Not good I'm afraid. But after years of zoning out (I thought standard Chinese was enough of a challenge) I've started to pay attention.
From my own experience of language learning, I would say that I was glad to spend 8 years in Australia, i.e. a native English speaking environment, 2 of which with an Australian family. For me being in a native English environment really helped me to figure out the accurate pronunciations, which is great as memorising new vocab became no longer mechanical ever since then. More importantly, every time after being taught in classroom, I slowly realised that I could understand others more and more during a communication, so I felt more comfortable to start speaking the language too.
I understand learning Mandarin could be a completely different experience for adult learners with a western background, so I wouldn't argue much if you tell me speaking with locals does not help much with Mandarin learning. After all with Mandarin (Chinese), knowing how to pronounce doesn't help much with getting to know the characters or the Pin Yin, and I can only imagine it would be a much more complex progress for starters.
So from my understanding I would only say that after you get to the stage where you can start to speak short sentences, phrases, maybe a more Mandarin-friendly environment would help, since you would also be more confident to practice what you learned from class.
In my experience, foreigners living in Kunming generally tend to acquire Mandarin quicker and get it to a higher level before plateauing. Back when I was doing language studies at Yun Da, I met a bunch of Western students who had done language programs in Shanghai and Beijing. They were unanimous in agreeing that foreigners in Kunming had *in general* a stronger command of Mandarin than ones they had met in their language programs in Shanghai/Beijing. Obviously they cannot represent all of SH/BJ, but what I've seen generally tends to support their observation.
Some of it might be from how few Westerners live here compared to some of the other metropolises, so you're pretty much forced to speak Mandarin. At least, that was my experience in language classes, since most of my classmates came from Southeast Asia or Korea. The BRI is only going to bring more and more students from non-Western nations to Kunming to study Mandarin and pursue degree programs.
The accent has never really been a huge issue, here. It was a bit strange at first, like any new thing, but then your ear adjusts and basic words and phrases start to become discernible. I mean, it's not like Yunnan dialects are that linguistically far removed from Mandarin (barring minority dialects). In general, it's rare I come across someone I fully can't understand.
This is all anecdotal, so take it with a grain of salt. If I could go back in time and select a place to study Mandarin, Kunming would definitely still be high on the list. It'd probably lose out to Xiamen, though. That city is great.
Good points. Anywhere I go in Kunming it's always Mandarin. In rare occasions they might try to converse in English.
Whenever I arrive in SZ or GZ I‘m amazed by the amount of "English" service I get in shops and restaurants.
Valid points on accurate pronunciations. I must admit that the pronunciation of the few friends that I have in the north, sounds wayyy better. Sharper somehow, easier to understand. It's not that the local people's Mandarin here is not standard, it just has this Yunnan undertone...
Just as a bit of background. Only 4% of English people and 2% of the UK population use Received Pronunciation (Queens English).
As for local people speaking standard Mandarin, I have been asked several times if I speak Kunminghua. It is more likely to be both a class and generational thing.
hahahahaha yes the Yunnan undertone lol, they are so obsessed with it! It was even quite hard for me to understand at first.
Fair points on being forced to speak Mandarin in cities like Kumming, that would definitely help. This was also the reason that I chose Brisbane over Sydney/Melbourne for my secondary school (also my first 2 years in Australia), there are just way too many Chinese people hanging around in SYD or MEL.
Yunnan undertone? Whatever do you mean?
its how kunmingers get their teenage kicks
Right. Got ya. :)