I really, really, really want to go to China. That is a fact, indisputable and undeniable. Another unfortunate fact is that it is not likely to quite some time (zhen zao gao!). Okay so assuming I can be all grown up about it, rather than crying like a baby (Whaaaaaaaaa!) there is another problem. A number of people seem to be firmly of the opinion that I will not be able to learn Chinese unless I go to China or a Chinese speaking country. What if they are right? Personally I think/hope they are wrong and here is why I think/hope this.
I have encountered a number of non-native English speakers who have learned pretty good or even excellent English whilst only living in a non-English speaking country. If they can do this, why can I not do the same with Chinese. Granted that they may have a considerably larger exposure to English in their home country than I have had to Chinese, however there is plenty of material out there on the Internet now, so I can make my own exposure.
Whilst there are plenty of examples of Westerners who have learned very good Chinese whilst living in a Chinese speaking country, there are also many that learn nothing or next to nothing, so being in China does not mean learning Chinese.
The Internet also provides many opportunities to connect with and talk with Chinese people that would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. In addition the few Mandarin speakers I have met in the UK regard it as a novelty if a Westerner attempts to speak Mandarin so they are very helpful (this may change if learning the language becomes more popular and they get fed up with the attention).
I concede that I will miss out on some cultural issues and standard day-to-day interactions until I go there, but there again even a trip to an American city where they speak English would result in some measure of culture shock until I adapted. So is there really any reason nowadays why a Westerner cannot learn Mandarin from their own country?