There are many formal and informal learning opportunities to speak Mandarin and the Chinese are generally much more patient and forgiving with Westerners struggling through Mandarin than vice versa. The many classes and conversation groups on offer are a great opportunity for you to meet and make friends with expats who are experiencing exactly the same challenges and unexpected pleasures that Shanghai can bring as you and your family are.
Here in Greater Hongqiao and Huacoa there are many opportunities to join a Mandarin class and you will find language schools located on Jingfeng lu and at the Fashion Park. A very popular Chinese conversation programme is run by the Community Centre Shanghai In addition there are many private tutors who advertise or can be found through recommendation. A few key phrases learnt early on can really make your experience with your Ayi (home help), taxi drivers and at the market a positive one. If you are really keen and want an internationally recognised qualification for all your hard work here at The British International School Shanghai, Puxi we offer students and parents the opportunity to sit the HSK test which has six levels and is an international standardized exam which tests and rates Chinese language proficiency. Many expats choose to attend the language programme offered by Jiao Tong University.
As well as Mandarin, English is widely spoken throughout the city and therefore many expats whose first language is not English choose to use their time living in Shanghai to improve their English. Again conversation groups are run here in Huacao at the Community Centre Shanghai
Shanghainese, or Shanghaihua, is derived from the Northern Wu dialect. It exists only as an everyday spoken lingo, with no written form. At first it can be a little confusing to hear this spoken by locals and you can have many an interesting conversation with your Ayi or a taxi driver trying to make sense of what is being said, but it really does not cause a problem as Mandarin is also spoken.