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Question for foreigners who've gone to china

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Jun. 22nd, 2008 | 12:35 am
posted by: frigginlicia in chinese_majors

*waves* Hey guys!

I have a few questions... lol, sorry if these have been asked before.

1.What part of the country did you go? Was it in an area that spoke almost no English? Which dialect was spoken there?
2. Was it hard getting a job?
3. How long did it take until you felt you were fluent?


Lol, I'm asking all of this because I plan to move there for a few years to build my fluency/knowledge of Chinese culture... but I'm afraid that I may have trouble blending in.

I was also wondering how to write my name in simplified character... it's Chang Liu Yao (The surname is actually mine... whereas "Liu Yao" was my own creation).

Thanks :)

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Comments {7}

liukaiqin

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from: liukaiqin
date: Jun. 22nd, 2008 12:41 pm (UTC)
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Hello,

Regardless of what dialect is spoken in any part of China, you will get by with Mandarin. For really good, clear Mandarin, the north-eastern provinces are recommended, with Harbin (Heilongjiang province) usually noted for the most "standard" 普通话! Harbin is, mind you, bloody freezing in winter, so though it's very pretty with interesting Russian-style architecture, only go there if you like -15˚C temperatures. You'd have just as good a time further south - the food's often better, too! Every city and province has its own characteristics, obviously.

I was in Dalian for a year as part of a degree course. English wasn't an issue, but bear in mind English isn't distributed by region: it's age- and education-dependent. Any city is therefore viable to non-Chinese speakers, you're just restricted in where you go and what you do - it gets easier as your language improves.

For getting a job, depends what you want to do. The default is English teaching which is quite a good bet, just do a TEFL course or similar and you'll be in demand. It's best to sort out work before you go, though: it's illegal to work on a tourist visa (though people do), and for a work visa you need letters of invitation from your employer and the local government.

About getting fluent: make Chinese friends. Get a language partner early on, or go to a university's "English corner" and meet people with bad English who'll happily speak Chinese to you. Speaking and interacting is worth far, far more than sitting and learning vocab. If you make the effort to immerse yourself, you can be the sort of foreigner who gets decent conversational Chinese in half a year, as opposed to the type of foreigner who lives in China for five years and can't ask directions.

I'd say ask your Chinese friends about your name. If Chang is your surname in English, that's almost certainly the surname Zhāng in pinyin (Chang is an older romanisation of the surname Zhāng 张, or possibly Zhāng 章 like Zhang Ziyi 章子怡). Check it if you can - I could be wrong, there are surnames spelled "Chang" but they're unlikely. As for Liu Yao, I'm sure you chose this name for a reason but it seems strange that you didn't choose it on the basis of what the characters looked like or meant, as the characters themselves are what makes a name yours. Liu could be any of about 20 common characters and Yao any of 30. Maybe you took the two words from the names of Chinese celebrities or something? Then you just have to find their names in Chinese and pinch the characters from them. So if for example you took Liu Yao because of a crush on Liu Xiang 刘翔 and Yao Ming 姚明 (understandable), that would give you the name 张刘姚. Chinese people would look at you funny with a name made of three surnames, though.

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frigginlicia

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from: frigginlicia
date: Jun. 22nd, 2008 06:54 pm (UTC)
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Wow, that was really detailed. I really appreciate your reply.

I took the name from an emperor of Han Zhao (a friend of mine thought of it... so I ran with the idea...) the tones are yao2 and liu3 if that helps at all.


*edited: they're all surnames? Whoops...I thought Liu was a given name.

Edited at 2008-06-22 07:09 pm (UTC)

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liukaiqin

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from: liukaiqin
date: Jun. 22nd, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
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No worries, I'll take any chance to encourage people to go to China!

Aha, you mean (googles) this guy? Yes, that Liu (刘/劉) is one of the most common surnames, and it's strange (though not unheard of) to take a surname as part of your given name! If you like it you can always keep the sound "liu" and choose a different character from the many "liu" words in the dictionary. That emperor's given name <a href="http://www.mdbg.net/chindict/chindict.php?page=worddictbasic&wdqb=%E6%9B%9C&wdrst=0>Yao</a> 曜 has a nice meaning though. Good luck with the practical stuff.

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frigginlicia

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from: frigginlicia
date: Jun. 23rd, 2008 12:25 am (UTC)
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Lol...i'm willing to compromise Liu as long as I can find something close to my real name (Lindsey). Is Li considered a surname too? I'm having trouble looking for things that won't sound odd as a given name xD

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liukaiqin

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from: liukaiqin
date: Jun. 24th, 2008 11:12 am (UTC)
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How can I put this? Chinese has more dimensions than English. Without tone or character "Li" is just a sound, one of the most common sounds in Chinese. There is a surname Lǐ 李, one of the biggest surnames. But 力,丽,莉 and a zillion other "li"s are common as given names. Look here for a partial list of words in Mandarin pronounced "li":

http://www.afpc.asso.fr/wengu/wg/zhendic.php?zw=&q=li&as=py

I have a friend called Lindsay who took the given name 林溪 (Línxī), or "forest stream." I thought that was nice. But the possibilities are endless!

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liukaiqin

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from: liukaiqin
date: Jun. 22nd, 2008 11:55 pm (UTC)
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link fail! I mean this Yao.

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from: anonymous
date: Jan. 8th, 2010 07:02 am (UTC)
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1. I live in Suzhou, a major attractor of foreign investment and companies, but people here generally still seem baffled when they see me, a foreigner. Very few people speak English, except for young men on the streets randomly saying "hello". The people here speak Suzhouhua, and they slur their "sh" sound so "ten" sounds like "four"...this is minorly inconvenient when paying for things.

2. It is NEVER hard to get a job in China. You must, however, be willing to teach massive quantities of screaming kids OR have a really marketable skill like an MBA in Finance. I never got any job offers or opportunities in Ohio (does Walmart count?), but I get about one every month here...and I get paid between $15 to $30 an hour depending on how desperate the company/school or language learner is.

3. I was fluent in three months. The best way to achieve this is to blow off any fellow expatriates and latch yourself onto a local who has standard Mandarin pronunciation. If you are fortunate enough to attend university classes while having a job stint teaching low-level high school students who need things explained in Chinese, you will improve quickly and remember vocabulary too.

Don't be afraid. You WILL have trouble blending in...unless you look Asian. The only places this might not occur are Beijing or Hong Kong (Shanghairen also stare and look baffled). Every other city will treat you like an outsider, for good or bad (mostly good). It's annoying, but don't let this deter you from going to study. You will become fluent if you hang with Chinese people. This is key.

You need to write the tones you want for your name, like Chang2 Liu3 Yao4. That would help. Your surname could be 苌。The other two characters I suggest you find a native help you choose.

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