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MandainRocks Resources - Full list of Guides/Articles
Chinese Language Resources

This constantly developing section of MandarinRocks.Com is designed to provide you with all sorts of online Chinese language resources.

Right here you can discover diverse facets of Chinese culture, get the scoop on destinations with our guides, consult Mandarin grammar and vocabulary, get background information on the Chinese language, and more!

Check back often, as we're constantly coming up with new ideas for Chinese language resources. In the meantime, take a look at what we have so far!

If you have any questions while going through the resources, feel free to reach out through info@mandarinrocks.com and we’ll be in touch soon.


Whether you're just starting out or already have a bit of experience with the Chinese language, the handy Mandarin Language Tools section is here to help.

 Downloadable Pinyin Chart
This simple, clear Chinese Pinyin Chart will help you master Mandarin pronunciation.


Planning to take the HSK test someday? Everything you need to know about the HSK test can be found in this section.

 Test Dates
Find out the HSK test dates and registration deadline.

 Shanghai Test Centers
Find out the location/address of all HSK test centers in Shanghai.

 Beijing Test Centers
Find out the location/address of all HSK test centers in Beijing.

 How to Register for HSK Test Online?
Step-by-step guide on how to register for HSK test online.

 How to Register for HSK Test Offline?
Guide on how to register for HSK test offline at test centers.

 HSK Level 1 Vocabulary List (Downloadable)
A handy, complete 150-word vocabulary list for HSK level 1.

 HSK Level 2 Vocabulary List (Downloadable)
A complete 300-word vocabulary list for HSK level 2.

 HSK Level 3 Vocabulary List (Downloadable)
A complete 600-word vocabulary list for HSK level 3.

 How to better prepare for HSK Test?
Insider tips for preparing for HSK tests and getting better results.

 Mock Tests
Which HSK level are you at now? Find out by taking free mock tests. Available at all HSK 1-6 levels.


Don’t let anything hold you back from improving your Chinese fast! Read Do’s and don’ts for learning Chinese in this section.

 Is Chinese a Difficult Language to Learn?
In-depth analysis of difficult and easy things about learning Chinese.

 Mandarin Tutoring Service - ShanghaiTutors
Private Mandarin tutoring service in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Suzhou.

 Basic Chinese Grammar - ImproveMandarin
An essential guide to basic Chinese grammar that'll put you on the path to mastering Chinese fast.

 Chinese Learning Blog - HackingChinese
A comprehensive Chinese learning blog website with Chinese study research, learning tools, and tips

 Chinese Learning Flashcards App - Anki (free download)
A free and open-source flashcard program that utilizes spaced repetition.

 Chinese Learning Platform - Memrise
A language platform that uses spaced repetition of flashcards to increase the rate of learning.


Discover all sorts of student-oriented goodies to make your linguistic and cultural journey in China wonderful in this section.

 Cost of Living in Shanghai
Find out whether Shanghai is a cheap or expensive destination for language students.

 Shanghai Guide for Language Students
A simple guide to Shanghai for students learning Chinese in Shanghai

 Ultimate Guide to Summer Camps in Shanghai
Guide on picking the perfect summer camp in Shanghai.

 How Do International Students Rent Apartments in Shanghai?
Guide on renting apartments in Shanghai as language students.

 Language School vs University for Learning Chinese
Pros and Cons of the two popular options to learn Chinese in China.

 Learn Chinese in Universities in China? For Whom? Why?
Does university suit you best for learning Chinese? and why?

 Beijing vs Shanghai for Learning Chinese in China
Beijing is history, Shanghai is the future. Which one should you choose?

 Free Summer School with Shanghai Theatre Academy
Free Course for Chinese opera, culture, and language this summer.

 Working Visa to China New Policy
Updates on the new requirement to obtain a working visa to China.

 Ultimate Guide to Winter Camps in Shanghai
Guide on picking the perfect winter camp in Shanghai.

 Mandarin Tutors and Free Language Exchange in Shanghai
Tips on finding the perfect Mandarin tutor and free language partner.


A wide range of resources and tidbits that you can enjoy at your fingertips.

 Facts about Dialects Spoken in China
There are many dialects in China. How are they related to Mandarin?

 Shanghainese vs Mandarin
Shanghainese is the local language of Shanghai. How different is it from Mandarin?

 Study on Mandarin Dialects in China
Mandarin and Standard Mandarin? Not quite the same thing!

 Study on Wu Dialects in China
Shanghainese is just one of the Wu dialects. There are a lot more.

 Study on Cantonese (Yue Chinese) in China
Get to know the famous Cantonese - language of Hong Kong, Macau, and Canton

 Study on Hokkien (Min Chinese) in China
A well-known language spoken by many people of Chinese ancestry.


Cost of Living in Shanghai

There are vast differences in costs of living in Shanghai depending on your choice of lifestyle. Live like a westerner or expatriate, you will find Shanghai no cheaper than cities in Europe or America. As a language student, you can get by with 400USD~500USD a month EXCLUDING accommodation if you spend moderately, meaning live the local way. There are plenty of ways to live cheaply, expensively and somewhere in between.

The average monthly salary (pre tax) of Shanghai local people is 6378rmb. (The average starting salary of college graduates is 4990rmb). Below is the government statistics of Shanghai local people salary (pre tax, monthly) in 2016.

Salary                    Percentage      How locals think
2000-3000rmb          15.20%           very low
3000-4500rmb          15.00%           quite low
4500-6000rmb          18.10%           low
6000-8000rmb          15.50%           average
8000-10000rmb        10.10%           better than average
10000-15000rmb       11.90%           all right
15000-20000rmb       5.00%             good
20000-30000rmb       5.70%             quite good

Price Index
For a clearer guide on how much money you need to bring to learn Chinese or simly live in Shanghai, we made a price index (recorded in 2017 when the exchange rate of USD to RMB is 1:6:86) and add a few comments below. Click accommodation page for housing price index.

Cell phone 100rmb for normal use or 300rmb for intensive usage (monthly)
Food (In supermarket)
Beef: 45rmb/kg
Pork: 35rmb/kg
Tomato: 13rmb/kg
Apple: 15rmb/kg
Orange: 10rmb/kg for local oranges, 24rmb/kg for imported(Sunkist)
Mineral Water(550ml): 2rmb
Coke(355ml): 2.5rmb
Beer(355ml): 3-5rmb
Canned Coffee: 5mb
Milk(950ml): 12rmb
Ice cream: 3rmb

Comment: There are local fruit, vegetable and meat markets in every area. As far as local supermarkets are concerned, NGS, Hua Lian and Lian Hua are the cheapest and they are everywhere. If you need more foreign items go to Carrefour in Gubei (Puxi) or Jinqiao (Pudong). The other Carrefours are more local. Imported items could be two times, three times or more expensive than local ones.

Eat at home:10rmb raw material for a meal
Street snack bar (noodles, dumplings, fried rice, etc): 10-20rmb
Fast food restaurant (McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, etc): 20-40rmb
In Shopping mall (set-meal lunch): 25-50rmb
Local Chinese restaurant (some are really good): 50-100rmb
Upperscale Chinese restaurant 200-500rmb
Western restaurant 50-300rmb
Upper class western restaurant 300-700rmb
Coffee shop (Starbucks, Costa, etc) 
coffee: 30rmb
Muffin: 7rmb
Cheese cake (slice): 20rmb
Sandwich: 15rmb

Comment: A meal in a local restaurant would cost about 60 to 120rmb for two. Expat restaurants with western food would average 100 to 200rmb. High class restaurants would costs a lot more. On the cheapest local side you can still get a boxed meal (in Chinese: He Fan) which consists of 2 meat dishes, 2 vegetable dishes and a box of rice for 10-15 rmb in some areas (also known as diners for taxi drivers).If you cooked yourself then 500-1000 RMB per person per month would be enough, depending if you use local or western foods. More dining information can be found on food and restaurants page.

Pub, Clubs
Cheap ones: 20-30rmb Normal: 50-100rmb
Cinema 30-70rmb  (Avatar in 3D IMAX was 120-150rmb)
Gym 2000-3000rmb/yr
DVD 10rmb
Daily Newspaper 1-2rmb
Magazine 10-30rmb
Hair Cut  Typically 30rmb, some large hairdressers charge 40-100rmb
Clothes Largely depend on brands, international brands like H&M, Zara, Gap, Nike, Adidas and luxuries are about the same as anywhere else, local brands are a bit cheaper
Souvenir T shirt 50rmb

Comment: Bars and restaurants targeting expatriates are expensive. Beers range from 35-55rmb and spirit mixers around 50-80rmb. If you want to keep these expenses down then either go to a more local venue or entertain at your apartment. More information can be found on shopping page, entrainment page and nightlife page.

Bus: most buses is one price for all stops: 2rmb. Some special buses are higher: 3-4rmb
Subway: 3rmb (within 3 stops)-6rmb, typical 4rmb
Taxi: 14rmb for the first 3 km with 2.4rmb extra for each additional km

Comment: Shanghai has a good, cheap subway system and it is worthwhile using. Buses are also good but more difficult to follow. However, if you have the bus number and stop then most people are helpful. Bicycles are the quickest way to get around. A bike will costs from 150 to 500 rmb. More transportation information can be found on transportation page.

Ultimate Guide to Summer Camps in Shanghai

It's time to start planing for your kid’s summer care, enrichment opportunities, and old-fashioned, outdoor fun with help from our ultimate guide to summer camps and classes in Shanghai in 2017. From ballet and basketball to fashion design and language learning, you'll be amazed at the range of options that are available. To save you some time, we've curated a list of the best camps in Shanghai this summer.

Bodylab Wellness Music Theater Camp

Every child gets the chance to shine at BodyLab Wellness with their summer camp that encourages kids to explore the world of singing, dancing and acting. Kids will be divided by age into small groups and taught by a staff of musical theatre professionals and dance teachers. Over two weeks, students learn their songs, rehearse their scenes and build great choreography, developing their creativity and imagination, and having fun and making friends along the way. On the final day, they present a free performance of their show for parents, relatives and friends. Spaces are limited and you can register by calling 021-5058-0559.

- 1550 Zhangyang Road
- 021-5058-0559 // info@bodylab.asia

ICONX Skateboard Camp

ICONX has 1-week summer skateboard camp from June to August for kids aged 5-15, with each camp running from Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The program has been crafted to focus on skateboard skill-building and competition, academic enrichment and support, leadership and character development, health and nutrition, and exposure to different parks throughout the city. As a plus, food is provided by Sproutworks.

- 1594 Longwu Road
- 180-1706-3650 // info@iconx.com

Code Academy 123 Coding Camp

In the era of technology, coding is becoming more and more accessible and important. Code Academy 123 is offering various coding summer camps with options for Chinese instructed programs too for boys and girls aged 7 to 14, each lasting a week, with 15 hours of afternoon sessions from 2 pm to 5 pm. Choose from either of these three camps: Learning Programming fundamentals via Robotics; Hacking Minecraft with Python; and Gaming101 - Creating games with Scratch. Your kid will need to come to the camp with a laptop with MacOS X or Windows 7, 8 or 10.

- 3/F, Hengshan Road
- info@codeacademy123.com

Sportsworld Sports Camp

Sports World has 9 one-week camp sessions from June to August to choose from in four fantastic locations: Kerry Sports, Ambassy Club, Lakeville Xintiandi and Central Residence. They offer top class coaching in swimming, football, tennis and karate as well as character-building programs to inspire caring, fairness, responsibility, honesty and kindness in kids.

- info@sportsworldtl.com // 400-005-0806

Shanghai City Ballet Camp

Shanghai City Ballet has a Dance Summer Intensive Program for children aged 4 to 15, offering full day dance camps with an exceptional faculty from France and UK. Ballet intensive and 8 other dance styles are offered through the day 8:45am-4:15pm.

- 1F, 76 Wuyuan Road, Block 16.
- wuyuan@shanghaicityballet.com // 021-64485362

Basketball Stars United

Basketball Stars United, which promotes character development and leadership skills through the game of basketball, has got summer camps in Puxi from June to August, and in Pudong in the month of August. Suitable for kids aged 7-11 and teenagers aged 12-17, these camps are a great way for your child to socialise while learning the sport, and improving overall basketball skills.

- www.bsunation.cn
- 021-3258-0667 // 180 1762 8706

naked Discovery Camp

This summer, naked is expanding its vision of nurturing mind and body by introducing its newly established learning center! - naked Discovery. This exciting summer camp program for kids aged 4-13 focuses on cultivating essential life skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and team work in a fully bilingual environment! There are four different types of Learning Packages to choose from: Virtuosos; Creators; Life Hackers and Thinkers.

- 1F, 76 Wuyuan Road, Block 16.
- summercamp@nakeddiscovery.cn // 021-33197725

Kehua Sports Football Camp

Kehua Sports has six one-week summer camps for football players aged 5-13 at two great venues: Jing’an Worker’s Stadium right in the heart of Puxi, and Century Park Stadium in Pudong. Their coaches follow the Kehua Technique Method, inspired by the biggest clubs in Europe. The sessions introduce all the basic techniques of the game during the week. With detailed and adapted instructions, smart and fun ways to learn the techniques and plenty of game time to practice the skills.

- info.centuryparkfc@gmail.com
- 400 811 9739

iShine Fashion Design Camp

Give your budding fashionista a headstart in fashion design with this unique and innovative summer camp from iShine, running in Aug. Your child will learn from experienced and professional coaches and learn how to design their own clothes and even showcase the clothes they designed in their very own runway show. NOTE: This camp is run in Chinese, but the coaches are bilingual. You can register by calling them at 180-1935-8397

- 350 Xianxia Road
- 180-1935-8397

Artspire - Little Artist Camp

At this bilingual five-day-four-night art summer camp for kids aged 6-12 in Sheshan, children will have lots of fun with Picasso and art with Spanish artists and art education experts Sonia Alins and Juanjo Barco. Art classes aside, kids will get to enjoy outdoor picnics, learn how to make dumplings, learn how to read maps and visit the Sheshan Observatory.

- artlife@artspire.cn
- 021-62119632 // 021-62318700 // 021-69210080 // 021-68388098

MandarinRocks Chinese Language Camp

This summer, our school Mandarinrocks continues to offer Chinese language camp in Shanghai. It's an ideal balance between Mandarin study, leisure and travel and is aiming participants of all nationalities between 7 and 20 with quest for Chinese language & culture. Youngsters will have the chance to get a deep insight into Chinese culture improve Chinese rapidly and at the same time enjoy their summer vacations. Click to read details and register online.

- 2, 4, 6 weeks option from June 12 to August 19
- Full camp and day camp option
- Shanghai Jing'an School
- info@mandarinrocks.com

Free Summer School with Shanghai Theatre Academy

Want to learn about the Chinese culture? Fascinated about the opera? The Shanghai Theatre Academy has generously decided to offer free summer school opportunities with an aim to enhance intercultural understanding.

You will be able to study three courses: Chinese opera, culture and language. The main course is the traditional Chinese opera, composed of the learning of Chinese opera steps and movements, water sleeve routines, spear and sword routines, and selected scene work. Chinese culture and language are supporting courses for you to better understand the essence of traditional Chinese culture. During the program, you will also have the opportunity to see traditional Chinese opera shows and take field trips.

When and what?
June 15-July 6, 2017
Chinese opera: 64 lessons
Chinese culture: 9 lessons
Chinese opera introduction: 16 lessons
Chinese languages: 16 lessons

1. Foreign student’s between 16 and 30 years old. University students preferred.
2. Interested in Chinese culture and willing to learn China opera.
3. Priority is given to students focusing on Chinese studies or with art background like acting and dancing.
4. Students from non-English speaking country should be able to communicate in English fluently and need to provide some certificate which can prove your English level when you apply.

Application Deadline
April 15, 2017

An attendance rate of over 90% is required to complete the program. At the end of the program, you will be assessed in the form of a reporting performance. The certificate of completion will be issued depending on whether you pass the assessment and achieving the required attendance rate.

You will need to apply and receive the Chinese visa with at least one-month of stay in China in your own country.

You will take care of your own personal accident insurance for the stay in China.

Tuition fee: free!
International flight expenses: to be borne by the students
Lodging: free, provided by Shanghai Theatre Academy
Living subsidy: ¥50 per day, provided by Shanghai Theatre Academy
Deposit:40USD. Student who has been enrolled should transfer 40USD to STA as deposit.The deposit will be returned on the registration day in RMB.

Bank information:
Bank:China Construction Bank, Shanghai Yan'an Road Branch
Bank Add:200 Zhenning Road, Shanghai, China
Post code:200040

Apply Now:
1. passport copy;
2. 2 photos (2 inches) and a ordinary life photo;
3. application form;
4. university certificate;
5. resume and other materials related to the application.

Send your application to:
Shirley Zou
Foreign Students Office
Shanghai Theatre Academy
630 Huashan Road, Shanghai, China, 200040
Tel: +8621-62485215
Fax: 008621-62485596
Email: micgirl@126.com

Working Visa to China New Policy

Following recent measures targeted at cracking down on less-skilled laowai (slang for "foreigner), including ranking expats based on their "talent" and banning non-native English teachers from teaching in some regions, there is finally some good some news to report for foreigners looking to work in China.

International graduates with master's degrees from Chinese universities or from "well-known" foreign universities (which universities qualify as "well-known" is not yet known) are now eligible for a Z (working) visa immediately after graduation, waiving the previous requirement of two years of postgraduate work experience, according to an announcement from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS)

This is in fact, essentially, an extension of a policy announced in 2015, which applied only to international graduates with a Master's degree from a Shanghai university looking to work in the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone or the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park.

The full requirements now are:
- At least 18 years old and in good health.
- Have a clean criminal record.
- Excellent academic performance, with an average grade over 80% or above B/ B+ and a good behavioral record.
- Have a relevant degree and educational background.
- Have a confirmed job offer in China relevant to your degree major, with a higher salary than the local average (as determined by the local social security department).
- Have a valid passport or equivalent.

To apply for the Z visa, applicants must present the following:
- Proof of employment history.
- Letter proving the employment offer and remuneration.
- Report giving evidence that the company advertised the job to domestic workers for at least 30 days.
- Proof of health status.
- Criminal record check.
- Degree certificate and transcript.
- Record of good behavior and grades during education (not required if the applicant has already graduated).
- Photo taken within the last six months.
- Employment license or foreign expert work permit, obtained from the Human Resources and Social Security Department or Management or State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs.

The issued employment certificate will initially only be valid for one year, but can be extended by up to another five years after the employee has paid at least the income tax appropriate for the salary offered. Quotas for foreign graduates will vary between provinces and regions depending on the local demand. That number is announced on January 31st each year by the MOHRSS.

It's yet to be seen how smoothly the application process will run, but there is at least hope that China is starting to open up more to foreign talent. The new policy took effect on January 6th, 2017, so international students -- start job hunting now!

How Do International Students Rent Apartments in Shanghai?

For students (either enrolled or not enrolled in our school) who will be staying in Shanghai for less than 3 months, it is strongly advised to arrange accommodation through Mandarinrocks school. It is indeed very difficult to find a landlord willing to rent out a room for only a short time in Shanghai, and the price is often driven up by a short contract. You can check out our housing options located in central Shanghai and contact us at info@mandarinrocks.com for further details and bookings. If you tend to rent apartment on your own, here are some tips.

There are numerous real estate agencies on streets (like what's shown on picture) that can help you look for apartments (English skill among them is zero or rare, bring a Chinese friend with you if possible). As the housing price in Shanghai is getting very expensive (an average 100m2 apartment costs around 1~2 million US dollars close to city center), the rent won’t be as cheap as you might think if you haven’t been here recently.

Average Rent in Shanghai:
Price is for an “okay” apartment based on one year lease. By okay, it means on a scale of 0-10, 0 being horrible and 10 being luxurious, the apartment is approximately graded 5-6. Short term lease will definitely be more expensive if applicable. For a luxurious apartment, expect to pay double or triple the amount stated below. Electricity, gas, water bills, internet, phone, cable is never included in the rent. Expect a minimum of 200rmb per month for moderate use.

Central areas (popular areas such as Jing’an, Huangpu, Xujiahui etc)
-One bedroom apartment: 6000-9000RMB (very few, mostly in old residential complexes)
-Two bedroom apartment: 9000-12000RMB
-Three bedroom apartments: 12000-18000RMB
Outskirts (less desirable areas such as Zhabei, Putuo, Hongkou, Yangpu, Pudong etc).
-One bedroom apartment: 4000-6000RMB (very few, mostly in old residential complexes)
-Two bedroom apartment: 6000-9000RMB
-Three bedroom apartments: 9000-12000RMB

Please Note:
1 When you rent an apartment through a real estate agency, you need to pay 35% of one month rent to them (regardless how long you stay, so does your landlord) as service charge.
2 You need to pay deposit equaling 1 or 2 months rent to the landlord. If you move out earlier than signed date on contract, deposit will be kept by landlord.
3 You need to pay three months rent at once before move in and pay every three months afterwards.
4 The apartments are normal apartments without room service. Serviced apartments in Shanghai target professional and expatriates. Monthly rent of 2000-5000USD is considered normal.
5 Search for sublet information on classified ads websites such as craigslist, chinadaily and probably you can find a good deal for short term stay or saving service fee to agencies.
6 Theoretically, it’s still possible to find a room for less than 2000rmb a month, but conditions and safety are always appalling. Thus, DON'T bother to look for surprisingly cheap apartments unless you are ready to live like a hobo.

Temporary Residence Registration
Shanghai local authority requires that you register your accommodation within three days upon arriving in Shanghai (does not matter whether you come from abroad or other places in China). By law it is a must, but by practice, unless you plan to extend or apply for a new visa in Shanghai, it’s useless for you. Police rarely check it. The airport authorities won’t check if you have one or not when you are leaving, nor will it leave bad record or affect your next visit. Registering accommodation may incur extra fee. If you feel obliged to get one, have your landlord go with you to nearby police station for registration; your friend or family living in Shanghai should go with you to nearby police station for registration if you stay with them.

We also found a website that offers many options for short term apartment rentals in Shanghai named HomeyShanghai.com that's worth checking out!

Facts about Dialects Spoken in China

Chinese people make a strong distinction between written language and spoken language. Spoken Chinese comprises thousands of regional varieties. Every city or township has its own dialect. The varieties are distinct in spoken forms only, and that the language, when written, is common across the country.

There are between seven and thirteen main regional groups of Chinese (depending on classification scheme, Chinese linguistics agree with seven), of which the most spoken, is Mandarin (about 850 million), followed by Wu (90 million), Cantonese (70 million) and Min (70 million). Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, but for sociological and political reasons are considered a single Chinese language.

Differences in speech generally become more pronounced as distances increase, with few radical breaks. However, the degree of change in intelligibility varies immensely depending on region. For example, the varieties of Mandarin spoken in all three northeastern Chinese provinces are mutually intelligible, but in the small province of Zhejiang a person from one valley may be completely unable to comprehend the language from the next, though both are considered dialects of Wu Chinese.

Language school or university? Planning for learning Chinese in China

The growing importance and influence of China's economy globally and increased interest in China from those outside has led to a corresponding interest in learning Chinese (Standard Mandarin). Chinese language programs have thus been blooming both home and abroad since 2000.

There are plenty of Chinese language programs in China. Normally there are no admission requirements besides age. The right one for you mainly depends upon your personal goals. If you are studying Chinese for academic purpose, such as to further study in a Chinese university (Chinese proficiency is often the prerequisite to enroll in degree programs in universities in China), Chinese programs with university seem to be the better choice. Many universities in China offer such programs. These programs are generally long term oriented (semester, year) and academically or exam focused (as its main purpose is to have students acquire sufficient skills to score well on exams and reach required level to further study degree/diploma programs). The class size varies from universities to universities and destinations to destinations. In some popular universities such as Beijing Language and Culture University and Shanghai Jiaotong University (mostly famous universities in major cities), the typical class size ranges from 15 to 25 with a mixture of student body of different nationalities. In some less chosen universities, the class size could be significantly smaller (sometimes only private instruction is possible). The main benefits of university programs are larger student network and real campus experience. Many long term programs allow credit transfer to your home university. They might also do wonders for you on your resume. What some see as a serious drawback to university programs is the focus on reading and writing with scant attention to listening and speaking in an interactive way. To search and apply for universities programs, visit cucas.edu.cn

If you plan to study Chinese in China to improve language proficiency (especially on listening and speaking), or for interest or experience, Chinese language schools definitely suite you better. They are quite a bit more accommodating and focused on meeting the needs of individual students. The school scale and class size are much smaller of course. In addition to a more learner-centered, personal and interactive environment, their programs offer flexibility in scheduling. Most schools allow you to attend a short term course such as 1 or 2 weeks (technically, some universities allow you to attend short term courses in the middle of a semester or year program, but your progress might be limited as they seldom have the suitable class for your level when you arrive, and the course itself is long term oriented). Most schools offer group course and individual course as well as combination of both. The number of lessons chosen again mainly depends on your goals. Is it mainly interest or achievement you are striving for? In our perspective we recommend, especially for long duration, booking rather more lessons (without over doing it) if you aim to achieve linguistic maximum because you will find plenty of time for leisure and enjoying yourself at the weekends and school holidays.

Some language schools or educational institutions organize special immersion programs combining language learning with recreation and trips for students of certain age, for example, teenagers or senior learners. These could be good opportunities for them to learn the language, explore the country and its culture. For kids, the group arrangement may also allow them to take healthy risks in a safe and nurturing environment.

Be noted as some programs might only target certain group of students, for example, overseas Chinese or Asian students, which means their teaching methods might be effective, but not suitable for Westerners. In some programs, English is used as the intermediary language in teaching. If you sign up for a wrong program, you will perhaps feel like the class idiot because all the other students are perhaps Japanese or Korean and you will be the only one who cannot read Chinese characters or you are the only one who cannot follow the class due to lack of English skills. So, before joining the program, always ask to see who else are joining.

Points to consider when selecting schools/programs
Type of course:
General course? Course to pursue university study? Course on business Chinese? Short term course? Individual lessons?
Chinese language proficiency level:
Are the classes divided accordingly to cater for students with varied levels of Chinese proficiency?
Total hours of classes:
Which is preferable to you? A half day course or a full day course?
Any accommodation provided? Does it have its own accommodation or introduce apartments to rent? Is it convenient to commute to school?
School facilities:
How large is the school? Does the school provide adequate facilities?
Student ratio
Where are students from? How old are they?
Locality and environment:
Is the school in a quiet environment conducive for studies? Is it in the city or countryside?
School fees and other fees:
How much? Is the fee appropriate to the course, teachers, facilities?

Planning for Learning Chinese in Universities in China

Currently, over 550 universities (from the total number of around 1800) in China are accredited to accept international students. These schools spread across 31 provinces and municipalities. More than 80% of the international students coming to study in Chinese universities start with Chinese language learning. Normally there are no admission requirements for language programs besides age. University programs are generally long term oriented and academically focused. Typically the class size in popular universities ranges from 15 to 25 with a mixture of student body of different nationalities while the class size in less chosen universities is significantly smaller. The main benefit of university programs is that your study can sometimes lead to a degree in Chinese language which might do wonders for you on your resume, depending upon your personal goals. What some see as a serious drawback to university programs is the focus on reading and writing with scant attention to listening and speaking in an interactive way. Many students studying in universities also take extra class with language schools or private tutors. To search and apply for universities programs, visit cucas.edu.cn.

Beijing or Shanghai? How to choose a city to learn Chinese in China?

While it is possible to experience the cultural diversity and grandeur by studying almost anywhere in China, some popular destinations might maximize your experience by offering top teaching quality and more possibilities to enjoy beauty, history and lifestyle or career and business opportunities. Shanghai, Beijing have traditionally remained the top chosen cities which attract more than 70% of all the foreign learners coming to China. If traditional culture is your thing, you might consider more traditional cities like Xi’an and Nanjing where there are fewer foreigners. If you have a craving for natural beauty and travelling, picturesque Hangzhou, Guilin and Kunming would definitely be good choices. Mandarinrocks has Mandarin schools in both Shanghai and Beijing, the two dominant cities of language students’ choice.

Who should go to Shanghai to learn Chinese?
Shanghai is the “New York” of China, a city for people who love cities - they love the pace, the intensity, the density, the constant feeling of motion and the sensory overload. If you like Shanghai, it's because you're attuned into this frenetic vibe that it exudes - the swirl of stores and restaurants and people that collide on every corner you can see.

Who should go to Beijing to learn Chinese?
Beijing is the political and cultural capital of China, one of the country’s true ancient cities. Less westernized compared with Shanghai, Beijing is more like a typical Chinese city - long history, traditional architectures, and slower pace of live, beautiful landscape.

Shanghai is a more modern, western city while Beijing is more conservative, more traditional. Both cities are excellent choices to learn Chinese and experience life in China. The choice all depends on your personality.

Is Chinese A Difficult Language to Learn?

Is Chinese a difficult language to learn? The answer really depends on what language you speak and whether you are gifted in learning language at all. It seems that many foreigners living in China are able to speak decent Mandarin without receiving any formal training and it is not uncommon to see that a Japanese or Korean speaker reaches fluency in less than a year from total beginner level.

If you seek the answer from native Chinese people, they will probably tell you Chinese is rather easy compared with any foreign language. To most Chinese, English is the real headache, let alone French, German, Spanish etc. Chinese people will probably be surprised, if not shocked, if you tell them that you think Chinese is harder than French or German.

Nevertheless, by native English speakers, Chinese is rated as one of the most difficult languages to learn, together with Arabic, Japanese and Korean.

Several Major Difficulties:
1 The writing Chinese is definitely hard to learn in the beginning, though there is nothing conceptually difficult about it; there is just a lot to memorize. Educated Chinese know about 3000-4,000 Chinese characters and 40,000 to 60,000 words. To reach total literacy, you have do learn the same amount, not necessarily to write, but at least to be able to recognize. The positive thing is that most Chinese characters belong to the class of semantic-phonetic compounds, which means that one can know the basic meaning and the approximate reading of most Chinese characters, after acquiring some elementary knowledge of the language. You won’t think Chinese characters are the threat any more after elementary to intermediate stage.

2 Chinese is a tone language, that is, different pitch patterns do not just add emotional color, as in English; they actually distinguish one word from another. How much of a problem this is depends a lot on the individual student: students with a good ear do not necessarily find this a difficulty.

3 Chinese has a large number of homophones (different characters or words with same pronunciation). In English, 3 words: C, see, sea sound the same, you distinguish them by context, in Chinese, instead of 3, there could be 30 characters that sound the same.

Easy things
1 Chinese grammar is relatively simple. Unlike many European languages, Chinese has no irregular verbs or noun plurals to learn, because words have only a single form, with no suffixes for tense, number, case, etc. (There are some particles which work somewhat like tense endings, but they always take the same form, no matter what they are added to.). Conjugation rules for verbs and adjectives are almost entirely free of exceptions. These facts make the language relatively easy for starting students.

2 Chinese speakers are usually tolerant of a foreigner's mistakes. Remember almost everyone in China learns to speak standard Mandarin as a second language after their dialect as well. If your pronunciation is good, Chinese people will tell you: You speak better than Chinese. Sometimes it is not a flattery, it’s the truth.

Ultimate Guide to winter camps in Shanghai

For parents staying in Shanghai this Christmas, it's time to reward yourself with some free time by sending your kids on a productive and engaging Christmas camp! To save you some time, we've curated a list of the best camps in Shanghai this winter.

Bodylab Wellness

Feel the holiday spirit by immersing into a creative activity. Bodylab Wellness is concerned with your child's art education and is offering two 7 day programs for ages 6-12 during this holiday season. The 1st program (1-3pm) revolves around musical theatre and teaches kids the art of acting and basics of theatre. The 2nd program (3-5pm) is about fashion week, which involves self confidence through modelling and photo shoots. Spaces are limited and you can register by calling 021-5058-0559.

- 2 hour sessions from Jan. 16-22 // Musical Theatre: 1-3pm; Fashion Week: 3-5pm
- For one program ¥3300; two programs ¥5600 // Members' price - one program ¥2800; two programs ¥4800
- 1550 Zhangyang Road
- 021-5058-0559 // info@bodylab.asia


ICONX is offering a skateboarding camp that focuses on skill-building, competition, leadership, and character development. The program organizes five 1-week camps and two 3-day camps for middle school-aged students, each running from Monday to Friday from 9am-4pm. As a plus, food is provided by Sproutworks. You can register by emailing info@iconx.com. 15% discount if you sign up in advance before Dec. 13!

- Monday to Friday, 9am - 4pm
- From ¥1800
- 1594 Longwu Road
- 180-1706-3650 // info@iconx.com

Code Academy 123

In the era of technology, coding is becoming more and more accessible and important. Code Academy 123 is offering various coding camps on Python, Scratch, and Robotics with options for Chinese instructed programs too. Learn more about the programs and register by visiting their website or emailing info@codeacademy123.com. Sign up before January 15 2017 and you'll receive a 5% discount!

- 2 hour classes throughout Jan. and Feb.
- Robotics ¥2840; Python ¥2300 // 5% discount if sign up before Jan. 15 2017
- 3/F, Hengshan Road
- info@codeacademy123.com


Sportsworld is offering sports camp throughout this holiday season! Available for children from ages 4-12, they will be able to get a sense of different variety of sports, such as swimming, tennis, karate, basketball, and football. You can register by calling them at 400-005-0806.

- Dec. 19 - 23, Dec. 26 - 30, 9am - 3pm
- From ¥650
- 168 Shunchang Road; 1388 Huamu Road
- 400-005-0806


Since fashion design courses are generally not offered at school, iShine is providing a fashion design oriented camp. Kids will learn how to design and showcase their own clothes on their own runway show. These five day camps are run in Chinese, but the experienced coaches are bilingual. You can register by calling them at 180-1935-8397

- 9.30am - 4pm, 5 day camps from Dec. 27-31 // 2017 Jan. 21-25, Feb. 6-10
- ¥3999
- 350 Xianxia Road
- 180-1935-8397


Finally, Our school Mandarinrocks is offering Chinese language camp in Shanghai this winter. It's an ideal balance between Mandarin study, leisure and travel and is aiming participants of all nationalities between 7 and 20 with quest for Chinese language & culture. Youngsters will have the chance to get a deep insight into Chinese culture and improve Chinese rapidly. You can register online.

- 2 to 4 weeks option from Dec 05 and Dec 19
- Day camp from ¥8800; Full camp from ¥16800
- Jing'an School
- info@mandarinrocks.com

Study on the Difference Between Shanghainese and Mandarin

Shanghainese, also known as the Shanghai dialect, is a dialect of Wu Chinese spoken in the central districts of Shanghai and in the surrounding region.

Both Shanghainese and Mandarin belong to the big family of Chinese. Mandarin, the official language of China, develops primarily from Beijing dialect together with some other dialects in north China. Shanghainese is a branch of Wu dialect and also the most influential one, which is popular in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang.

The differences between Shanghainese and Mandarin are mainly on two aspects, pronunciation and vocabulary. For example, the pronoun “I” and “you” are pronounced “wo” and “ni” in Mandarin but pronounced “wu” and “nong”in Shanghainese, “People's Square” in Mandarin is “renmin guangchang” but in Shanghainese it is read as “zenmin guangzang”. The pronunciation marks of Shanghainese are not regular Chinese Pinyin. In Shanghainese, people use “a li da” to mean where while in Mandarin people say “nali”. “He speaks good Chinese” is translated as “ta zhongwen shuo de henhao” in Mandarin and as “yi zongwen ganglai loho e” in Shanghainese.

Nowadays, most of Shanghai people can speak Mandarin Chinese. There is little obstacle for people from other places to communicate with Shanghai people.

Study on Mandarin Dialects in China

Mandarin is a diverse group of Mandarin dialects spoken in northern and southwestern China. (In everyday use, Mandarin also refers to Standard Mandarin which is the official spoken language of Mainland China, Taiwan, and one of the four official languages of Singapore).

Mandarin is mutually unintelligible with other varieties of Chinese. Most Chinese living in northern and south-western China are native speakers of a dialect of Mandarin. There are countless regional variations in Mandarin. They cover a huge area containing nearly a billion people. As a result, there are significant regional variations in pronunciation. These regional differences are bigger than the differences in the varieties of English found in England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.

Dialects of Mandarin can be subdivided into eight categories: Beijing Mandarin, Northeastern Mandarin, Ji Lu Mandarin, Jiao Liao Mandarin, Zhongyuan Mandarin, Lan Yin Mandarin, Southwestern Mandarin, and Jianghuai Mandarin. Jin is sometimes considered the ninth category of Mandarin. (Others separate it from Mandarin altogether.)

Remember, the grouping is defined and used by linguists, and is not commonly used outside of academic circles as a self-description. Instead, when asked to describe the spoken form they are using, Chinese will describe the dialect that they are speaking, for example Sichuan dialect (the dialect of Sichuan Province), Dongbei dialect (the dialect of Northeastern China), or more specifically like Chengdu dialect (the dialect of Chengdu, a city in Sichuan Province), Shenyang dialect (the dialect of Shenyang, a city in Northeastern China).

Study on Wu Dialects in China

Wu is a diverse group of Wu dialects spoken in most of Zhejiang province, Shanghai, southern Jiangsu province, as well as smaller parts of Anhui, Jiangxi, and Fujian provinces in China.

Wu is mutually unintelligible with other varieties of Chinese. There are countless regional variations in Wu. Major Wu dialects include those of Shanghai, Suzhou, Wenzhou, Hangzhou, Shaoxing, Jinhua, Yongkang, and Quzhou. The traditional prestige dialect of Wu is the Suzhou dialect, though due to its large population, Shanghainese is today sometimes considered the prestige dialect.

The modern Wu language can be traced back to the ancient Wu and Yue peoples centered around what is now southern Jiangsu and northern Zhejiang. The Japanese Go-on pronunciation of Chinese characters (obtained from the Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period) is from the same region of China where Wu is spoken today. Wu Chinese itself has a 2,600 year old history, dating back to the Spring and Autumn Period.

Among speakers of other Chinese languages, Wu is often subjectively judged to be soft, light, and flowing. The actual source of this impression is harder to place. It is likely a combination of many factors. Among speakers of Wu, for example, Shanghainese is considered softer and mellower than the variant spoken in Ningbo, although some Wu speakers still insist that old standard Suzhou dialect is more pleasant and beautiful than the dialects of Shanghai and Ningbo.

Many Wu dialects are diverse and not mutually intelligible with each other. However, all Wu dialects including Oujiang can understand the Taihu dialect, while Taihu speakers find the other dialects unintelligible or intelligible only to a small extent.

Study on Cantonese (Yue Chinese) in China

Cantonese (Yue Chinese) is a primary branch of the Chinese language comprising a number of dialects spoken in southern China mainly in the provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi, Hong Kong, Macau and overseas Chinese communities in Canada, the United States and Australia, as well as throughout Europe and Southeast Asia.

The English name "Cantonese" is sometimes taken to refer to the dialect of Guangzhou Yuehai (formerly known as Canton), Hong Kong and Macau, which has emerged as the prestige variety of Yue. It is a lingua franca (a third language, distinct from both persons' mother tongues) of Guangdong province, eastern Guangxi province, some neighboring areas and many of overseas Chinese communities.

Yue includes many regional dialects, some of which are only partially mutually intelligible. The Guangzhou dialect of Yuehai is the prestige dialect and social standard of Yue, and historically the word "Cantonese" has referred specifically to this dialect.

Yue is mutually unintelligible with other varieties of Chinese. Some linguists agree to some extent that Yue is closer to classical Chinese in its pronunciation and some grammar. Yue retains a flavor of archaic and ancient Chinese. If protected, it can be used as a fossil to help study ancient Chinese culture.

Study on Hokkien (Min Chinese) in China

Min is the name of a broad group of Chinese languages spoken in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian as well as by migrants from this province in Guangdong southern Zhejiang, and some towns in Jiangxi province, and Taiwan. There are many Min speakers also among overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia as well as in New York City in the United States. The most widely spoken variety of Min is Hokkien, which includes Taiwanese and Amoy, amongst other dialects. The Min dialects preserve many of the archaic pronunciations of Old Chinese.

Min has greater dialectal diversity than any other division of Chinese. It is typically divided, on the basis of mutual intelligibility, into five to nine languages, such as Min Dong (Eastern Min) and Min Nan (Southern Min). Min Dong is centered around the city of Fuzhou (Fuzhou dialect is the standard dialect of Min Dong), capital of Fujian province, while Min Nan is dominant in the south of Fujian and into Guangdong.

In Taiwan, Min Nan is spoken by the majority of the population as their native language. In Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and other areas in Southeast Asia, Min Nan is known as Hokkien, in addition to the Teochew variant, originating in the Chaoshan region, which is the ancestral home of many ethnic Chinese in Singapore.

Mandarin Chinese Tutors and Language Exchange in Shanghai

Engaging private tutoring gives you complete control over what you learn and how you learn it. Almost all Chinese language schools can arrange private tutoring on request. Though private tutors are easy to find on your own, it is still advised to book lessons with a language school for private tutoring even if it means paying a bit more. There are lots of Chinese people willing to teach foreigners Chinese with the aim of earning extra money, improving English or just for the experience of it, only a tiny percentage of them are really able to teach at all. It’s especially risky for a total beginner to start learning the language with a private teacher. Being a total beginner means you know nothing about the language and have no idea if the teacher is teaching the right thing. If you meet an unqualified teacher or adopt the wrong learning method, you will just waste time. There are plenty of cases that people choose private tutors found on internet over language schools and give up completely before long, frustrated with the language. Don’t forget, Chinese is commonly rated as one of the most difficult languages to learn. Teaching it requires a lot of experience and expertise. Teachers working in language schools are generally well trained with much more experience and constantly supervised. While you’ll definitely find that it’s cheaper to study with a private tutor, you get way more assurance and results for just a little more bucks with a school.

If you are determined to find a private tutor on your own, look for local classified ads or by just asking around if you’re already in town. Stay away from those who are just showing interest in teaching the language and those offer unreasonably low price. When selecting the tutor, always ask for references so that you know at least someone has successfully learnt the language with him/her and you are not the first experiment.

If you already have some basics in Chinese, you can save your money and work out a language exchange arrangement. There is no shortage of Chinese in bigger cities like Shanghai looking for this, but be careful, many people are just keen on practicing English and won’t care if you can improve Chinese or not. If possible, ask your school or teacher to contact one for you.

Want to find out more about Shanghai? Check out our handy Shanghai Guide to discover all that Shanghai has to offer!

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