10 Frequently Asked Questions About Studying Mandarin Chinese In China
It’s a big decision to make, that’s for sure, but once you’ve decided to go and learn Chinese in China you’ll, naturally, want to find out as much as you can beforehand: we’ll here’s some great advice to the most frequently asked questions:
1. Should I just learn Mandarin using simplified Chinese characters or traditional Chinese characters?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer as to which character set to learn even though there is a frequent long-lasting debate on the subject.
Mainland China and Singapore use Simplified Chinese characters whilst Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and most overseas Chinese use Traditional characters.
So, if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in Mainland China, it’s going to make more sense to start learning Simplified Chinese; obviously if you’re going to spend more time in Hong Kong or Taiwan, start with Traditional.
The good news is that after establishing a foundation in either Simplified or Traditional Chinese, picking up the other set of characters will not see so hard!
2. Studying in Taiwan or Mainland China? Pros and cons
Whether you learn Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan or Mainland China may depend on whether you wish to focus on learning Simplified or Traditional characters or some other reason such as cost but for some great answers and tips on studying in Taipei or Beijing you can read this article or enjoy another point of view in this blog piece
3. Which are the best places and/or cities to study Mandarin Chinese?
In some ways this depends on your budget and interests. If you feel you really must go to Beijing to enjoy the culture and historical sites as well as learning, remember if is congested and polluted—and expensive! Or, maybe, Shanghai the major financial centre and a city with an international feel and offering more job prospects for foreigners but, again, it is expensive and can be quite stressful living.
Not to worry, there are plenty of second tier cities you can try such as: Chengdu, Wuhan, Guangzhou or Dalian or cities such as Kunming, Chengdu or Hangzhou, all of which are renowned for their beauty, and are relatively laid back with lower costs of living. However, there are fewer foreigners around and local dialect may prove to be a challenge for some students but some. In any event, look up several cities and check them out before you decide!
4. What’s all this about scholarships?
The Chinese government offers scholarships to foreign nationals every year.
Such scholarships cover university and accommodation fees, health insurance, learning materials, a set up allowance and a monthly amount for living for a year. A great way to really get to know the country—and best of all it’s “free”!
5. What ‘s the typical cost of living like in China?
Generally quite cheap, although major cities such as Beijing or Shanghai can be expensive.
Second tier cities will be much cheaper: for example, the costs of studying and living in a nice city such as Guilin will be much lower. You can live very comfortably on US$300–500 per month. Many labour based services are quite inexpensive in China; for example, massages ($5/hour), maid service ($2/hour), a meal at a nice restaurant ($5), taking a taxi (from $3 USD); also clothes, food and travelling are very affordable in China.
6. Tell me more about Visa requirements
There are two types of student visa for studying in China (X Visa): X1 is for students who plan to study in China for study for more than 6 months; X2 for less than 6 months. Applications can be made at Embassies, Consulates or other approved places.
7. A big question: how long will it be before I will be fluent in Mandarin Chinese?
The answer really depends on the time and effort you commit.
If you work hard, you should be able to have a limited conversation in about six months. In a year, you can expect a much more in depth conversation. After two years of serious study, you should be able to comfortable get by and enjoy your life speaking Chinese, although there may still be some mis-communications.
8. Drinking and eating
Am I going to lose weight and maybe even starve?
No, Chinese cuisine can be quite amazing and you can try some of the delicious, local food and drinks; by and large dining out and having a drink is relatively cheap. If you get tired of Chinese food, even most second tier cities now have the presence of some famous national or international food chain store, so you’ll certainly not starve or dehydrate!
9. What is the HSK exam and should I take it?
Do I really need to take an exam as I’m here to get fluency? This is best answered by reading about the main reasons to take the HSK exam or checking out this explanation why you should attempt to obtain a pass; indeed, before entering certain universities or even when applying for a job you may need HSK
10. I cannot speak any Chinese at all, can I really survive in China?
Sure! It’s easy to make friends to help you out; many younger Chinese can speak some English and love to take the chance to practice it with foreigners. If not, sign language will usually get you by… plus, of course you’ll soon be picking up a number of Chinese words!
Hopefully these answers will cover most of your initial questions—and we’re sure you will have many more…. but the main thing is that studying Mandarin Chinese in China will surely be beneficial to getting ahead in the language and, equally as much, an experience you really can’t afford to miss!
This is a guest post by Yiwen Yang