Learning Chinese and dialects/accents

I’m contemplating a possible move in the near future from Japan to either Taiwan or mainland China. Obviously, with respect to learning Mandarin, it would be helpful to have the ordinary language of the people in the street be reasonably similar to the standard language.

I’m wondering to what extent advanced learners of Mandarin can understand the various regional dialects of Mandarin. As well, do you think this should be a strong consideration when choosing a place to live and learn Chinese? It seems like Beijing and the northeast would be the safest choices in terms of dialect, but I have a friend in Wuhan, where it seems that the Mandarin is quite different.

I worried a lot about this before coming to Japan, but in retrospect, I think it’s not that big of a deal here. The language (vocabulary and accent/intonation) is significantly different from the standard language in places like Osaka, or Fukuoka, and that imposes an extra burden on the learner, but it’s actually not that big of a deal.

I wonder if I’m again worrying about a minor concern when it comes to Mandarin. In reality, I have many friends in Taiwan, so I’ll probably choose Taiwan, but I’d still like to know about the mainland. Particularly, I think it would be very exciting to live in Shanghai, but it seems like it wouldn’t be the best place to learn Mandarin.

I know Steve learned Mandarin in HK, so it can be learned anywhere, but I won’t be studying full-time, and I won’t have hours a day with Mandarin-speaking tutors, so it’s something I’m thinking about.

The accent is really a big deal in China for you to concern. I speak standard Mandarin and can understand accent much quicklier than others, but still when went to some cities felt like went abroad! Especially the southern part of China, where their accents are totally different from place to place, and even much father from Manderin, and most of the residents there can’t speak very standard Manderin. It really will be a burden for a new learner to live there and to learn Chinese.

Of course every big city have some formal institiutions to teach Manderin and many good tutors there, so it’s right that you can learn it anywhere, but I still suggest Bejjing or some northeast cities like Shenyang , Changchun etc. where almost everybody can be your tutor and practise with you in your daily life, you can learn quicklier and communicate much easier.

For Taiwan and HK, there would be more people can talk to you in English than the mainland, but still have the problem of accent very different from Manderin.

Information above hope to help you.

I think it does not matter that much as long as you are in a big city. Here in Suzhou the locals speak a local dialect but most of the young speak very standard Mandarin I think. In Shanghai it is the same. Job mobiity is now very high in China which dilutes the local dialects.

I guess that in Suzhou it’s not a dialect but a different language. Wu perhaps, Friedemann?

I have had the same experience as Friedemann, wherever you go in China you will hear lots of standard Mandarin, and less and less of the local accent. In Taiwan you will mostly hear Taiwanese Mandarin.

Ok, I guess I won’t worry about it too much, as long as I go to a major city. My friend lives in Wuhan though, which is part of the Southern Mandarin area though, and I’m not so sure it’s the best choice language-wise.

Also, is the difference between Taiwanese Mandarin and Standard Mandarin all that big? Maybe I’m wrong, but my understanding was that while Taiwanese Mandarin is distinctive, it’s not that different from the standard. I’d most likely be living in Taipei, which I understand is more Mandarin-ized than other parts of the country.

Even in Beijing or Tianjin you will be exposed to a wide range of accents. When I first came to Beijing I thought the taxi drivers there were speaking a different language. When I lived in Norway I was influenced by the local accent but as long as you get good exposure through the media and your daily job you’ll be fine. It is like our immune system, it needs to be exposed to a variety of germs in order to become strong. As you know, there are no hacks, especially not for Chinese.

Something I’ve always understood about Standard Mandarin is that a majority of people speaking it, speak it as a second language. Probably many of them do so very well, though. I’d imagine though, with it being the prestige language, it’s influencing other Mandarin dialects as well as other Chinese languages (and non-Chinese languages within the country, no doubt).

Yes, indeed, there are no hacks. I’m just hoping to minimize the hurdles I’ll have to overcome. I have lots of friends in Taiwan, so it’s the most logical place to go. Plus, it’s close to Japan and people there generally like Japan. I’m not crazy about the whole authoritarian “communist” thing they’ve got going on in China. But I have a decent opportunity for a job in Shanghai, and I have a Canadian friend living in Wuhan. So there are options. I’m Canadian, so I can take the cold of northeast China. I’ve had lots of people recommend the northeast for one reason or another, although the cold of places like Harbin might be too much even for me…

Hello,I come from Shanghai.Although we have our own dialect,most Shanghai people can speak Mandarin except those senior citizens who may have strong accent of Shanghainese.Actually,i think you can learn Mandarin anywhere in China.You should just expose yourself in that environment.If you need any help in learning Mandarin ,you can send me an email .