I've been getting a lot of emails lately. A lot of nice emails, some strange emails, and then... a lot of emails from people that want to study Chinese in China and that are asking me about 'how to' and 'where.' I find it a bit tiresome to answer every single email so I figured it might be time for another studying Mandarin Q&A post. I have already written one of these post where I answered some questions, and you find that post by clicking here.
1. Where shall I study?
Completely up to you! I can only speak from my own experience and that comes from studying Mandarin in Shanghai and Suzhou. A lot of locals in these cities speak the infamous 'Shanghai hua' or 'Suzhou hua' which is more than hard to understand, but most locals can also speak Mandarin, so just because you are based in Shanghai and Suzhou doesn't mean you won't have any chance to speak to locals. I have heard from people who have studied in cities like Beijing, Dalian, Harbin saying that studying there has been really great too. I have been to both Dalian and Beijing and I found it easier to understand the locals over there (also I personally love the northern dialect! All those 'rrrrrr's... mmmmm, they sound like pirates!) and I think that if I could re-do my choices I probably would have gone to a 'smaller' city like Dalian or even Kunming to learn Mandarin. These cities are not so 'laowai packed' as Shanghai and Beijing are, and we all know the best way to learn Chinese: hang with locals rather than laowais.
But really -it is up to you where you 'should' go. Research the cities you are interested in and post on local expat forums if you want the opinion of some other laowai who's been studying there.
2. I have found a university but I cannot understand their web page -what should I do?
I am amazed of how many people emailing me, going 'can you check this link and translate the page for me and tell me what it means?'... I am sorry, but really... I have a life too! If you bump into problems while browsing a web page then you obviously have to solve it... yourself. Chinese universities home pages can be tricky, and trust me, I have been in your shoes. I didn't know one iota of Chinese when I decided to go to China. And I had problems with their web pages. So... I picked up the phone and called the university and asked them. And... that was it. Not harder than that. There will be some people at the university that are able to speak English, so don't worry about the language. You might not get the right person the first time you call, but just call again, be persistent and eventually you'll get to someone who can help you. I would recommend calling the university rather than emailing them because it is so easy to ignore an email but much harder to ignore a phone call.
3. What are some good study institutes in Shanghai?
There are the biggest universities: Shanghai Uni, Jiaotong, Fudan and... what am I forgetting? Hm... I am sure a google search will tell you!? I know that Jiaotong offers summer courses as well as full semesters (and I believe Fudan does too?), so there are a lot of different programs to choose from. There are also numerous 'Mandarin schools' that offer smaller classes/evening classes but these ones are normally veeeeery expensive (especially compared to the unis). Some that I know of are Miracle Mandarin, Mandarin House, Easy Mandarin, etc etc... I have personally only tried this sort of place once (Miracle Mandarin), when I was working in Shanghai, and I found it a bit so-so, but I know many people that have learned a lot from these courses so I guess the results are very personal.
OK, I think that is it... if you have any additional questions related to learning Chinese in China, please post them in the comments field and I will update this post by answering them. Although before you ask, read the other Q&A post as well!
If anyone else who has been/are currently studying Mandarin in China have any useful advices for people that are interested in learning Mandarin, please feel free to share them too in the comments field!