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Author Topic: Avenues for learning Chinese  (Read 20764 times)

icebear

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Avenues for learning Chinese
« on: June 19, 2007, 04:35:09 AM »
I'm on the eve of my one year anniversary in China. I'm currently planning another year here, likely teaching and pursuing Chinese in the off time, although perhaps studying full time if that is financially viable. My question: for a student serious about becoming 'fluent' in Chinese, what combination of methods work best? As I see it there are the following...

Full time university - paying anywhere from 2000-13000 RMB a semester depending on your location within China (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen vs. 2nd tier cities).
  • Pros: a full time and planned curriculum. Testing provides a easy to stick to incentive system (especially when you've paid for it!). Some sort of certification, be in 6/12 months or more. Possible job opportunities afterwards? Unlikely I bet. Surrounded by other students.
  • Cons: Surrounded by other foreign students. High costs. Inability to work full time (i.e. you're likely seeing a net drain on your account). Recognition of your certificate, anywhere, may be nil.

Tutoring, Training Centers, 'Buxibans' - paying anywhere from 20-100 RMB per hour and up, with whatever curriculum they come up with... likely with scoring decently on the HSK as the long term goal.
  • Pros: Tailored more to your needs and schedule. New tutoring opportunities over Skype (for around 50RMB/hour) provide ultimate in convenience. Possible to work full time to support your education. While they may not offer a certificate taking the HSK at some point should balance this out...right?
  • Cons: Inability to determine legitimacy of the program prior to entry (although this is true of university as well). Pay as you go system provides flexibility, including an easy way to say "ah that's too tough" and pack up early. Much more responsibility is placed on the student to push him or herself towards personal goals.

Language Exchange Parters - free
  • Pros: Free. Able to develop a more social atmosphere and have fun with your partner. Language may stick better when the learning environment is less rigid.
  • Cons: Burden is entirely on the the student. In many cases a low level Mandarin student can't get much out of a language exchange - their partner's English level makes it too easy to 'revert' to asking questions in English. Teaching the absolute basic (pinyin, tones) is extremely boring for a free language exchange partner and this is likely evident in their attitude and eagerness to meet frequently. Scheduling and meeting can be infrequent and prone to cancellation as Chinese citizens generally work high hours. Many Chinese are eager to learn and teach languages, yet finding common ground can make it difficult to simply "converse" for a hour.

Of these, I dabbled in tutoring for about a month with great results (but he got a new job) and language exchanges I have a long running love/hate relationship with (without much to show for it besides reading pinyin and boring my partners to death, who similarly bore me when they read in English). If I lived in a more convenient part of Shenzhen I'd be all over a tutor, but out in the sticks here it gets fairly expensive to pay a tutor's taxi ride out and back for a hour or two of class. I just was solicited by a Skype-based tutoring service in Beijing that charges around 40-50 per hour... I was really impressed with their initial 15 minute demo and will report back on how the free trial lesson goes in a few days. Apparently they email materials and then go over it plus use online tests.

So, what are everyone's experiences? As I mentioned, I'd really like something to show from my couple years in China beyond just a fun time (which it certainly has been to date). The most obvious thing to pursue is Chinese, and now that I've gotten serious on my own in the last few months (up to about 500 characters) I feel like taking it the next level, I'm just not sure what the wisest path to pursue is.

Also, is anyone familiar with the HSK? I recall LE mentioning this some time ago... For me having tests or goals is really important to focus my studies - i.e. I languished for my first 6 months here with very little to show for it. In the last 3 months I've been meeting with a class at my school just once a week, but the expectation of a test each week on one chapter (30-50 hanzi) really keeps you motivated. Taking the HSK next spring or summer seems like a good milestone to me, but I know very little about it...

Looking forward to your opinions.


Raoul F. Duke

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2007, 10:40:50 AM »
Another good one for the Liberry. Nicely done. Thanks, Icebear!  agagagagag
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Lotus Eater

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2007, 01:54:48 AM »
The HSK is easy to enrol for - find your nearest university that teaches foreign students and they can probably do it for you - although you need to do it a couple months ahead of the exam.  There are also plenty of HSK practice books out there, with CDs to listen to that will help you get used to the way they do the exam.  It is all via listening, reading and answering questions language lab style and then some writing.

I usually have 2 x 2 hour classes per week with a Chinese teacher, but since May week I have been away or too busy to do this.  If you have the time, find someone to give you your own private 'boot camp'.  That really pushed my language acquisition. 5-6 hours per day for 3 weeks talking, reading, listening, new vocab.  Then homework at night.  I did this during the holidays and really enjoyed it.


Stil

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2007, 12:04:47 AM »
You could also try Noles Chinese boot camp if there is still spaces aviable.  That's probably pretty intensive.  If you have a two bedroom apartment you can also see if a Chinese person wanted to live with you for a while. 

If you have a one bedroom apartment too.  afafafafaf

Vegemite

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2007, 04:59:57 AM »
Just a note re the homestay option, there's an Australian scientist currently residing up here. She came in March and has been boarding with a Chinese family and her Chinese has taken off. Surrounded by it all day at work, plus having to live with a Chinese family, she had no choice but to learn it quickly. So, yep, I'd put my ten cents worth in and say try for a homestay if you can only afford a short time commitment.

As for HSK, regardless of how you learn Chinese, I'd say do this exam. It is recognised in many countries so will give you a bit of paper to prove your level - good for future job-hunting.

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Vegemite

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2007, 03:29:31 AM »
One option a few of my family members have done to learn a foreign language is to get locked up for a year or two in a foreign country. You can get fairly fluent quite quickly, however you might find it difficult to get access to pen and paper to practise your Hanzi. It also limits your career options upon release...
"I said, "Do you speak-a my language?"
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich"

AMonk

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2007, 07:37:12 AM »
And even worse.....you only learn the "street" lingo, not the proper way to speak on regular (polite) occasions!  I had fun (re)teaching English to a Guatemalan lady who was in that situation.  She knew all the bad words, but needed the nice ones.
Moderation....in most things...

ericthered

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2007, 07:14:25 AM »
Just living in China and purchasing the right books and, this above all, doing some rather boring repititous studying is all you need to do. The best books I have found are called "Integrated Chinese". They come with both a textbook and character work book. Unfortunately I did not come across these before I had left China but I really wish I had had them during my stay in Nanchang. The Oxford English-Chinese/Chinese-English dictionary is a must too, as it is comprehensive and has pinyin. Have to buy them online though, bit pricey but definitely worth it.
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Lotus Eater

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2008, 01:10:20 AM »
Again since May I haven't had any lessons - this seems to happen every year.  But my 'bootcamp' instructor is back in town, and as soon as I am finished marking we will do that again until I go on holidays.

But what I am doing in the meantime is writing up a diary in Chinese each night.  Just a few sentences, but it is helping my writing and my vocab.  My new e-dictionary has a sentence translation function, so I can write the sentence in English and then it comes out Chinese so I can check my grammar and learn other vocab for what I wanted to say.

dragonsaver

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2008, 02:21:01 AM »
Eric

You were talking about some tapes you bought that were very good.  It was in another thread but could you give me the name of it so I can look it up.  akakakakak akakakakak

Thanks
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Raoul F. Duke

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2008, 03:53:40 AM »
Eric, if you talking about the small, slightly-bigger-than-pocket-sized Oxford dictionaries, those are cheap and easy to find in China! bfbfbfbfbf

But if you can find a good Chinese textbook while in Old Country, buying it is highly recommended. Some of the ones here are better than others (and many are really frightful), but haven't found one yet that I'm extremely enthusiastic about.
"Vicodin and dumplings...it's a great combination!" (Anthony Bourdain, in Harbin)

"Here in China we aren't just teaching...
we're building the corrupt, incompetent, baijiu-swilling buttheads of tomorrow!" (Raoul F. Duke)

Lotus Eater

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2008, 04:05:27 AM »
I'm using 'Chines Made easier' Books 1-5 (now half way through 4) and Book 4 of "New Practical Chinese reader Textbook".  I like the latter as it has a DVD that is well presented - scenes, animations etc. 

MK

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2008, 04:01:15 PM »
Quote from: ericthered
Just living in China and purchasing the right books and, this above all, doing some rather boring repetitious studying is all you need to do.

Agree with this.  That's why I think a year or so of full time study to allow you to form a sound grammar/vocab' base and good study habits is the best option if you have the time/money. Sure a home stay would work as well, if you can take it.

I have been in China for going on five years and have been treading water at a low-intermediate level for what feels like forever.

This is despite the fact that I use Chinesepod daily (even paid for a subscription) and chat constantly in (fairly basic) Chinese on MSN with ma pengyous when I should be working (I use Adsotrans when the conversation gets tricky).

I know what I really need to be doing to push me up to the next level is sitting down with those flashcards I made and never use, or spending some time actually writing characters out by hand now and again (when I have forced myself to do this, it has worked), but, human nature being what it is, I usually end up at the pub instead (where, to my credit, I do try to use Chinese with the waitresses...).
« Last Edit: June 23, 2008, 04:13:36 PM by MK »

Lotus Eater

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2008, 01:48:17 AM »
[ I usually end up at the pub instead (where, to my credit, I do try to use Chinese with the waitresses...).

Whose Chinese, especially if you live outside one of the BIG cities, is non-standard anyway.  ahahahahah

Schnerby

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Re: Avenues for learning Chinese
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2008, 12:31:24 AM »
At school and uni I learned your standard Beijing dialect. While I was complimented on knowing 'proper' Chinese I felt that it marked me as being even more of an outsider.

I was boarding at a school nearish to Hangzhou but they taught me to drop the 'er' as used in 'wanr' (to play).

Whether you use the formal Chinese or regional flavourings is an important decision. By trying to learn the local differences I made my classmates realise I was trying to fit in and this changed the way many related to me.

Although, being a blondie I sure as hell still stood out.