The Bund on Chinese National Day
Shared kitchen at my apartment in 2005
Workers preparing to tear down my laundry room
My new laundry room!
Kai Hong hotel
Students in China - Ron in Shanghai
This is an account of my three trips to Shanghai to study Mandarin. Originally just in English, I later decided to translate it into Chinese. Below are the results. If nothing else, the translation should provide entertainment for native Chinese readers. -Ron
In 2004 I spent a month in Beijing studying Mandarin, liked the experience, so decided to go back to China to study again in 2005. I wanted to try out a different city, go when it was warmer, and spend half as much money. I ended up spending October in Shanghai.
Shanghai isn't a city that comes to mind when thinking of going abroad to study Mandarin. Those are Beijing, Dalian, or Kunming. Several friends warned me that "You will only hear people speaking Shanghai hua" or "Shanghai people are unfriendly"... So I decided to find out for myself.
I ended up going to Shanghai three different years to study, 5 - 6 weeks each time. During those times I came to really like Shanghai and its people, and heard enough "standard" Mandarin spoken to dispel the myths about Shanghai. The following is an account of the three trips there along with some suggestions, if you are thinking about going there to study.
Schools and Teachers / 学校和老师
In the fall of 2005 I studied at the iMandarin Language Training Institute in Shanghai (see http://www.imandarin.net/). I chose iMandarin because they were recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide, and flexible with schedules and durations.
2005年秋天我去上海的中国语教室(iMandarin Language Training Institute，http://www.imandarin.net/）学汉语。我选择中国语教室是因为Lonely Planet Guide推荐它，还有中国语教室课程表和时间都很灵活。
iMandarin has six locations scattered among the commercial areas in Shanghai. The location I attended was on the 17th floor of a modern office building, and had a boutique-ish atmosphere, as it was small but well-appointed. My classroom was very comfortable, and its large window afforded a great view of Shanghai. This made my 3-hour class very tolerable. Though relatively expensive, the quality of teaching was very good, and my time there was well worthwhile.
iMandarin is rather unique among language schools in that they publish their own textbooks, the "My Chinese Classroom" series. These books are fast paced, cover interesting business and cultural topics, and do a good job of introducing vocabulary needed through the intermediate level. Grammar is introduced informally in the Notes section of each chapter. This was perfect for me, as I already had a very good grasp of the grammar from Willow's classes here in the U.S.. What I needed was lots of practice using both the grammar and vocabulary. By the time I finished the third book of the intermediate level, which is iMandarin's last in their series, I felt I had a good working vocabulary. I still keep them around and re-read their dialogues regularly.
At iMandarin I chose the Indvidual Course option, since my primary goal was to improve my speaking and listening comprehension, and carry on dialogues. For 5 weeks I did this 5 days per week, 3 hours per day. This plan worked out well. The daily 3 hours were intense but fun. Any more would have been too much. This also left time each day to preview the text material for the next day's class, plus chat with the locals. I was very happy with my improvement after 5 weeks.
In the spring of 2008 I returned to Shanghai to study and visit friends. I liked the 3 hour / day one-on-one format, but to save money decided to not go through a school this time, but to hire a tutor. Since I liked the iMandarin textbooks, I first went to the Shanghai Foreign Language Book Store (外文书店) on Fuzhou Lu to purchase the next in the series. While there I ran into a Mandarin teacher who was there looking at new textbooks. Her regular job was teaching at another school called Mandarin House, but after we talked, she was happy to tutor me and also use the iMandarin text. After 5 weeks of 3 hour classes, we were able to cover the first iMandarin intermediate-level text.
In 2009 I returned to Shanghai once again and with the same teacher and covered both the second and third intermediate texts, thus completing the whole iMandarin series.
Housing / 住房
As luck would have it, my Chinese teacher here in the U.S., Willow, had connections in Shanghai, as she lived there for five years, and in 2005 found me an apartment, free of rent, the first year, belonging to a friend of hers, Mr. Guo. It was a single room with shared kitchen in a sub-divided colonial French mansion near the Hengshan Lu subway station. While there I was well attended to by Mr. Guo's family; different people regularly came over and prepared meals for me.
Before I arrived in Shanghai, Mr. Guo had a cinder-block laundry room built in the common courtyard for me to use. Unfortunately, he didn't consult with the other building occupants. They were very angry. Two days after I moved in I was visited by seven officials from the district city management unit, presenting me with an officially-stamped notice stating that I had 24 hours to get rid of the laundry room, else they would destroy it and charge me for the labor. I quickly called Mr. Guo's sister, who generally takes care of the house. She said not to worry about it, she would take care of it. However, the next day the same seven officials arrived along with workers with sledge hammers, and proceeded to demolish the laundry room. Later on Mr. Guo's sister showed up along with two helpers, and proceeded to reconnect the washer, which had been spared during demolition. She didn't act like it was anything unusual for Shanghai.
In 2008 I spent my month in Shanghai at a ￥100 per night room at the Kai Hong Hotel, a 10-minute walk from the Hong Qiao Street subway station in west Shanghai. My room was small and cramped, and I had to strategically plan my showers, as they left the bathroom floor underwater for several hours, but otherwise the room was clean and quiet, and lacked the drama of men with sledge hammers. As much as I enjoyed the ambience of the Kai Hong, it didn't provide a very comfortable study environment, as my bed took up most of the room, leaving no desk space, and the hotel lobby was generally thick with cigarette smoke.
In 2009 I again stayed at the Kai Hong for a week, then decided to upgrade to a Home Inn (如家酒店), which was ￥170 per night, but one or two stars nicer, closer to my teacher, and had a shower drain that worked. Home Inns are the Chinese version of Comfort Inns, and very popular with the Chinese business crowd. I'm pretty sure I was the first westerner to stay in this hotel, as they were not set up for handling passports at all. It was well worth the extra expense.
I definitely recommend Shanghai for study abroad. Budget allowing, contact iMandarin or other language school; for 1/1 classes you can usually begin the next day after you show up. Otherwise, go to the Shanghai Foreign Language Book Store to try to "pick up" a language teacher, or search Craigslist or Google. preferably one with a Mandarin teaching certificate. For 4 - 6 week stays, consider one of the three major budget hotel chains in China. These are Jinjiang Inn, Home Inn, and Motel168.
我一定推荐去上海留学。要是你付得起，那你可以跟iMandarin或者别的语言学校联系，选择一对一的课通常可以通知后第二天上课。要不然，就去上海外文书店找老师，或者上Craig’s List或者Google找老师。 最好是有汉语教学证书的老师。要是你打算住在上海四个星期到六个星期，可以考虑住在中国的三家主要的经济型连锁酒店， 这些是“锦江之星” (Jinjiang Inn),“如家酒店” (Home Inn) 和“莫泰168”（Motel 168）。