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Speaking Mandarin in Singapore

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Speaking Mandarin in Singapore

Post by jezzman » Mon, 30 Jul 2007 8:33 pm

As part of my stationing contract I got an intensive 30 x 3 hours Mandarin course for my wife and I. We'll start tomorrow and I have no idea how much we can learn in 5 months/90 hours but I guess it'll be just the basics + a little more.

I know that all daily correspondance are conducted in English and we're both fine in that department however I don't know how much me might benefit from speaking a bit of Mandarin when we come to Singapore. Does anyone of you have any experience in studying Mandaring before arriving? Is it a huge benefit for an expat to speak a bit of Chinese or is it irrelevant in Singapore?

One of the main reasons I chose to opt for the course is not that we're moving o Singapore but that I'll have to travel to China a fair bit and I've been in several Shanghai taxis and know that lots of Chinese people don't speak English. We also have several business contacts that speaks mainly Chinese.

Anyways, the questions was if you will benefit from learning Chinese/Mandarin before you arrive in Singapore and even if you continue studying while stationed there (we're there for 3 years min.)....
Me, fail English?
But nooo, that's unpossible....

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Post by ching » Mon, 30 Jul 2007 9:56 pm

Practically everyone in Singapore speaks English, so you should be able to get by fine even if you don't speak any Chinese.

Having said that - my colleagues at work are much more relaxed when they can speak a mix of Chinese / Singlish instead of having to speak straight, formal English.

I found the local TV shows helpful in supplementing Chinese lessons - one channel has shows in Chinese but with English subtitles, great for you to pick up the sounds of the language and practice recognizing spoken words.

While expats can easily survive without knowing a word of Mandarin, you will have plenty of opportunities to practice your Chinese if you want to - a little Mandarin goes a long way when eating at local hawker centres (it's either that or be left hapless at the counter while you and the noodle-serving 'auntie' try to make sense of each other... until you finally figure out that she's asking whether you want chilli with your wanton mee). You'll get a mix of Hokkien, Cantonese, etc but knowing Mandarin should be enough.

And if you look Chinese, cab drivers will start off speaking to you in Mandarin... but most of them will quickly switch to English if they realize you don't speak Chinese.
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Post by rhino » Mon, 30 Jul 2007 10:11 pm

I studied many years ago at university and also in Taiwan for a year. I think it is for the most part irrelevant, because as Ching pointed out, so many people speak English, especially if you're in a professional office environment. But what it will help you do is connect with a lot of locals with whom you may not have connected otherwise. Without sounding like I am blowing my own trumpet, I think there are a fair few people I talk to in my office (in Mandarin) who most of the other expats wouldn't talk to, or (which is a bit sad really) know their name! I think generally Mandarin speakers are pretty impressed when people give their language a go.

As they say in Mandarin... Jiayou!! :D

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