Before we can answer this question satisfactorily, I need to ask where exactly in China are you going?
Hi, not sure yet – just completing a TESOL course to teach over there- most likely it will be either Shanghai or Beijing.. but happy to hear recommendations of good places to live for an aussie with zero chinese language skills, at moment.
Mandarin is the official language of China, but there are scores of dialects spoken. Some are so different that that are mutually unintelligable. The two main languages are Mandarain and Cantonese. Most Cantonese speakers are in the south and understand a bit of Mandarin. Mandarin and Cantonese use the same same characters, so something written can be largely understood by both. If it were me, unless I was going to live in the southeast or Hong Kong, I would learn Mandarin. Good luck!
i too would recommend Mandarin. We lived in Shanghai and that was the language we picked up and used. The locals speak Shanghainese and Mandarin. They definitely had no problem following the little that we spoke!
Spoken is good enough. You dont need to learn to write it. With 4000 characters it would be an extremely uphill task and too much of your time and energy expended. Find a chinese person where you live and strike a deal to meet once or twice a week for half an hours to practice basic phrases.
All the best with the learning.
Hong Kong is primarily Cantonese. The rest of China understand some sort of dialect of Mandarin (Cantonese has just been segregated for obvious socio-political-economic reasons). With that said, learning the standard Mandarin dialect (centered around Beijing) will be just fine in most of China. Local idioms will be different, and maybe it will be a little harder to be understood in various areas, but as a laowai (foreigner) in China, I have traveled a good bit on my own and haven’t had too many problems getting around. Bigger cities like Shanghai and Beijing will have more people who can speak and understand at least a fair amount of English, so I think you’ll be fine.
I haven’t looked up many online sources for learning chinese. A good google search will probably do you fine, and there are online lessons at Chinese Pod, including listening and speaking practice. Search for that.
Also, I have found a phrasebook to be indispensable. I have lonely planet’s mandarin phrasebook, and it’s seen so much wear in just the few months I’ve had it. I sometimes read it religiously. REMEMBER that characters are the same ANYwhere in mainland China, so if you are having trouble saying something, you can always point to the character and anyone can understand you.
Hope that answers your question. I think you’ll be fine.
Learn Putonghua. Once you master that language then Cantonese, Shanghainese awaits you. The written system is the same so after you master Mandarin then the others because easier. Methinks your request is a bit wishful but allow me to point you in the right direction, try www.China-8.com there you will find a shed load of free tuition through web based programs.
Yes my question was VERY wishful! But thought it can’t hurt to ask there are people on here with goals to do kind things for people!
I am more than willing to reiterate with any knowledge i have on any matters that might help in return!
You’re doing great Jimba! It should be “Pu Tong Hua”.
I prefer to disagree on the part where you said Chinese is hard. It’s not that difficult, considering that it’s the most widely spoken language in the world… LOLz English has waaay more rules and exceptions.
I have to put it this way:
Yes, English has more rules and exceptions while you only learned 0.1% of Chinese.
Believe or not, Chinese is harder than English. Those simple daily conversation doesn’t make a big steps. If you go beyond that, there’s another sky.
Hope you don’t get mad if I said this to you. By the way, you are in NYC right? Are you learning Chinese? For how long by now?
Last time I checked Putonghua was now an official word used by the oxford dictionary, so thats why they joined the three characters to make one noun.
Peace out. You’re doing great too.
Impressive. You are doing pretty good already. But however, the more accurate way to simply express should be:
*Please switch all ?? to (Mandarin) because Chinese don’t use ?? in their daily life. The only time they will use is ?? but not ?? ?: Chinese Pinyin). On the other hand, if you can’t have a correct tone when you pronounce ?? in Mandarin it will sound the same as ??. ?? which is Korean.
I saw many people confusing among these two words. I guess it has something to do with your tutor.
In Mandarin, ?? means an answer to a difficulty or problem. ?? is a way or manner of doing something. Such as, the way I put “pu tong hua” seperated as three words was the same way as yours before.
&use interchangeable in Mandarin sometimes, it really depends on when you are using it.
In Shanghai dialect, in most circumstances we use & as the same. But if you speak in Mandarin that will make a big difference.
In this sentence, it will be more accurate to use ?? instead of ??.
*Regarding about Putonghua, I believe they put it together for people to understand it as one word conveniently. They shouldn’t have done that because people could make a wrong pronunciation without checking a dictionary. Obviously, these three words have different meaning.
So now you know why we call it ??? is because we’d like to have one universal language throughout the country to make it very popular so that everyone can communicate well. They are three words, not one.
Please don’t mind me correcting you. Now you learned something from me, good for you :-) I’m not perfect at English, you could find something wrong one or two. Free to speak.
Yeah, thanks for pointing that out, I often mix up the two.. easy to make. You say Pu Tong Hua, we say Putonghua, you say Oa Lin Pi Ke we say Olympics, you say potato I say potato. Wow, you are the little teacher, arn’t you? Ever thought about teaching?
Hey, I’d say it’s not teaching but sharing so that you guys can be more advanced. Isn’t it funny that one day I go back to China and see many foreigners speaking Mandarin? Haha, I love teaching in the matter of fact but man I have to obtain a certificate for that.
Can you tell me where did you learn your Mandarin? For how long by now? Do you practice it often? Keep going coz you’ve really impressed me. I wish you could learn more stuffs in 2008 – year of Ao Lin Pi Ke. See ya around!
Mandarin is spoken in most of China (especially the North) and it’s the official language of China.
Cantoneese is spoken in southern China (and hong kong). If you go to a cantoneese speaking place chances are they will understand English (more used to foreigners) so Mandarin is a safe bet. Sorry can’t help you with the lessons If I know 5 sentences I know a lot there :) .
good luck with your trip.
Northeast speaks Korean.
People from North also speaks different dialects depend on which ethnic groups they belong to.
New York City
Try www.chinesepod.com for Mandarin lessons.
Mandarin is the official language of China.
I agree with everyone else. Mandarin would be best for you to learn. Cantonese is spoken primarily only in Hong Kong. The two languages use about the same characters, but they are pronounced differently. (There are 4 tones in Mandarin compared to the 6-7 in Cantonese.) I think someone said it before, but the Chinese are always impressed to see foreigners learning the language. So as long as you try and show you want to learn, everyone will love you.
I was born in Shanghai – the biggest city in China. It takes you 2 hours to fly between Shanghai and Beijing (Beijing is the Capital City of China).
Weather: Both Shanghai and Beijing has four seasons. But during the fall and winter Beijing has a very dry situation, please make sure to put on lotions all over yourself throughout the day and night.
Language: Both Shanghai and Beijing’s primary language is Mandarin. If you have a chance to live in Shanghai then you probably have more choices. Such as, you can hear few people talking in Cantonese, too. (Many Hong Kong business men are living in Shanghai, they speak Cantonese; Taiwanese speaks Mandarin.)It really depends on which direction you are looking at. Ex: One of my Japanese friends learnt to speak Shanghai dialect while he was studying there. The other one is living in GuangZhou now so he speaks a little bit Cantonese.
Suggestion: Chinese is not an easy language to learn. We have 5000 years of history and believe me there are more than 4000 characters. You should just focus on one language, that should be Mandarin. Many young generations in Shanghai speak simple English, too. More people knows English in Shanghai than Beijing.
Tips: If you need a real person to help you through, find a local to exchange your language. Girls in pubs are really good at English in Shanghai. Don’t get yourself involve too much coz one day you gonna fall in love with them. If you are not ready for a relationship, please find someone else. One more thing, I think you should learn Chinese right from the beginning. I never been to those websites but there’s a feeling that they only provide you an instant teaching so that you may use it under certain circumstances. Yes, it is a fast way. But if you are willing to learn more about China then you should take it as a long term commitment.
If you need any help about anything in China, please let me know. I hope I can give you a better idea to push you to a right direction.
Hi there, thanks so much for your answer. I will get a tutor when I get to China as I am in a small country town in Australia at the moment with zero chinese population! I’ll try online learning until then I guess and ensure I have a phrasebook handy. I guess teaching it will be an exchange, the students will learn from me and vice versa.
Girls in pubs won’t be threatened by me falling in love with them- I am female and bat for the other side hahaha
I agree with the vast majority that if you focus on just one Chinese language, it should be Mandarin, which is the same as “pu tong hua” that was also mentioned. The thing is no matter where you go you will be able to speak Mandarin, and make yourself understood, although you might not be able to understand everything that others are saying. The exception that was already mentioned is Hong Kong, and some parts of the south, particularly in Guangdong province (which is the province that borders Hong Kong), where Cantonese is primarily spoken.
In both Beijing and Shanghai, Mandarin will be fine, although Shanghai does have it’s own dialect that is quite different from Pu tong hua. I had a friend demonstrate a simple sentence for me one time, which I could understand in Mandarin, but had no idea in Shanghaiese (or Shanghai hua, as they would say in Mandarin).
If you end up being assigned to some other city, post another question and there is probably someone who can tell you what other primary languages are spoken in that region. For instance in parts of the Northeast, Korean is spoken almost as much as Mandarin.
One resource I found helpful for language learning was Rosetta Stone, but it’s not free. Didn’t teach me a lot of every day expressions (that doesn’t come until the higher lessons), but I found myself thinking in Chinese the quickest using that method. I probably shouldn’t even be mentioning it because it’s not cheap and you did imply “free”, but I think it’s a good enough resource to mention anyway.
Also, try going to Zhongwen.com. That site may not be very basic for a beginning student, but they do have links to a lot of other sites some of which might be helpful to you.
However, that being said I do agree with the poster who said that you should consider learning Mandarin for the long haul. These resources can give you a jump start, but you really need a person. There are some aspects of learning Mandarin that really need a native speaker to correct your pronunciation. Use whatever resources you can until you go, but when you get there see about getting a tutor. For that I recommend the book: The Whole World Guide to Language Learning available at Intercultural Press. This book will give you a lot of hints for taking control of your language learning and working with a tutor.
Yes, you have a right point.
And BTW, I think I shouldn’t mention it here since it will give many people a bad image and impression prior there arrival in China.
Most of the biggest cities in China such as Beijing (Mandarin), Shanghai (Mandarin and Shanghainese) or Guangzhou – the provincial capital city in GuangDong province (Cantonese)there is always a way to find street vendors who’s selling copies for a very cheap price.
I know it’s illegal but however everyone buys and sells it. I once found many sellers put those copy Rosetta Stones online for sale, with couple dollars you can buy it. Not sure about the quality, guess it worths the money though.
Girl needs to be extra carefull, Shanghainese guys speak English, too.
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