Which Dialect of Chinese Should I Learn?
Once you're in China, nobody will really speak a non-Mandarin Chinese to you. Why? Because you're a foreigner. And because everyone speaks Mandarin anyway; it's the language of business, education, TV, and so on.
But then there's the local accents. In Mandarin accents pose a problem any Chinese learner must face. Earlier this year I was in Hefei. Because of their local "Anhui Hua," they've got a really thick accent to their Mandarin; it's as if tehy have a totally different set of sounds than what is taught in Chinese classes. But still, they ARE speaking Mandarin. When the sounds and tones they’re are a bit different, you still can make out what they're saying.
Luckily for most Chinese learners, the new chinese hsk emphasizes the standard accent in its listening section. But the evaluation the learners’ actual spoken Chinese language abilities are accent-less, meaning it doesn't matter where you learn your Chinese.
A lot of people tell me that because of their accent, they have no chance to score high on an advanced portion of the HSK. So, they sign up for the intermediate portions. But changing your intended level of the HSK because you believe your speaking portion will not be "up-to-standard" is absurd. The speaking section is optional, anyway.
The advanced levels of the chinese hsk ar very tough and challenging for most students of Mandarin, especially for Westerners. As Heng Yen, our main teacher, points out, a Westerner typically needs five hours a day, five days per week for at least four months to be assured a passing grade for the basic HSK test. And accent doesn't matter! Passing even the highest level of the HSK does not equate to speaking like a native. The HSK tests usage and knowledge.
Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (the first thing you should look up if you want to learn chinese) is China’s official, standardized Chinese language proficiency test for non-native speakers. The test is administered in many nations and supervised by the State HSK Commission of the PRC Ministry of Education. Please read more of our site for info on this important test.