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Studying Chinese in Malaysia


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Hi guys,

I will have the opportunity to spend one semester(or one year) in Kuala Lumpur(I can also choose Bangkok). As there are so many Chinese people in Kuala Lumpur i thought it would be a good chance to learn Chinese if I would just start attending course. However it seems that most of chinese people of Kuala Lumpur speak Cantonese, not Mandarin. So is Mandarin useful in Kuala Lumpur and is there a point of studying this language there or it would be experience just as studying French in UK? 

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Wikipedia provides a pretty good answer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysian_Chinese#Languages

 

It seems Malaysian Chinese people come from a variety of backgrounds and speak a variety of different dialects. I have also heard from a Malaysian friend that some  of the younger generation can't really speak any kind of Chinese that well, not fluently anyway. Partly because of the schooling being in English in many cases.

 

Anyway, you can almost certainly find some people who speak Mandarin. Whether or not they want to do a language exchange is another thing. You can also probably find a Chinese course, I'd imagine some people would want to learn or brush up on their skills.

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can't really speak any kind of Chinese

 

Malaysian Chinese (马来西亚华语-  馬來西亞華語)  is a language of its own. It is a creole language just like Singlish is.  

 

However, there are many Malaysian people who can speak fluent standard Mandarin and they are able to code-switch between different languages: English, Malaysian Chinese and Mandarin. 

 

If you want to learn Mandarin (普通话 /國語) you can do it in Malaysia. It is certainly more convenient to learn Mandarin in the PRC and Taiwan, but it is not impossible. Don't be confused by the code-swiching. 

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A few miscomceptions here.

 

Certainly in KL, you will hear Cantonese in general use. You can also hear Mandarin as well.

 

For fluent mandarin, some the the chinese there (in fact a sizable proportion), have chinese mandarin at school as the medium of instruction. I wouldn't say the chinese languge, as an average across the country, is on par with China or Taiwan. One of the drawbacks of a multilinguitics society. However, if for general conversation, then fine. A fair number of Malaysian Chinese also travel to Taiwan for higher education.

 

But do be wary of local slang terms - but that's the same of any language spread across vast geographical locations.

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I don't know how much this helps since it's not specifically about Kuala Lumpur, but I've just returned from a trip to Kuching and Mandarin was prevalent, as were signs in Chinese. The language on the signs (street signs, advertisments, shop signs, tourist signage, etc.) was probably 1/3 Malay, 1/3 Chinese and 1/3 English, usually in random bilingual combinations.

It's probably not the ultimate best place for learning Chinese, but you will likely be able to find conversation partners and get a moderate amount of exposure to the language, plus there are quite a few Chinese-language channels (ranging from Hokkien to Mandarin).

Sarawak does have a different history from peninsular Malaysia, so things are likely different over there.

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studychinese

You will have some opportunities to use Mandarin in KL, but less than you would think (I've been to KL more than 20 times). You certainly won't achieve immersion there.

Bangkok on the other hand has more mainland tourists that you could talk to if you are bold enough to chat with them.

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  • 9 months later...
Flickserve

A few miscomceptions here.

Certainly in KL, you will hear Cantonese in general use. You can also hear Mandarin as well.

For fluent mandarin, some the the chinese there (in fact a sizable proportion), have chinese mandarin at school as the medium of instruction. I wouldn't say the chinese languge, as an average across the country, is on par with China or Taiwan. One of the drawbacks of a multilinguitics society. However, if for general conversation, then fine. A fair number of Malaysian Chinese also travel to Taiwan for higher education.

But do be wary of local slang terms - but that's the same of any language spread across vast geographical locations.

With greater experience of the language, I am going to revisit this opinion. Malaysian's do speak Mandarin but it can be very different - more different than I had originally thought. Sometimes terms and descriptions can be simplistic and if you use the mainland Mandarin terms, it might sound a bit strange to the Malaysian. I was talking to a Singaporean about Malaysian Mandarin and she said sometimes Malaysian Mandarin can be so different that she herself couldn't understand it.

Same thing happens with Cantonese spoken in Malaysia - my Malaysian mother-in-law asked me in Cantonese "What about the urine?". I went "huh?". My wife laughed and said in Malaysia, this means "What can you enjoy there?"...

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niseyniseynisey

I don't really think that Malaysian Mandarin's that off from standard mandarin though? Probably due to some of the accent, but tentatively I guess mandarin kinda sounds different in different asian countries. Eg: Singapore, Taiwan, China... Whereas dialects I believe it's actually more catered towards the older generation? I'm in my early 20s and both my dialect and mandarin sucks. Hahaha. 

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If their Mandarin sounds different because of an accent, then I believe it is already non-standard pronunciation... Feel free to correct me :)

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There is a difference between (1) Malaysian Chinese and (2) Malaysians speaking Beijing Mandarin with a Malaysian "accent"

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paperbagprince

I lived in Malaysia for 6 months where I studied the Chinese Diaspora. The city of Penang tends to be more Hokkien based, while KL is Cantonese. However, I was able to use Mandarine and communicate without any difficulty.

 

If you want immersion, in Cantonese or Mandarin, or even Malaysian for that matter, Malaysia is not a good place becasue it almost everyone speaks English. However, if you go to the Chinatown and speak Mandarin, you will be able to get around (and get better prices!). Just go, make some chinese friends, and you can learn a lot.

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Zenport_Professional_Tools

Yes, most younger Chinese Malaysians speak Mandarin at least at a conversational level. They may speak Hokkien, Cantonese or Hakka amongst themselves but will have little difficulty conversing with you in Mandarin. If you go out, make friends and create a social circle of Chinese speakers then you will be fine. 

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Some of them can speak 潮州话, different from Hokkien, even  though both are 闽南 languages.

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