Spending the Summer in Shanghai is Forcing Me to Learn Mandarin

I have not posted lately due to several factors, including helping to coach my son’s soccer team, watching my son play baseball, keeping my soon-to-be-four-year-old daughter occupied, and the usual day-to-day stuff of trying to keep a household functioning.

One the biggest factors though is that our family is preparing for a long trip to China. My wife has been hired to teach two courses as part of a Summer Study Abroad program in Shanghai at the Shanghai International Studies University.

We’ll be in Shanghai for over five weeks starting in July. We’re hoping to take some side trips to Beijing, the Great Wall, Suzhou, and several other places. On our way back home, we have a two night layover in Hong Kong. I wish we could stay longer in Hong Kong, but hotels there are very expensive.

We’re very excited and even a little intimidated about the trip. I’ve been told that Shanghai is very cosmopolitan, being China’s financial center and with over 150,000 expats living there. That sounds like a lot of expats. And it is. But Shanghai has over 23 million people. I’m not expecting English to be widely spoken and understood.

(What you should also keep in mind about Shanghai and its 23 million people is that that there were less than 17 million people in 2000. It added more than a third to its population in 10 years. It’s growing at a staggering rate.)

Since we’re going to be there for so long, and my wife is going to be teaching a good part of the day for four days a week, it will be up to me to navigate Shanghai with our son and daughter. So I’ve taken it upon myself to attempt to learn a bit of Mandarin Chinese.

I’ve started using Get Started in Mandarin Chinese with Two Audio CDs: A Teach Yourself Guide. Like most Americans, or Westerners in general, the difficulty is with the tones. For example, if I mispronounce hao in the greeting ni hao I can end up saying “You number” instead of “hello.” Though the grammar appears to be much more simple than a language like French, which has more than a dozen tenses and “moods.”

I asked some Chinese friends of mine to suggest some talk radio sites that would allow me to listen over the internet. I don’t expect to understand much. But listening to the speakers on the radio helps to “tune in” so to speak to the rhythm and tones of the language.

For the next month, I’m going to be practicing some Mandarin, making a list of things to bring, and making a list of things to see and do in Shanghai, (and blogging just a little).

We’re going to Shanghai! I can’t wait.

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7 thoughts on “Spending the Summer in Shanghai is Forcing Me to Learn Mandarin

  1. SO FRICKIN’ COOL! That sounds awesome amazing adventurous and I am DAMN JEALOUS. Have a wonderful time — we used to talk about moving to China. Several kids ago …

    • It’s going to be a great adventure! I have a friend who is married to an architect. Her firm has an office in Shanghai. They’ve talked about the possibility of moving there. But they also have kids…

  2. How exiting for you. My 5yr old niece is learning Mandarin and always says its about the tones!! I’m so jealous you will be so close to giant pandas.

  3. Awesome! I’m jealous! I’ve got dictionaries, language study books, tapes (how quaint, right?), etc. that you can borrow if you want. You know how to find me…

  4. That is simpley amazing, Rich! Have a wonderful trip.

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