GoKunming Forums

Is basic/advanced Chinese necessary to live there???

jules77 (7 posts) • 0

Hi to all...
just joined this morning.
considering coming to KM next year for a few years stay.
i'm quite well traveled (33 countries) but,mostly to places
using an alphabet familiar to me so,i could usually make some sense
when reading street signs or store fronts etc...
am i dreaming to think that i can at least fumble through daily
life without reading or speaking ANY chinese???!!!
what % of KMers would you say speak some english???
i know that the BEST thing would be for me to actually
learn some chinese but,foreign languages (3 years of french and 2

years of spanish) were just impossible for my brain to grasp!!!
throw in a completely new alphabet and i'm quite sure i would
have a grey matter melt-down:)
any help appreciated...jules

onlyone (156 posts) • 0

After 33 countries i wonder weather Kunming is the best choice to stay for a few years . no offend .yes you do need to know some basic Chinese to have a comfortable life here.

laotou (1714 posts) • 0

If you have the money to spend - you can get by without - but you'll have to hire a tour guide/interpreter to assist with essentials - and as a non-native speaker unfamiliar with the various Chinese cultures - you should expect to be ripped off on a regular basis.

If you're willing to invest the time to at least learn fundamental communication - you'll do alright. Chinese is rather different than western languages - if you can memorize roughly 2,000 characters/words - you're roughly at high-school level language ability. Practice makes perfect!

Texas Boy (117 posts) • 0


You could try the tried and true method of getting a Chinese wife. Seems to work for many and there are lots of ladies willing.

OceanOcean (1191 posts) • 0

I agree with laotou - learning a little basic Chinese goes a long way. Concentrate on speaking and listening if time/money is short. Reading and writing is a whole other level. And there are usually ways to get around the language problems - Chinese friends are always willing to help you (writing addresses for taxis, suggesting where to buy things, ensuring you don't get ripped off too badly, etc). Don't let the language put you off.

And hey, onlyone, I've visited about 100 countries and I lOVE living in Kunming! I guess it depends what you're after...

jules77 (7 posts) • 0

interesting so far...
re: getting a chinese wife...
i had a wife for a while.
didn't understand her very well.


i would be coming to kunming as an independent
photographer/film-maker so,having an interpreter will
be certainly be required sometimes but hopefully not for
grocery shopping,putting gas in the scooter and
other regular day to day activities...

gbtexdoc (218 posts) • 0

am i dreaming to think that i can at least fumble through daily
life without reading or speaking ANY chinese???!!!

Yes, you are dreaming.

You can live a short time in an akward "foreigner cocoon" while you pick up speed. But if you don't intend to learn Chinese, you'd be better off going somewhere else.

sequin (8 posts) • 0

Actually, I know several successful businessmen who have lived here for years who speak no Chinese, and not all of them are married to Chinese women, although that does seem to be a very successful route for many foreign men.

If you had a hard time with Spanish and French, you probably won't be able to pick up any Chinese by listening. But, the characters are really not that hard. If you have been able to figure out some foreign alphabets enough to get a basic idea, you might have some success with characters. Of course, they aren't an alphabet, but they do have a somewhat lose pattern, and if you could learn the radicals and about 2000 or so characters, you could figure out most signs. Of course you would still need a very trustworthy translator.

jules77 (7 posts) • 0

i guess my real question is,
does the average kunming resident speak/understand
enough english to be helpful when a problem arises???
in many of the countries i've visited the locals were quite happy
to practice their english by helping me navigate through
their city/town/village...
i am very much a newbie here but i have cruised through many
of the forums already and some of you seem to think the

locals are quite abrupt,aggressive and even rude.
can i expect ANY help if a need arrises???
and on a side note...
is there any english media in the city?
a tv station or an english daily like the "Herold" in

western europe?
thanks again to all...jules

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