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  • About Shijiazhuang
    While Shijiazhuang might not carry a five star rating in tourist guide books, it is an ideal location for immersion Mandarin study. Located a convenient two hours south of Beijing, it is a large, rapidly growing, and very modern Chinese city. With over 9,000,000 native Mandarin speakers and very little western influence, Shijiazhuang offers a very high level of daily immersion. Close enough to Beijing for a weekend excursion or job interview, yet far enough away to avoid the crowds of tourists, ex-pats and foreign students, Shijiazhuang provides an excellent alternative for those wanting to jump head-first into Chinese language and culture.
    Standard mandarin environment
    With so many dialects being spoken across the country, why is it so important to learn pu tong hua (standard mandarin)? While there are a bewildering number of dialects, pu tong hua is not only the most widespread form geographically, it is THE form of oral Chinese used in all government and business environments, all Chinese children must use it in school, and nearly 100% of the media is in standard Mandarin. What this means is that if you learn Mandarin, EVERYONE in any business or educational environment will be able to understand you and people on the street will be able to communicate with you regardless of their origin.
    Standard Mandarin is spoken natively by 90% of the population of Shijiazhuang. Those familiar with the incredible plasticity of oral Chinese will recognize this as an uncommon and very special attribute. What this means for Konall Culture Exchange students is that every contact hour both in and outside of the classroom will reinforce the course material. Often students studying in Beijing and especially Shanghai (or anywhere in the south of China) complain that what they learn in the classroom is useless as soon as they step into a taxi, or conversely, the daily language they pick up in markets and shops contradicts pronunciation and grammar learned in class. After a year or two of learning the difficult local dialect, they find themselves unintelligible to colleagues and classmates from other provinces who have learned to speak standard mandarin. While seasoned Mandarin students may have little trouble adapting their pronunciation and phrases to match the background of a listener, for beginning students this kind of inconsistency can be a disaster, severely hindering the development of your oral Chinese.
    True Chinese Immersion
    Cultural diversity is not always a good thing. Shijiazhuang is absolutely NOT an international city. You will find little western architecture, very few western chain stores (no Burger King, 7-11, or Baskin- Robbins here), and very few foreigners. This lack of foreign influence has maintained the uniquely Chinese nature of the city, and it's undiluted culture and language environment is ideal for an immersion study program. What this means linguistically is that you are forced to use Chinese everyday.
    In large international cities such as Beijing and Shanghai there are literally thousands and thousands of English speaking foreigners. Entire districts have evolved to cater to the English speaking populations, and many language programs in these cities place you directly in these areas. It is entirely possible to live in Beijing for years and never learn any Mandarin beyond the very basics. You can get around, but your career and education will be severely hindered. While extremely self-motivated students will have little trouble learning wherever they go, for most people it is very helpful to have a complete immersion environment, and complete immersion can only truly exist when there is not an option to remain illiterate.
    Those students who experience a complete immersion environment will gain an insight into Chinese culture, and therefore Chinese thought, that will give them a distinct advantage in establishing relationships, and a much richer experience regardless of length of stay. For serious, motivated students Shijiazhuang really is the best place to study Mandarin in China!
    Map
    Province - Hebei
    Status - Provincial capitol
    Population - 9,500,000
    Distance from Beijing - 280km
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