinese. In a massage place, I'll select the treatment I want from the Chinese list. Sometimes I'll just be reading a Chinese book or doing character drills with a pencil, and a local will be fascinated enough to ask me about it.

 

2. I respond to people who I hear talking about me in Chinese. No face is lost because (a) they're usually just pointing out that I'm foreign, and (b) I don't take offence. This nearly always results in a proper conversation.

 

If I surrendered to my introvert impulses, I could slip through Beijing unnoticed for years. I reckon that's just because people in most big, busy cities generally keep to themselves.

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