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rbrooks

Mandarin House in Shanghai - Experience / Review

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rbrooks

I was there for 1 month and it was an interesting experience. Basically there are a few general topics you might want to know before enrolling.

* 50% more expensive than the other language institutes (google for yourself!)

* It's more like an assembly line that will first point to the school's guidelines rather than think of flexible ways to help a student ("an xuexiao guiding" I heard many times)

* They use a hard sell technique to scare you into signing up early for seats that are limited and for apts that are scarce (not true of course)

* They claim to cover reading, writing, etc... but it's actually really just reading and speaking pinyin in the group classes

* Their new in-house textbooks really arnt as good as other texts (contemporary chinese, etc...) and serves to lock you into their school/style.

* They claim to have enough students to build intermediate classes every week but actually a new level only starts once a month.

* They mix students of different levels in class which makes it difficult to learn

* Many of the students are only there for 2 weeks or so which makes it difficult to get into a rhythm in the classes.

They use the World Union Service Apartments for accommodation. If you want a cheaper rate and more flexiblity you can stay in the exact same building at a much cheaper rate by using one of the agents in the buidling.

Bayeeta Hotel Management

Room 1313, No. 199 North Wulumuqi Rd

(8621) 62489754

or

SkiLine

Room 1912, No. 199 North Wulumuqi Rd

(8621) 62484520

Both agents speak english and take credit cards.

I also think that you are better served by taking one of the new Mandarin schools (easy to google) nearby since they are still trying to make their reputation and are still trying to please rather than cash in. And dont forget at higher levels no school really has enough suitable students to form a good class -- you'll end up going down the private route.

My experience was such that I even took a hit on my deposit(1000 RMB) to get out of there and into a school that actually wants to help.

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Xiao Kui

Sorry you had such a lousy experience - thanks for sharing it so other forum members can refer to this post when someone else asks about Mandarin House, which they inevitably will.

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shanghaikai

Perhaps you can give readers an idea of why you chose to go with Mandarin House in the first place as opposed to, for example, a local university program.

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Hanyu Al

I wish that I had found this forum and in particular this thread a few months back. I know how rbrooks must have felt. I can't recall how many times I heard them refer to their "Mandarin House Terms and Conditions 2009" as if it was passed by some government decree.

For an insight into my experience at Mandarin House please check this thread.

As for why I choose mandarin house in the first place over say one of the universities was that they have a high internet profile and well presented web site, they offered courses starting weekly, it was quick straight forward to arrange, I was under time pressure, and naive I must admit also.

If you are coming to China and are the type that normally go on package holiday tours when you go on vacation because of the convenience and relative peace of mind, and you don't mind paying for this and not question the value of things, then perhaps this is for you. But just remember there are better options for the more savvy.

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Hanyu Al

Just a point of clarification - I went to the one in Beijing, not the one in Shanghai. Regardless of this I believe that both branches are under the same ownership and my complaints were directed to Shanghai. That aside the comments of the original poster of this thread resonate with my impression of the Beijing branch.

Regards.

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abcdefg

I studied at Mandarin House Beijing (Guomao branch) for one month in the spring of 2007. It was my first taste of learning Chinese and I selectected this school just for its convenience without having done much diligent research beforehand..

Group class was a mess. Not uncommon, I've since learned. Students from various levels all jumbled together with new ones joining whenever they arrived with money in their hand. I switched to one-to-one classes and was pleased with that since my teacher was lively and helpful. Made my own accomodation arrangements.

If I were to do it again today, knowing what I've learned in the interval, I would make different choices. One of those choices would be to avoid Beijing.

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Mandarin_House

Requesting a close of topic.

This post was made over 5 years ago and many things at our schools have changed. Since this time we have reached international language school quality standards through our accreditation by IALC, i.e.

- http://www.ialc.org/quality_assurance.asp

&

- http://www.ialc.org/code_of_ethics.asp

Also respected organisations such as Lonely Planet & Study Travel Magazine have independently found our school to be of a high standard. Guojia Hanban have also made us a registered HSK Testing Centre.

We now receive around 2,000 students a year and so it is a big challenge to maintain 100% positive feedback. Nevertheless, we strive to keep improving and work hard to steadily grow our reputation.

I suggest people interested in studying at Mandarin House check out our new website (www.mandarinhouse.com) and peek at some interaction with our current students at our facebook page: www.facebook.com/mandarinhouseschools.

Thanks for your time.

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abcdefg
Requesting a close of topic.

I have no beef with Mandarin House. They were flexible enough to let me switch from a group class to a private class and that helped me a great deal. I was afraid they might not, and I appreciated their decision.

But if we just magically divorce the past from the present, it gives an odd look to the history of a school (or even a person.) I wish there were things in my personal past I could just excise or delete, but I cannot. They remain part of who I am.

Makes me wonder if it wouldn't be best to just wait and see how experiences of those who have attended the "new and improved" Mandarin House differ from those of people who attended a few years back. If the contrast is large, that will speak for itself and Mandarin House will profit from having demonstrated improved performance.

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jbradfor
Requesting a close of topic.

Not to mention the fact that closing a topic does not remove it, it just does not allow more posts. Do you really want no up-to-date opinions of your school?

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Mandarin_House

We want up-to-date opinions of our school, but if we had a choice, it would not be on a 5 year old negative post that appears number 1 in google for pretty much everything.

Many people use chinese-forums to get good advice on a potential language school they are interested in. From our research, we have a number of students that read this post and told us they nearly did not choose our school because of it. We would prefer that our potential students on this site are able to find out up-to-date information and news about us.

For us, it is a risky move by us to in a way revive this particular post and ask for the close/redirection - I know that this doesn't make the post 'go away'. Instead - we prefer people talk about us on a different post instead i.e. http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/38189-mandarin-house-news/.

Anyway, now that I have made this post come back to life, I hope everyone is kind...

P.S. Hi 'abcdefg'. I often read your posts under my personal 'Chinese-forums' account knowing you are one of our former students. I believe I joined MH after you had already left, so missed getting to know you. If we start something down in Kunming or in Texas we will need to talk to you! :D

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imron

Just to chip in with some extra detail, a few weeks back Mandarin House contacted Admin asking if this thread could be removed due to it being out of date, and unfortunately for them, highly indexed by Google.

I believe Roddy communicated with them that our policy is that we generally don't delete posts/threads like this, however they were welcome to post in the thread addressing the points raised by the OP, and that other schools facing the same issue have dealt with it that way and turned originally negative threads into overwhelmingly positive ones (people generally respond well to companies responding to concerns in a polite and professional manner).

Anyway, I believe Roddy also mentioned that although the thread wouldn't be deleted, we could close it, with a note that it was old, and that any future feedback could happen in a newer thread. MH requesting the thread to be closed was almost certainly in response to that, rather than something that just happened out of the blue.

Seeing as Roddy is currently away, I'll be closing the thread now. Feel free to contact Roddy or myself if you have any questions regarding this decision. In the meantime, any Mandarin House specific comments, or anyone looking for more recent information regarding Mandarin House can visit this thread.

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fea_ie

I recently finished a 5 month stay with Mandarin House, Shanghai (Hankou Lu) (tuition and accommodation) and while I don't usually do reviews online or post feedback online, my experience was so poor that I feel obligated to do so to help other Mandarin language learners avoid wasting their money.

 

Up until level 6 (HSK 3 equivalent), the tuition is fine. The teachers are really lovely, very well prepared and experienced in teaching Mandarin to foreigners. Above level 6, the teachers are still good but the books are very outdated and overly formal. They use the Boya Chinese books for levels 7 upwards and each lesson contains between 50-90 new words but as you go through the vocabulary list, the teacher quite often tells you that the word you are learning is no longer used by Chinese people. As you can imagine, this is quite frustrating! The teachers have lobbied management to change the books to something more modern and useful but they simply refuse.

 

The only other thing I would say about the tuition is that the pricing is quite opaque. If you intend to study here (and I would not recommend it after my experience), bargain very hard indeed. A Canadian friend of mine had lunch with other students recently and she was shocked to discover that some were paying half as much as she was for the same number of group lessons. The school seems to view North American and Western Europeans as "rich" irrespective of their actual financial position and charges them accordingly i.e. bleeds them dry.

 

As for the accommodation, it is dreadful. If it were cheap and dreadful, I would not be complaining but with Mandarin House you pay "top dollar" for a very poor product and service.

 

Poor or non-existent internet connection

 

I kept complaining about this issue and the school kept ignoring the problem. It got so bad that I had to record myself trying (and failing) to open web pages and show it to a senior member of the support staff in order to prove how awful it was. Clients should not have to prove these things! In the end, there was a minor improvement but not by much. It is possible to get proper wifi in Shanghai - it is not cheap though. Given what I was paying the school in accommodation fees, the wifi should have been excellent. As far as I can see, the only reason it wasn’t was because the school thought it could save a few kuai with sub-standard service.

 

Poor Maintenance

 

Things in the apartment were constantly breaking e.g. the bathroom locks, the bedroom door locks. Instead of paying a locksmith to come over and fix the problem, the school would send over a junior member of staff, let's call him "Kenny" (not his real name). Kenny would spend hours “fixing” these locks that would then break again the following week. Apart from the problems with the locks, there was the issue of swipe cards for the lifts. The apartment building changed swipe cards but the school did not give cards to all of the students. I could not leave the building one evening as the stairwell was blocked and while I could go down in the lift, without a working swipe card, I had no way to return to the apartment.

 

Dirty and overcrowded living accommodation

 

The school has accommodation directly across from the school (my experience with that will be outlined below) and three apartments around the corner from the school on Guangxi Bei Lu (apartments 401, 501 and an apartment on the 24th floor). For the first 4 1/2 months of my stay, I lived in apartment 401 which has 6 bedrooms. The accommodation was dirty and overcrowded. This was exacerbated by the school’s decision to rent one room to two students who were not even attending Mandarin House (they studied at a local university). As a result, for about 3 months, there were 7 students living in the apartment when at best there is only room for 4 students. Not only did they hog the laundry facilities and the kitchen facilities but they refused to wash their own dishes leaving the kitchen a smelly pigsty that could not be used and smoked regularly despite my complaints to the school. They also had very loud sex in the room next door which I could hear through my very thin walls. These people were not students of Mandarin House so the school had no obligation to provide them with accommodation - it was simply a way to make a fast buck. Mandarin House did not think "maybe housing 7 people in apartment 401 is too much" or "perhaps the other students would not like to live with a couple and be obliged to listen to them have very loud sex on a regular basis”, no, the school just saw this as a way of making money despite the inconvenience to the other people in the apartment who were actually students of the school.

 

Lack of privacy and basic respect

 

I came back from my morning classes on 24 May to find my bedroom door open, my bed moved, personal belongings moved and Kenny and a handyman painting the room. Understandably, I was very upset - I was paying a lot of money for the accommodation and I did not expect to find two strange men had been touching my personal belongings (including my night clothes) without permission let alone painting my bedroom without notice. I tried to explain to Kenny why I was so angry about the situation but his only response was “we keep painting” or “we paint now”. Eventually, I got through to him that he would not be painting my room that day but the whole encounter with him added an extra layer of frustration.

 

 

Planning law raid and demolition of the walls

 

This was the worst aspect of my Mandarin House experience. I got back from afternoon class one day towards the end of July to find a group of people in my living room. I had 6 other room mates so I assumed they had something to do with them although I could not rationalise why they were all there without any of my room mates being there too but I decided to just roll with it.

 

More people arrived (sound travels poorly in the apartment) and I got banging on my door. I opened it to find three guys, one of whom had a professional video camera on his shoulder. I looked at them blankly, they all talked at me in unison very loudly and too quickly for me to understand, they then appeared to decide that I was not the person they were looking for. I closed and locked the door, then sent the school an email asking what was going on (radio silence from the school, of course). In the meantime, the banging had started. I'm not exaggerating here - it was very loud. For the most part, I hid in my room (no shame on my part) but I did pop my head out briefly to discover that these guys had taken the doors off the two bedrooms next to me and were knocking down the walls that separate the two bedrooms from the living room.

 

You can imagine the surprise the two students who lived in those rooms got when they returned home! No one had told the students in advance and their gear was covered in dust, their rooms missing both doors and walls (see photos). The school put up some collapsible dividers and used the doors to cover the holes in the wall.

 

post-65740-0-03414200-1471965607_thumb.jpg

 

post-65740-0-55881200-1471965627_thumb.jpg

 

So I gave the school hell and they told me that it was the Shanghai planning department who had come to knock down the walls (they told me that they were in breach of planning laws due to a recent change in the laws (?) - when the apartment block was built 20 years ago, the original plans allowed for 2 bedrooms but they created 6 bedroom by subdividing in the meantime). As the planning department only knocked down 2 walls, the school told me that the department would be back to knock some more walls until there were only 2 rooms left but the school couldn’t/wouldn’t say when this would happen! None of this really made sense. It sounded like the school was always in breach of the law but until recently no one had enforced the law which, in my mind at least, does not constitute a "change in the law".

 

But it turns out that it was a bit more complicated than that and the school was very "economical" with the truth. I found out that the same thing had happened in apartment 501 but not the apartment the school rents on the 24th floor which has 8 bedrooms in total. This seemed odd - if the planning department was unhappy with subdivision/overcrowding, why not target the worst offender, the apartment on the 24th floor? It sounded as though something more localised had gone on as the demolition had only taken place in apartments 401 and 501. Given how the school treats its paying clients, it wasn’t a leap to think that the school’s dealings with its neighbours in the building would be equally poor. Rather than a mysterious change in planning regulation or enforcement policy, it seemed more likely that a neighbour of 401/501 had complained to someone about the overcrowding. I spoke with one of the building’s doormen and one of the building’s maintenance staff who confirmed that a neighbour had complained about something very serious.

 

It turns out the school had not renovated apartments 401 and 501 properly. As a result the neighbours below apartment 401 (my apartment) had problems every time people in 401 flushed the toilet or used the showers - water would flow down the walls of their apartment!!! Apparently, these neighbours were very patient, they complained to the school, asked them to fix it but the school just ignored it and presumably hoped it would just go away. Flash forward following months of water (probably containing excrement and urine) flowing down the neighbours' wall due to the school's poor renovations and the neighbours had had enough. They complained to the building management who, in turn, complained to the planning department about the overcrowding (they had turned a blind eye up until then) and that's how we get to a camera crew and demolition crew in my living room one Wednesday afternoon in July……

 

When I discovered the true reason for the planning raid and demolition works, I gave Mandarin House an opportunity to clarify the position without telling them precisely what I knew. They maintained that they had told me the truth. I confronted them with further details of what I had discovered regarding the neighbours’ complaint (plainly calling their earlier explanation a lie) and it’s been radio silence on their part since then.

 

 

Poor customer service and more sub-standard accommodation

 

Following the demolition works, I moved apartment to the accommodation directly across from the school (Hankou Lu) although I understand that the school continued to house other students in my old room in apartment 401 (even though it was under threat of another demolition raid by the planning department and it was in a partially demolished apartment AKA a building site).

 

This new accommodation was also very poor. It was old, battered and outdated. The public spaces between apartments had laundry hanging from doorways, hanging across make-shift clothes lines in stairwells which made the whole place appear like a slum (see photos).

 

 

post-65740-0-82017400-1471965640_thumb.jpg

 

post-65740-0-13819200-1471965652_thumb.jpg

 

My new, tiny room technically had a window but one that I could not use as it was an internal window looking onto the kitchen, not the street. When I enquired about the number of bathrooms, I was told that the ratio was better than the old apartment - 3 people and 2 bathrooms. What the school did not tell me (and what I took issue with afterwards) was the fact that the 2nd bathroom was actually an ensuite in one of the other bedrooms so I would not have access to it. Then, of course, there was further issues with the swipe cards in this building.

 

As a result of all this hassle, I got a partial refund (I had intended to stay until the end of September) but deserved much more in terms of compensation for all the stress and inconvenience and I returned home last week. The final insult was yet to come though. As part of my package, I had paid for my airport pick up and drop off. I arranged with the school that I would be picked up on Sunday evening at 8.30pm to head to Pudong Airport. Given how poor my Mandarin House experience had been overall, I was a bit nervous as to whether they would actually deliver so I sought and received confirmation by email that the trip with the driver had been confirmed. I think you can tell where this is heading, right? The driver never showed on Sunday evening - a very nice security man watched my bags while I dashed to the ATM to get cash for the taxi following which I had a mad rush to find a taxi driver to take me to Pudong Airport in time for my flight.  

 

 

Conclusion

 

Having read this post, it’s possible (but unlikely) that you may still be tempted to get in touch with Mandarin House. They may try to reassure you that this is not true (it is true - I have the emails and photos to back up what I say) or that the problems that I have outlined above have since been addressed and they are a professional organization. Please do not believe them - all they want is your money. The consultants all work on commission - they will say absolutely anything to get you to sign up and, here’s the key point, demand payment up front in full.  If you do want to use Mandarin House, I would suggest that you point to this review and tell them that you are only willing to pay on a monthly basis (otherwise you have no way to keep them honest). Realistically speaking though, my suggestion is to avoid Mandarin House, Shanghai like the plague.  

 

 

 

 

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