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DaTong

Learning Chinese at SOAS

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DaTong

I'm currently from the UK and desperate to learn chinese. One of my options is to study in Shanghai.. however SOAS is really tempting.

Does anyone have any experience studying in this University?

I heard that the second year you get sent to Beijing to study. What kind of accommodation do you get?

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Shadowdh

Hi there, if I were to be brutally honest, no matter how good they teach Chinese in the UK it still wont give you the experience nor learning potential that studying in China does... I like my Uni in the UK (just up the road) and I really like the teachers there... but here its a much more intense learning experience.

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roddy

SOAS students (at least some of them, perhaps someone can confirm if it's all or not) go to BNU and stay in the student dorms there. If you do a search for BNU / Beishida you might find some useful info - although that said students on exchange programs often have different classes, etc, to independent students.

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adrianlondon

The SOAS students at BNU while I was there were placed in class 102, with anyone else who had the equivalent of a year's previous full-time study.

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simonlaing

As person who also considered Soas,

I have heard that SOAS's purely language study of CHinese and Arabic is quite good.

Though it is in the middle of the city, which is expensive. Coming from the UK you probably knew that. Also the other non-language degrees are somewhat light weight and many of the students it is a pot-head reputation.

If you're into that it might be good.

4 year degrees in China are time consuming, difficult and not as respected as one from the western, even if your actual chinese level might be higher.

(when I say not respected, I mean you could find major difficulties getting a job in the west with just a BA from a chinese university, at least at the moment.)

If you're looking at schools in the UK, edinbuargh (sp?) has a good chinese program. I met a few people from there. They seemed to have skills.

Good luck,

SimoN:)

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extrapages

i have some friends here at BNU that are part of the SOAS program.

they have moved off campus, close to school.

i could ask them some specific questions, if you like.

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Relinquished

I went to an open day at soas it looks really good if you can get the grades, ABB or AAB, cant remember which. I has an absolutely huge library, and as part of the 4 year course you spend the second year in beijing uni.

Also they teach you traditional chinese characters so you can understand stuff in old texts or if you go to taiwan. :D

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JenniferW

Which British uni you choose might relate to your long-term aspirations. In the UK, SOAS has a status and kudos all the other universities teaching Chinese find hard to compete with. But Edinburgh and Cambridge have a similar cachet. That sort of thing can open doors and get you useful guanxi in the first place.

But Leeds and Sheffield also have good reputations for the quality of their Chinese courses.

You've got a big choice

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onebir

I did a 1 week summer course there back in 03, and wasn't particularly impressed with the teaching. That said, the extracurricular stuff probably isn't their top priority, and maybe our different backgrounds made it difficult to teach us.

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MengJiaSheng

SOAS indeed is a good place to study Chinese. However Cambridge surely is the best place to do a degree in Chinese. Not only are the quality of teaching and the resources better, but the student/teacher ratio is much better as well.

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JenniferW

New tables have come out today comparing British universities. Cambridge comes out higher than SOAS as regards the quality of teaching, but SOAS scores highest of all for added-value in modern languages.

Also, when you're chosing a university course, you're chosing where you spend 3 years of your life in the UK, plus the one in China. Each of the main Chinese specialists gets you different 'extras'.

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MengJiaSheng

Well, value added says nothing.... The thing is that everyone who gets into Oxbridge has AAA whereas SOAS' entry requirements are much lower, giving them the opportunity to "add value" to their applicants, for example if someone who got BBB at Alevel ends up with a 2.1. Thus it says nothing about the course at Cambridge, which is the best in Europe.

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jiangping

Hi,

I'm a SOAS student, so perhaps I can help shed some light on the matter :mrgreen:

The SOAS entry requirements are AAB for Chinese. In reality, though, most people have AAA, because the application:place ratio is 9:1. Although thankfully for me they let the odd thicko in:)

I'm gonna have to disagree with the above claim that Cambridge has "better resources" than SOAS. I've got the "Chinese History: A Manual" by Wilkinson (or the Yellow Bible, as it's affectionately known:P) sitting in front of me. In the section on major sinological libraries in the UK it lists, in order:

1. SOAS library

2. The British library (just down the road from SOAS)

3. Cambridge

4. Oxford

In other words, SOAS students have access to the two most important collections for sinology in the UK. We also have free access to all University of London libraries, along with general UoL collections like Senate House.

To be honest, I don't think there's anything between the SOAS and Cambridge courses. They're both amazing and definitely offer the best "rounded" Chinese courses in the UK. They both also have really good track records in the annual "Chinese Bridge Competition". This year, one of my classmates came 1st (Steve) and another one came 3rd (Jim). Steve will be going to represent the UK in the finals in Sichuan this summer.

As far as I know, the SOAS and Cambridge courses are also the only ones that still teach both traditional and simplified characters (Oxford stopped teaching traditional last year). They also both teach classical Chinese really well.

All in all I think the SOAS course is awesome. The only possible downside is that the syllabus is rather "traditional", meaning that it doesn't really focus on modern stuff. Lots of people were expecting a straight-up language course and ended up dropping out in the first year when they realised that wasn't really the case. As far as I know, there is a bit of a difference between the courses at Cambridge/Oxford/SOAS/Edinburgh and then the courses at Leeds/Sheffield etc, which are really modern-focused, with plenty of electives in modern economics/politics/history. I guess it mainly depends what you wanna get from the degree.

Edited by jiangping

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anonymoose
I'm gonna have to disagree with the above claim that Cambridge has "better resources" than SOAS. I've got the "Chinese History: A Manual" by Wilkinson (or the Yellow Bible, as it's affectionately known:P) sitting in front of me. In the section on major sinological libraries in the UK it lists, in order:

1. SOAS library

2. The British library (just down the road from SOAS)

3. Cambridge

4. Oxford

In other words, SOAS students have access to the two most important collections for sinology in the UK. We also have free access to all University of London libraries, along with general UoL collections like Senate House.

Just to play the devil's advocate here, but I think things like this are a bit misleading. It may be that SOAS has the most comprehensive sinological library, and for someone doing a PhD this could be useful. But as an undergraduate, the size of the library is rather irrelevant. Whether the university has 50000 books or 5000, I suspect the average undergraduate doesn't even touch 50 of them, and the books they do touch are most likely contained in all 4 of the libraries listed above.

This reminds me of an open day for science at Oxford I attended, where they show you arround all sorts of unique and cutting-edge apparatus they have there. But when you actually go as an undergraduate, it's really irrelevant since you don't come into contact with any of it anyway.

I think the main benefit of going to top universities such as SOAS, Cambridge or Oxford really lies in the talented peer group you'll be amongst.

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Shadowdh

Also playing the devils advocate a bit, other Unis in the area can access those libraries that SOAS can (at least mine can and another I attended a couple of years ago)... and furthermore a friend mentioned that he met a SOAS graduate in China who had a Chinese level about the same as a graduate from my University... although I do agree that SOAS has great facilities... top notch...

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jiangping

A fair point, Anonymoose. Although we have started to use some of the more specialist stuff this year (3rd year), and we will definitely need to for the 4th year dissertation as well. To be honest, my reply was more in relation to the "Cambridge is the best at everything" posts above.

Shadowdh: yep, same again. My post was more aimed at the guy from Cambridge. I think in general London is a fantastic place to study.

As for language stuff, well... like I said, SOAS has some really good students, and also some really bad students. Just like everywhere. Some people in my year have excellent Chinese already, others not so great. I think it depends mostly on 1) personal motivation, and 2) how well time was spent in China. For modern language teaching I don't think there's much difference at all between any of the major Chinese undergrad courses in the UK.

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magnusgren

I have studied Chinese in Sweden (1 year) and at Beijing Normal University (2 years) and will join a graduate programme at SOAS this autumn, called MA Sinology.

I chose this programme since it seems rather ambitious, and since SOAS really has got a great resource in its library. The professors areas of expertise also suit me well, since I hope to be researching late 19th/ early 20th century culture and literature.

If anyone has taken this programme or know anything about it, I would be very interested in hearing some comments (I suppose it is not late yet to choose something else...)

I would also be interested in hearing a SOAS student comment on the expected level in classical Chinese at the end of the BA programme, since I will have to pass an exam in order to study this subject at graduate level...

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jiangping

Hey Magnus,

I *think* you only have to be at a level attained by the end of BA Chinese 3rd year, rather than 4th year. That's actually the exact level I'm at now:mrgreen: I'm not really sure what I would describe the level as... :conf There's some past papers on the SOAS website if you're interested.

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zhouhaochen

I did my MSc at SOAS (in Chinese Management but we had quite a few language classes) and had studied Mandarin beforehand at BLCU in Beijing.

SOAS is a great school and I had a fantastic teacher (Lik Suen). I found the quality of teachers at BLCU sometimes a bit unreliable, some very good, some not so.

However, in the end no teacher can beat the language environment that China offers, to be able to speak every day, characters all around you and where Chinese is a real life thing, not just an academic subject.

That is, if you manage to not fall into the expat life trap. Here Shanghai I would say is particularly dangerous.

Considered other places in China? I might be biased after 4 years here, but I still think Beijing is the best ;)

And get a Chinese flat mate! Best way to practice!

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Shi Tong

Hello.

Hopefully this thread may be of use to me someday, but I'm still at simple levels in Mandarin. Looks like there are some other people who speak Mandarin in the UK then....:mrgreen:

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