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Josue

Do I need to move to China to improve my Chinese?

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Josue

Hello,

 

My name is Josue, and I am currently living in California. I sometimes get discouraged when I hear people saying that the only way to learn Chinese is moving to China. I have been studying Chinese for over a year now. I feel I was learning the wrong way in the beginning but after a few researches, I now have a clear idea of the language. I work for a Taiwanese company where I am the only non-Chinese speaker. Whenever I say something, they fully understand me; however, these are basic things like greetings, and ordering food. I get good compliments from my coworkers but recently I feel I don't make that much progress (Maybe because I am focusing on writing and recognizing characters). 

 

Another aspect that brings me confident is that there is huge Chinese community in California. I don't live that far from Yang Yang the host of YoyoChinese.com. I have couple of Chinese friends but I feel frustrated that I cannot even hold basic conversation with them. Maybe it just one or two questions. Again, they have little to no problem understanding whenever I ask.

 

Does anyone here has learned Chinese without moving to China? 

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ChTTay

Sounds like you’re on the right track to me! Of course, I think learning something like Chinese might be easier in China just because of the potential to practice. Equally, I know loads of people here who’ve lived here for years and only have “taxi Chinese” essentially. 

 

It doesn’t sound like leaving your job and upping sticks to China is worth it. Just keep at it and look for speaking opportunities. There’s a wealth of info on self study on these forums. 

 

You dont mention if you have lessons or not... it’s worth getting some. You could look at online classes if nothing else. 

 

What kind of vacation do you get? Come to China! Your company is Taiwanese? Push for a visit to Taiwan! 

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lakesandrivers
11 hours ago, Josue said:

the only way to learn Chinese is moving to China

 

This might likely be true a century ago, but now categorically it is not. You can still immerse yourself in the language where you are now, especially with Chinese diaspora keeping Chinatowns bustling worldwide. Get involved in the huge Chinese community you mentioned, be it team sports (dragon boat?) or community events or volunteering. At other times drink deep in terms of reading, movies, dramas and music, among others.

 

Most importantly, ensure you have fun learning Chinese every step of the way! 🀄 

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Bibu

if reading and writing  is the thing, find a decent course, it is hardly achieved by selflearning.

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Beelzebro

I've reached HSK5+ without moving to China so it's absolutely possible. I did technically study abroad there for a while but at that time I didn't really care about language learning so I put very little effort into it, and therefore didn't progress much. The vast majority of my progress has been done at home in the UK.

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ZhangKaiRong

With all due respect, HSK5 is not equal to Chinese proficiency / fluency. If passing HSK5 is an objective, then I absolutely agree that you don't need to go to China, just cram the mock exams in your homecountry.

 

Decent speaking skills, actual non-textbookish vocab and getting used to non-standard Mandarin pronounciation might be achieved outside of China, but you need a pretty strict schedule and a lot more effort to be persistent in learning the language. If you're surrounded by native speakers, it's easier, thus China / Taiwan is an excellent place to be if you're aiming for actual language skills.

Chinatowns can also work, if its inhabitants are open to outsiders - might be a valid option in the US, but my experience is that Chinese immigrants are more reserved in Europe.

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Tomsima

need is a strong word. But I'm not gonna lie, living in China makes a massive difference, if you have the opportunity to go even for a few weeks the amount of cultural knowledge that will fill in your textbook gaps is more than worth it. 

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Josue
4 hours ago, ChTTay said:

You dont mention if you have lessons or not... it’s worth getting some. You could look at online classes if nothing else. 

Right now, I am learning from Domino Chinese. I have tried the beginner level of YoyoChinese. I spend almost 4 months working on the Pinyin alone with the help of a Taiwanese coworker who by the way got annoyed when I used to say 哪儿, therefore, I now say, "哪里". 

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pon00050

I don’t know. I can only say that what matters is that you will have the chance to form some kind of relationship with native speakers and regularly spend time talking to them, preferably outside of classroom context. But, that also doesn’t mean you will be guaranteed to befriend any Chinese person that you encounter when you are living there.

Good luck.

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Josue
4 hours ago, lakesandrivers said:

Get involved in the huge Chinese community you mentioned, be it team sports (dragon boat?) or community events or volunteering

Thanks for the reply. This is what got me into Chinese. I went to local event during Chinese New Year, and I was amazed by the Chinese crowd. Now, whenever there is a birthday, I want to give red envelope because I am used to receive those a lot. 

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Josue
6 minutes ago, pon00050 said:

, that also doesn’t mean you will be guaranteed to befriend any Chinese person that you encounter when you are living there

I do have Chinese friends here besides my coworkers, but I only hang out with them every other months because of work schedule. However, I always get a little discouraged when people say that being in China is the only way. Learning Chinese is a huge investment of time, but I want to do it wisely. On the other hand, I have read story where people go to China or Taiwan, and they are still not able to pick much of the language.

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lakesandrivers
3 hours ago, Josue said:

哪儿, therefore, I now say, "哪里". 

 

Ah, yes! I had Beijingers independently explained the interesting nature of 儿话 - 大门,小门,天安门,午门,门牙儿,等。Technically it is a dialect, but it being 官话 the line between standard and 官话 might be blurred. But still best to stick to standard and add your personal flair later. Otherwise, at times it is a necessity, more than being cute or a dialect.

 

咱们一块儿去。儿 taken out will mean a dollar. That's not what I meant! 🤣

在哪?在那?在哪儿?When spoken, some are questions, while others are meant to mean "there" (unconvincingly). 儿 plays a part here.

 

It is a powder keg and prickly situation hence understandable. Folks from Formosa might be more than annoyed by more than 儿, if not because 儿话 is spoken in Beijing. Taiwan itself has own pronunciations that you might want to be aware enough to avoid - best to adhere totally to standard for the next many years.

 

3 hours ago, Josue said:

I want to give red envelope

 

Are you unmarried? Then this is a NO-NO! 不吉利!Culturally, at least for overseas Chinese, single persons are never to give out 红包。I am a man of science but culturally speaking this is the reverse of "good luck". You are giving out good luck to the recipient (or recipients! Goodness!). Friends or cousins who got married but did not give out red packets will be criticized - behind them, of course :D

 

Is there such a thing as an annual CNY Parade where you are now? You might be interested in signing up! I was in the famous Sydney CNY Parade and looking back, it had become a highlight of my time there. 

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Josue
1 hour ago, lakesandrivers said:

Are you unmarried?

I am married. When I was single, the red envelope was for me. Now I still receive it during any celebration but they have told me that it is for my son. One day I went to wedding, and I prepared a gift (huge box) like typical Latino/westerner, and to my surprise, everyone else took a 红包  with them. 

 

I am learning other things about their culture. For example, they don't allow me to use red pen when signing a document, even if it is the only pen around. It is interesting because I see red color everywhere in the China culture, yet they think it is bad luck using red when writing a name.

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lakesandrivers
17 minutes ago, Josue said:

red pen

 

Coincidentally, when I went back to school in 2014, we were specifically warned against writing in red because that color was reserved for marking. This was in Melbourne, Australia. Then, in the past two months when hunting for Chinese medical schools, I remember seeing a few occurrences of warnings on their websites about writing in red being disrespectful to teachers. Now that is a culture shock for an overseas Chinese :D Of course, why would we ever write in red in school. It is just never done.

 

17 minutes ago, Josue said:

it is for my son

 

Just in case you did not get the memo :D 

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Josue
1 hour ago, lakesandrivers said:

Is there such a thing as an annual CNY Parade where you are now?

 

Yes, they do an annual event in San Francisco but that's a little far from me. I have there once. But they also host another event with music, food  and other activities in Monterrey Park, California.

 

Also, during the summer we have something called 626 night market which was inspired by the night markets of Asia with a lot Chinese food vendor. I go there of course for the food and practice my Chinese.

 

 

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Josue

I took this picture from the of the kitchen. However, there are a lot other signs and announcements in Chinese here in the company.

 

Is this  exposure (everything that I have mentioned before) to Chinese language and people enough to learn it without going to China? I mean, I would love visiting China, but it is not within my plans right now. My son still still baby, I cannot afford a vacation at the moment. 

chinese.jpeg

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ChTTay
2 hours ago, lakesandrivers said:

Are you unmarried? Then this is a NO-NO! 不吉利!Culturally, at least for overseas Chinese, single persons are never to give out 红包

 

Strange, this isn’t the case in China. Is it a traditional hangover found abroad? A Taiwanese thing?

 

 With the rise of wechat and wechat pay, everyone gives red envelopes for everything and to everyone. Paper ones usually at special occasions if they are meeting someone in person, otherwise... wechat again! 

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Flickserve
22 hours ago, Josue said:

I sometimes get discouraged when I hear people saying that the only way to learn Chinese is moving to China

 

To be more accurate, it is the rate of learning that they are referring to. You can learn faster due to environmental factors. 

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snowflake
2 hours ago, lakesandrivers said:

咱们一块儿去。儿 taken out will mean a dollar. That's not what I meant! 🤣

在哪?在那?在哪儿?When spoken, some are questions, while others are meant to mean "there" (unconvincingly). 儿 plays a part here.

我们一起去吧。
在哪里?在什么地方?在哪个地方?

 

I get along just fine without 儿s. Both my friends from the mainland and Taiwan understand me.  The tolerance or intolerance for Taiwanese or mainland 用法 varies depending on the person and situational dynamics.

 

To the OP, It would be great to live overseas to work on my Mandarin, but realize that once removed from the situation that those language skills will slowly deteriorate over time. Even my native Mandarin speaking friends sometimes will lament about that.  Be happy with what your Mandarin skills allow you to do which wasn't possible before. 

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