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Larry Language Lover

北京还是上海?

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Larry Language Lover

Which of these two cities would you prefer to live in or study Chinese in?  北京还是上海 and why?

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Personally, Beijing from a purely language point of view. I would like to be exposed to more 儿化音 and northern accented mandarin to counter balance my exposure to southern mandarin.

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889

Speak Chinese in Beijing and people sort of expect it.

 

Speak Chinese in Shanghai and not only do people do a double-take, they want to switch to English.

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vellocet

More people speak southern Chinese, and besides the licensed instructors at any Mandarin school have passed the official pronunciation exams anyway. It's good to get exposed to different accents early. Shanghai's a better city.  Not spread out all over the place, better weather, better touring bands, better Chinese food (with the notable exception of Beijing duck, the best Chinese food), better Japanese food, better tourism in a 2 hour radius, and fewer hipsters.  If you want to go to major tourist attractions Beijing is just a short flight away anyway.  

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DavyJonesLocker

beijing, more "chinese" in my view .  

 

shanghai more expat friendly, suits people who come to china and don't want to be in China  Beijing is a rougher city, more down to earth

 

Just different perspective. Of my expat group people overwhelming like shanghai

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anonymoose

I've been to Beijing several times, but not stayed for very long each time. On the other hand, I've lived in Shanghai for several years, so I may be biased, but here is my view.

 

First of all, let me address the language issue. Contrary to what might be expected, I would say Shanghai is actually the better place to learn Mandarin. The thing is, standard Mandarin is based on northern Chinese, but is not the same as Beijinghua. Yet, they are similar enough that people growing up in Beijing do not separately learn Mandarin from Beijinghua. They may well be speaking thick Beijinghua while thinking they are speaking standard Mandarin. Of course, everyone is different, and I expect the younger generation to have more standard pronunciation than the older, but the distinction between Mandarin and Beijinghua can become blurred.

 

On the other hand, Shanghainese is a completely different language. Shanghainese speakers who have learned Mandarin have learned it as a separate language. The distinction between Mandarin and Shanghainese is clear, and thus their Mandarin is to a lesser extent unwittingly influenced by their local language. Of course, they speak with an accent, like speakers of Mandarin from essentially anywhere in China (bar, perhaps, parts of the Harbin area), but I feel that, at least for the younger generation, their Mandarin is very standard and clear.

 

Of course, if you want to learn 儿化音, then Beijing is the way to go. You rarely hear this in Shanghai. But be clear, for the most part, this is Beijinghua and the Beijing accent at play. Standard Mandarin is very sparing in its use of 儿化音.

 

Having said all that, though, I don't think it actually makes a big difference wherever you go in China. If you are attending classes in Mandarin, they will likely be standard enough, and the people you will (most likely) spend most of your time speaking in Chinese to will more than likely have standard enough Mandarin. If, on the other hand, you envisage spending most of your time talking to taxi drivers, 门卫 and the like, then it may be a different story.

 

As for living, I think it really depends on what kind of environment you like. Beijing has by far more historical sites, and the city centre has a more austere feel. Any time something politically sensitive is going on, half of Beijing gets shut down. For tourism, I would definitely recommend Beijing. But if you are living in the city, you are not going to be visiting the great wall or going to an ancient temple every day. What will matter to your daily life more is convenience of getting round the city and accessibility to the things you need. I can't say much about Beijing in this respect, but Shanghai is very convenient. It is a well-developed international city, and as a foreigner, you will blend in very easily. Shanghai is more compact that Beijing, yet has the most extensive subway system in China (and the world?) and it is still growing.

 

As someone else mentioned, there are more interesting places to visit around Shanghai than Beijing, for example Suzhou and Hangzhou, just to name the largest cities.

 

Finally, Beijing is cold in winter. Shanghai is not exactly warm either, but it rarely snows, and when it does, it does not last for long. If you dislike cold weather, then Shanghai definitely wins on that count. Air quality is also substantially better in Shanghai than Beijing.

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道艺黄帝

I've been in SH for about a year and a quarter. I've found the Shanghainese accent pretty cool and that there's a clear distinction between the local Shanghainese and standard Chinese, as someone said earlier. 

 

Just one thing to note-I know from your previous posts you don't really learn in the environment, but if someone does come here to seriously learn Chinese and not live in the foreign bubble, try to get a few km away from the 'city center'. I'm about 8km away from the populated 静安寺,which is only about 5 subway stops, but I am far removrd from Chinese ppl who regularly encounter foreigners. I am often the only non-Chinese I enounter for days on end. I never have to speak English if I don't want to. I get immersion and convenience all in one.

 

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mungouk

I've been in Beijing for 6 months, but I'm spending a couple of days in Hangzhou just now. 

 

I'm actually considering a job here... how should I expect Mandarin accents to vary in Hangzhou?  I haven't had any trouble communicating with taxi drivers and hotel receptionists so far, but that's obviously a limited domain of people who are expecting a variety of people and accents.

 

It's kind of refreshing not to be answered in English everywhere when I speak my flawed Mandarin though. Unlike in Beijing.

 

Wow, it's still summer here — 24 C today. I just got bitten by a mosquito in October!  Last week in BJ it got down to 2 degrees overnight.

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mungouk

@anonymoose would you care to elaborate on this thing about Standard Mandarin and Beijing dialect not being the same? 

 

Maybe this is common mis-information (?) but somehow I had assumed that standard Mandarin was based on what's spoken in Beijing in the same way that standard French is defined more or less by the Académie Française in Paris.

 

 

 

 

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889

Have you been to Beijing? There's Putonghua (standard Mandarin) and there's Beijinghua. Not the same!

 

There are Beijinghua dictionaries out there which make fun reading -- much grandma talk about babies and little kids.

 

Just one example. "Tomorrow" in Putonghua of course is 明天. But in Beijinghua you can get by with 明儿. You'll never hear a TV news reader use 明儿: they speak Putonghua and use 明天.

 

Beijing people -- except cab drivers -- will speak Putonghua with you, but among family and friends will drop into Beijinghua.

 

EDIT: Sorry, I see you're in Beijing. Just ask folks to give you some words in Beijinghua. Then head to a bookstore and get one of those dictionaries I mentioned. Or take taxis everywhere and chat with the drivers.

 

If we're going to get fussy, the rural areas on the outskirts of Beijing are said to be a stronghold of dialect, but maybe a bit different than urban Beijinghua.

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mungouk
4 minutes ago, 889 said:

Have you been to Beijing?

 

I've been living here in Beijing for 6 months... can't say I've interacted much with locals though.

 

I think I'm getting confused with Putonghua (common speech?) with Beijinghua (common speech in BJ?)

 

I've noticed there's a lot more 儿 in the air here than what I might hear elsewhere, but other than that... I'm not sure of the difference.

 

Who decides what counts as standard Mandarin then?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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889

Roughly speaking, Putonghua takes Chinese as spoken in Beijing as its reference, but doesn't use words and phrases particular to the Beijing dialect. It also simplifies the language somewhat. Think of Putonghua as like Basic English and you'll start to get the idea.

 

As for Beijing accent, there's not just 儿化 but 鼻音 too.

 

There are standard textbooks out there which more or less establish what is Putonghua. As I said, visiting a bookstore in Beijing is very instructional.

 

I seem to recall that DeFrancis wrote one or two essays on what is Putonghua you might want to dig up.

 

(Hangzhou people speak Hangzhouhua amongst themselves, but it really is a separate language apart from Putonghua, not a dialect linguistically speaking.)

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mungouk
29 minutes ago, 889 said:

visiting a bookstore in Beijing

 

"bookstore"... qu'est-ce que c'est?  (Better run run run run run run run away) 🤔

 

No, I remember those. In the good old days (before the interwebs) I had to get on a train to London to buy books about/in "Foreign" languages. It felt very exotic but was a PITA.

 

I think one of the reasons for posting questions on the forums is so we can benefit from the knowledge and wisdom of our more experienced peers. 

 

btw as far as I'm concerned "Basic English" is some kind of small subset (1000 words?) that can be understood by a majority of English-learners around the world.  Is that the sense in which you meant it?  

 

Cheers!

 

 

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889

A hundred words or two answering a question in quick and simple terms here is no substitute for the sort of real answer you'll find in books. Just ask for the nearest 书城. And plan to spend a good afternoon or evening there browsing. Not to mention that you'll learn more in a couple hours reading DeFrancis than you will in years posting here.

 

My impression is that people know instinctively what's Putonghua and what's Beijinghua. Rather like you automatically adjust your English -- in terms of pronunciation, vocabulary and such -- when you're talking to a native Chinese speaker. It's just not the same English as when you're talking with your parents or old schoolmates.

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@mungouk


As far as I can make out, there is:

 

standard mandarin

Beijing erhuayin (which I call accent)
Beijing hua (which Is Beijing dialect)

 

damm, forgot to mention the Beijing roast duck which I absolutely adore.

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mungouk

@889  Hmm. What you're describing sounds to me (in English context) as "Register", rather than dialect/topolect or whatever linguists argue about.

 

Is that right?

 

I'm not being deliberately awkward, but a more actionable response than "read some books" would be helpful. Which books? Where is the authority on this, or isn't there any?  
 

Thanks!

 

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889

I have no idea what words like "register" or "topolect" mean. I've studied several languages but have no training at all in linguistics.

 

As for books, everything I have on my own shelves is old and you won't find the exact same books in a bookstore today. But you will find textbooks to teach Chinese people Putonghua. Perhaps there's some old government standard laying out what is and is not proper Putonghua, but you don't want something official and unreadable. You want a textbook for Chinese people. Tell a clerk you're interested in the development of Putonghua as a linguistic concept, what should you read. And don't forget a dictionary or two of Beijinghua. (Bookstores can be fun. Explore!)

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What’s the heating like in winter in Shanghai?

 

 I heard there was a designated north south divide in China in so far, the design of winter heating is different. 

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889

Because Shanghai is south of the Yangtze, historically buildings don't have central heating and can be damp, chilly and uncomfortable in winter. 

 

But in recent years, those dual heating-cooling A/C units have become very common across China, so îf you're looking for a place to live, just make sure it's got a dual A/C unit. And a quiet one at that: look where the compressor is placed.

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