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Heron

Studying Mandarin Chinese in HK

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Heron

Considering the current situation with the pandemic + protests, how crazy do you think it is to come to Hong Kong to study Mandarin? (I rly wanna master my Chinese but China is closed)

I know that Hong Kong has never been a popular place to learn Mandarin, and the locals don't speak it well, BUT it is literally the only part of China (no politics here, I am just referring to the region), which is still possible to enter as a foreigner if you do not have permanent residence. HK immigration is still issuing student visas, while mainland and Taiwan don't even make any vague promises about openning. I have been to HK several times and locals seemed pretty friendly when I was trying to practice my Mandarin with them. However since my Chinese is pretty average (I was studying in Shanghai for half of a year before before the pandemic) + recent political situation and the fact that I am white, so I guess locals would still prefer to use eng or canto.

Anyways, how is the situation in the city? how do locals react if you address them in Mandarin? Is it possible to have enough practice? Are there any mainlanders left or all flee back to China? or locals actually would be happy to practise Mandarin with me just for fun, like they do in China/Taiwan?

Hope someone living in HK could advice me with this.

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PerpetualChange

I went to Hong Kong for two years after studying Chinese in America. Your Chinese will get better in Hong Kong, but you will be nowhere near the level of  your peers who went to PRC or Taiwan. From the perspective of the written language, there are signs, newspapers, bookstores, etc., all over, so you will never no problem immersing that way. There is also English everywhere, so you will never have to rely on your Chinese. This can be pretty harmful to your immersion. 

 

The spoken/listening element is harder. You'll hear Mandarin quite often, but not like you would in PRC or Taiwan. You'll mostly hear people speaking in Cantonese, and when they see you, they'll switch to English. In most cases, you must oblige, as insisting to speak with someone in something other than your native language or their native language with them introduces a new phase of language power struggle. The good news is that there are mainlanders all over HK, you just have to find them. I had 2-3 main-lander language partners at every point while I was in HK - seemed essential if I wanted to learn anything.  On the flip side, the Western community are ever present, and so much easier to get involved in for you. At the end of my two years, my Chinese had gotten better, but I had lost focus, and spent a good amount of my time with HK's expat communities who reminded me much of the home I dearly missed. 

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ChTTay
3 hours ago, Heron said:

Considering the current situation with the pandemic + protests, how crazy do you think it is to come to Hong Kong to study Mandarin?

I’d probably just stay home and delay your plans. Unstable travel and visa situation. Uncertain quarantine situation. Global pandemic. 
 

In Hong Kong you’re not really getting the daily exposure to mandarin anyway but you are just in closer proximity to many mainland Chinese. Any Chinese signage etc is traditional also. That said, with the current Increase in restrictions in HK that I’ve read about it seems like there might not be too many takers to meet up for a language exchange right now. Why not just do it online from wherever you are now?  

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Dawei3

An American I know studied in HK for his MS in Chinese.  His knowledge of written and spoken Mandarin is quite high.  However, he speaks with a strong American accent.  This may be due to the lack of immersion mentioned by others. 

 

This said, you'll likely learn more in HK than if you were in a totally non-Chinese speaking environment.  The American likely learned much more in HK than if he had stayed in the US.  Also, he kept learning after he finished school (i.e., the experience help keep his motivation, which to me is a big plus).  Even just having signs in Chinese always around you all the time can teach you  (I've only traveled to and never lived in Beijing.  However, when traveling on the subway in Beijing, I would study the names of the subway stations to help teach me characters.  Anywhere I was, anytime, I could learn Chinese).    

 

Hence, to perpetualchange's point, you will get better, albeit not as good as you would if in China.  However, it could be quite a while before we have a vaccine for Covid-19 & sufficient supplies of it, so HK may be a better near-term solution for you.  

 

 

 

 

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Flickserve
11 hours ago, Dawei3 said:

Even just having signs in Chinese always around you all the time can teach you  (I've only traveled to and never lived in Beijing.  However, when traveling on the subway in Beijing, I would study the names of the subway stations to help teach me characters.  Anywhere I was, anytime, I could learn Chinese).


Living in HK, this is a big advantage. I don’t have any issues with learning simplified or traditional. In fact, because there is so much traditional Chinese, you start recognising it anyway and can look up the simplified version. If you were learning in Taiwan, it would all be traditional Chinese so I don’t see this aspect being a big factor. Some of the vocabulary used is different to China but this also occurs in Taiwan. 
 

Being in HK, I think it depends who you talk to if you want mandarin. Granted that you get a  Cantonese accented mandarin most times. However, in south of China , you get a lot of people who also have an accent in their chinese.
 

Myself, I find it very hard to talk in mandarin to my colleagues as we revert to their native Cantonese. Whereas when faced with mandarin speakers, they just carry on and get their jobs done using accented mandarin. 
 

You may meet mandarin speakers from China but plenty of them have an accent. Maybe not as strong though. 
 

I would look at Hong Kong as a short term solution For developing Chinese. Covid-19 makes everything unpredictable so we although we might plan for a better time in say one years time, we don’t know that for sure. Some people will say sit it out but some will opine we still have to try and move forward as best as under the circumstances. 

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roddy

Yeah, I think it makes sense short term. Perhaps think about how keen you are to do two moves though - do you want to settle in to HK only to want to relocate in 6 or 12 months? If you're keen to travel and see different places, that could be great, if you just want to get to one place and stay there, maybe not. And is this an open-ended plan, or is there a time limit - ie, is six months spent waiting at home for China to become more accessible six months lost, or could you just say 'ok, my three years just starts a bit later'. 

 

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Flickserve

One very important practical aspect is the visa. AFAIK, immigration are only letting in people who are entitled to a HKID card. Students can get in on a study visa and are then issued with an ID card to be arranged after 14 day quarantine.

 

Which schools would be looked on favourably to be issued a student visa? Aside from the Universities, I don't have a clue. 

 

I don't think anyone is getting into HK on a tourist visa right now.

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