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Bincai School, Bincai College Harbin


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Hey All,

So I have been looking at Bincai as a potential place to study as opposed to one of the Universities. Seems to get pretty good reviews from what I have read, and the accomodation price seems reasonable.

Has anyone got experience on how long it took to get placed in a class?

I have emailed them and they said that best thing to do is turn up, find out which level I will be by taking a trial class (I have taken Chinese Basics at uni (1 semester)) and then they will be able to advise when the next one will start. While this sounds reasonable, I don't really want to be sitting in Harbin, waiting around for a possible course to open up, while knowing nobody, and not being able to speak any useful Chinese.

Alternatively I could just go for the HIT course for one semester and then change if i felt it was better. Not sure which would be best for me as I read that Bincai may be a bit slow - I tend to pick things up pretty quickly so maybe the uni course would be better?

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I tend to pick things up pretty quickly so maybe the uni course would be better?

If you pick up things quickly, I would think a large university class would *not* be the best place for you.

If the private school doesn't have a class starting just when you arrive, take some one to one tutoring until they do.

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I agree with abcdefg. The classes at HIT, degree and language, will try to give you a well-rounded foundation, often at the expense of over-emphasizing reading and writing.

IMHO, reading and writing can all be done solo. You really only need to be in class for speaking and listening; and that's assuming your "speaking" classes are actually designed to prompt oral participation centered around target language and not just parroting whatever vocabulary or functional language the teacher has prepared for the lesson.

Bincai will focus more on oral abilities, as well as provide private tutoring for you to work on whatever you want.

I've never taken a formal Chinese language class with either a university or private school. When I started, I hired tutors for a foundation and developing a standard accent, everything else I either taught myself or picked up from interacting with others.

FYI: I'm currently completing an MA at HeiDa in ancient Chinese history--all done completely in Chinese with other Chinese students. Formal lessons are good for structure and getting your feet under you, but once you've reached an elementary level, you can do everything else on your own as long as you're disciplined.

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Thanks guys,

Much appreciated, hiring a tutor when I first arrive does sound like good idea if there are no classes available, sort of works well as I can probably delay coming over by a month or two so I can save up a bit more money. kdavid, that's the main issue I am having with my current uni course, mainly written, Marks that I have been getting for the "spoken" part - basically reading back whats in the book and recording, have all been A+ however I can just about guarantee that if I said the same thing to someone on the street of China they would look at me with a blank stare, in fact I tried the other day and got a blank stare, although I had already had a few beers, so that may have contributed.

Hmmm, everything seems to be pretty good with the Bincai option.

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So here is what bincai has to say about the accommodation situation:

The fee for living is 1500 Yuan per month(including water,gas and electricity).If you want to pay 3 months totally one time,the fee is 1350 Yuan per month(including water,gas and electricity).If you want to pay 6 months totally one time,the fee is 1250 Yuan per month.(including water,gas and electricity). Except that,if you want to go on line in the apartment,the fee is 150Yuan per month.And the deposit is 500 Yuan(when you leave,if every thing is working well,we will return you the deposit).

What do you guys make of that? Fair price for Harbin?

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How big is the apartment (square meters)?

Is this an apartment or a room in an apartment?

Where is the apartment located? How far from the school (walking distance)?

Is it well-heated during the winter?

Can they provide pictures?

What furnishings are provided?

If something breaks, who is responsible for fixing it? (e.g. lock jams/key breaks in lock, provided furnishings like fridge or microwave breaks, etc.)

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answers from bincai:

How big is the apartment (square meters)? Deffirent apartment room has deffirent square meters.Our apartment have 2 or 3 rooms for the 2 or 3 students.Every one have his own room. They share the kitchen and the bathroom together. And your house have 2 rooms,every room about more than 10 square meters.

Is this an apartment or a room in an apartment? Your apartment have 2 rooms.

How far from the school? Not far from here,about 10 mins by foot.

Is it well-heated during the winter? I don't know.We rent the house just now.

If something breaks, who is responsible for fixing it? (e.g. lock jams/key breaks in lock, provided furnishings like fridge or microwave breaks, etc.): If we know who broken the things,the man will be fun. If the public thing is broken,the students who live in the house don't know who broken,they need to compensition together.

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Probably it's going to work out cheaper than a hotel and more expensive than renting your own place. Short term, go for it, long term you may want to consider sorting something out yourself.

Going to merge this with the existing Bincai topic, if I can find it.

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  • 3 months later...

Bincai college has several different types of courses, including oral Chinese and grammar that range in level from very beginner to advanced. We also have some special courses such as HSK which are offered at different levels as well).A new class can begin once three students have registered for the same course. If a group of three or more students are interested in studying a specific course, we are able to begin a class for them. Small class sizes ranging from three to eight students give each student plenty of opportunity to speak and develop their spoken Chinese. The price of a course is 800 Yuan/ four weeks (1600/four weeks for two courses). One course is 100 minutes of class time per day, with five classes per week. There are five different class times to choose from. They are also able to change or extend a student’s visa if necessary. Bincai can provide students with accommodation.if you need.The webpage:http://www.bincai.com/chinese, email:[email protected] :clap

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  • 6 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Hello everyone,

I am new in this forum so I am not sure if this is the proper branch.Please tell me if I need to post this question in another branch.

I did a search on this topic and nothing came up.

Has anyone studied at the Bincai school in Harbin?Their prices seem very competitive compared to other schools in China.

I would like to go there next year for maybe 6 months.

Any other recommendations?

Thank you very much!

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I am planning to go to Harbin next year for six months.My first choice is Bincai school(because of the tuition fees).

My question is:would it be better for me to stay at the school or should I find somewhere else to stay?What is the approximate monthly rent for a single occupant?Bincai quotes RMB1500.


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  • 3 weeks later...
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I currently study at BinCai.

BinCai's apartments now cost 1700 per month or 1500 if you pre-pay for 6 months in advance. I've seen some of the apartments and thing the price is OK for what you get. Most landlords in Harbin require that you pay a full 12 months rent up front, so for short term students, BinCai's housing is an acceptable deal. The price isn't the best, but it sure beats forking out 18,000-36,000 up front for a year.

Other posters were concerned about waiting around until a class starts - I say don't worry about this. Classes at BinCai are very small and range from 3 to 8 students. There are a number of the same level classes running at any given time and you can changes classes (read: teachers) with minimal trouble. Classes really do start when 3 students sign up and you can always join a class that is currently in session. BinCai doesn't use a semester format; your class runs until you finish the book and pass the exam. When you complete the level, you can form a new class with the same teacher or join an existing class.

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  • 2 years later...

I've seen a few reviews for the Harbin Mandarin School/1 to 1 Mandarin Workshop recently, so thought I should put in a word for my alma mater, Bincai.


Before I start I just want to say that I have nothing against the Harbin Mandarin School. Although I've never attended the school myself, a friend of mine did, and his experience was just as positive as the recent reports on these forums. It's just that it seems that poor Bincai has been a bit neglected of late, with no reports for the past two years.


No matter which school you decide to go to, Harbin's a great place to study Mandarin. Hopefully this report can help even things out a bit and enable prospective students make an informed decision.

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The School




The school is situated in the centre of Harbin, next to a subway station and opposite HIT University, so it's pretty convenient to get to. Because HIT has a fairly large foreign student population, the area has a high concentration of what you might call “foreign amenities”, such as gyms, coffee shops, bars, foreign restaurants etc.




Bincai have a really wide variety of courses, ranging from beginner spoken Chinese to advanced newspaper Chinese. They are really flexible with how they manage and schedule the classes, meaning that it's very easy to switch courses if you're unhappy with the class for whatever reason (too easy, too hard, don't like the teacher etc.). A bad side of this is the slight disruption of students constantly joining and leaving a course, but people eventually settle down with a teacher and course that they like, so this really isn't much of a problem.


As for the number of students per class, you can picture it as a pyramid, with a large number of beginners at the bottom and progressively fewer students as you move up the levels. I think their maximum number of students per class is around 10, so they never get too big (I've heard that many uni classes have 20+ students, which I really don't think is appropriate for a language class). I had already done quite a bit of self-study before I arrived, so jumped in at the intermediate level where there were around 5 or 6 students per class, which drops to around 3 or 4 once you reach the advanced level classes. While it's great to have such small classes, this can create a problem as normally Bincai won't open a class with fewer than 4 students, so you sometimes worry that your class of 4 can stop at any minute if one of your classmates decides to leave. In reality, Bincai can be pretty flexible on this point, especially with the more advanced classes. They once kept one of my advanced courses going, despite the fact that there were only two of us still taking the class. I imagine that they must have been making a loss, but kept it going as we were both fairly long-term students.


One of the things I liked most about Bincai was the tiny classrooms. While this can feel a little cramped and noisy at first (the classrooms are separated by glass walls, which means you sometimes get some noise seeping in from the other classes), it also creates a nice intimate atmosphere. Normally, you will be sat around the same small table with your classmates and the teacher. This makes it much less intimidating to speak out in class than being in a lecture style classroom with the teacher standing at the front.




As with any school, you will like some teachers more than others. But there are over a dozen of them at Bincai and, as I said before, it's easy to change classes if you don't think your teacher is suitable. One criticism I would make, which to be fair this is a problem with the education industry as a whole, is the lack of male teachers (Bincai only had one at the time). This isn't because I think that male teachers are necessarily better than female ones, it's just that I think you get a more rounded education when you have a mix of the two, especially when it comes to language.


Free 1 to 1 Tuition


A pretty good feature of the school is the free one-to-one tuition sessions they arrange for you. The tutors are normally students from surrounding universities and each session lasts around 90 minutes. These are pretty informal and you can pretty much do what you want to do. Some people like to go through their textbooks, others just chat. Of course the tutors aren't professional teachers so the quality can vary a lot, but I've had a pretty good experience with these. The best tend to be the students from HeiDa who are there as part of their Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language majors. Remember that they don't get paid for this, so try and be generous if you can and take them out for lunch or a coffee sometime.




It only worked out around 20-25rmb an hour when I was there. The price went up just before I left, but I think it still only works out around 30rmb an hour when you pay 6 months up front.

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The City



The Weather


This is one of the first questions that gets asked when you talk about Harbin, normally by people scared of freezing to death during the infamously cold winter. The winter is indeed cold, but as the Norwegians like to say “There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. So long as you buy some decent thermals, jumpers and a good coat you'll be fine. One of the most miserable nights of my life was one spent in a hostel in southern China during the damp and cold spring, trying to get to sleep while shivering under the damp sheets with only a tiny air conditioner blowing out a pathetically small stream of warm air for heat. Most of the newer buildings have underfloor heating and even the older ones are pretty cosy. In short, don't be scared of the winter, it's awesome.


The summer's pretty good too. You can expect warm and sunny weather from May to September (unfortunately the spring only lasts a couple of weeks). Although it can get pretty hot at times (up to 35 degrees), it's a dry kind of heat, rather than the sweaty and humid kind. Plus it hardly ever rains.





One of the big attractions of Harbin over Beijing was the reportedly low levels of pollution. While this was true in the past, unfortunately it seems to be changing. Both native Harbiners and long-term foreign residents have bewailed the deterioration of the air quality these past couple of years. While still much better than Beijing, the air takes a major turn for the worse once the coal stations are turned on in October (I'm a proud survivor of the infamous smogageddon of October 2013 http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2013/oct/21/china-pollution )





When asked to describe themselves, the people of Harbin will usually use the word 豪爽. This word means laid-back, straight-talking, and generous. Also revealing is the way they describe people from Shanghai: wimpy, stingy and calculating with money, apt to use verbal insults and backstabbing rather than duke it out like real men.


That's not to say that Harbin people are particularly violent. I only saw a few fights in the street while I was there. You're unlikely to run into trouble unless you go looking for it. Sometimes the way they talk and their body language can seem a bit aggressive to a newcomer, but it's just the way they are. Actually, they're a pretty friendly bunch on the whole.


But you have to remember that this is hard, cold, relatively undeveloped northern China. Don't expect people respectably queueing up and holding the door open for you. You're going to see (and hear) lots of spitting, public urination, queue cutting, shoving, insane driving, and smoking just about everywhere (including restaurants, public bathrooms, elevators). Some people allow themselves to get really bothered by these kinds of things, but if you manage to just accept the culture as you find it and look past this 不文明的 behaviour, I think you'll end up liking the people of Harbin a lot.





If you will be studying for any period longer than 3 months it would probably be better to sort out your own apartment rather than go through the school (which is quite expensive). The area around the school is surrounded by old and grotty communist era buildings. They're not cheap either (the cheapest I could find for a studio or 1 bed was 1500rmb). You'll get better value if you move slightly further away. I would recommend the area around 学府路. It's surrounded by universities, so it's a lively area with plenty of places to eat, plus there are lots of new apartment complexes around there with elevators, public gardens and underfloor heating. It's also only 3 subway stops from the school (but you can walk it in half an hour). In 2013 you could get a studio for 1600rmb or a 1 bed for 2000rmb (of course it works out cheaper to share a 2 or 3 bed apartment, but it can be hard to find flatmates if you arrive alone). The heating is free of charge and the water/electric/gas is very cheap.


One thing to note is that you'll generally have to pay six months rent up front, plus a fee to the estate agent equal to half a month's rent. On top of study fees, gym fees (they like the whole year up front) etc it means that you're going to be paying out a pretty big sum within the first couple of weeks, so be prepared. My bank card only let my withdraw 3000 a day, but luckily my landlady was patient and understanding.





I'm no one for clubbing and only really went out when dragged out by my friends, so I'm not an expert on this. Most of the nightlife is situated in the streets in and around the school. The area is pretty small and you could probably sample the whole of Harbin (foreigner) nightlife in a single extended pub crawl. Because of this you'll quickly be on first name terms with all the foreigners and staff if you become a regular on the night scene. If you like this “a place where everyone knows your name” kind of vibe, then you'll probably like Harbin, but the people I knew who were really into going out got pretty bored with it after a couple of months.


I preferred the traditional Harbin night out of barbecued meat and warm beer during the long summer nights myself. The coffee shops all seemed to stay open until pretty late too, if that's your thing. I'm sure you'll get taken to a KTV sooner or later if you make Chinese friends.



Immersion Experience


This is one of the chief benefits of studying in Harbin. In addition to the relatively clear Mandarin and lack of a distinct local dialect, very few people speak English above anything but the most basic level. This means that even for the most basic things, such as ordering food, you're going to be practising your Chinese. There's really no excuse for not being fully immersed (in fact it would be difficult to construct an English bubble even if you wanted to).


The best thing is that, unlike say Taiwan, people in Harbin expect a foreign face to be able to speak Chinese. For example, if if someone bumps into you in Taipei they will say “sorry”, but in Harbin they will say “不好意思” (actually barging into people is normal in Harbin, they wouldn't apologise for that, bad example!). In Taipei, I used to find it funny when people who couldn't speak English would sometimes do this whole mute sign-language thing rather than even try to speak to me, so convinced were they that a white face couldn't possibly understand Chinese. You really won't have this problem in Harbin. (don't be put off studying in Taipei though. People will instantly relax and speak Chinese with you as soon as you say a couple of sentences of fluent Mandarin. Taiwan is fine for intermediate learners, but Harbin's better for beginners)


We probably have our Russian friends to thank for this. They form the largest foreigner population in Harbin and most come to study or do business, so have to be able to speak Chinese. You'll also get to experience the novel experience of having to use Chinese to communicate with blonde haired and blue eyed Russian people, as most are more comfortable speaking Chinese than English.



Cost of Living


Prices were a little higher than I expected, but still cheap. I lived in Taiwan after leaving Harbin, and I think that the idea that the mainland is much cheaper is not so true anymore. While I did manage to find one place that still did a bowl of noodles for 6rmb (which consisted almost entirely of noodles, with a few tiny scraps of pork on top), you'll generally be looking at 10-15rmb for a basic 盖饭 (rice or noodles with meat and/or veg on top) at a cheap restaurant. A basket of 6 or 7 small 包子 are about 7-12 rmb, a big plate of 饺子 (dumplings) are 17-25rmb, and a shared meal with other people at a basic cheap restaurant would be around 30-50rmb each. There are some all-you-can-eat type places for 65-75rmb (for 3 hours).


Coffee is more expensive than in the west (30-40rmb a cup), but the beer at the outside food stalls and cheap restaurants is really cheap at 4-6rmb for a big bottle (maybe 30rmb in a bar).


Transport is really cheap (1 rmb for the bus, 2rmb for the subway, taxis are inexpensive).



Working Out


Since jogging isn't really a thing on the streets of Harbin and there aren't any parks where you can run around either, you'll probably want to join a gym. I actually found one for 650rmb a year just downstairs from my apartment (some of the equipment was pretty dangerous and it closed for a whole month over new year, but I liked the whole ghetto chic thing it had going on). The best one if you're studying at Bincai is the one just across the road from the school. It's a bit more expensive than most at around 2500rmb a year, but it's big and has modern equipment (some of the cheaper gyms don't really have a great range of weights. While it's nice for the ego to max out the machine at 60kg, it's not so good for your progress). All gyms (even my ghetto one) seem to include free classes (yoga, spinning etc).


A lot of universities have their own swimming pools (usually 50m). You usually need to be a student at the uni to use the pool, but you should be able to get around this if you have a friend who studies there.


I was told there is an MMA gym somewhere in the city, but never found the time to go.





Firstly the most obvious, teaching English. If you're white you don't need to find work, work will find you! Even if you're not a native speaker it's not difficult to find work. Native English speakers in Harbin are so few and far between that you shouldn't be afraid of setting out your demands. Just tell them when you're free to work and let them work around your schedule. You shouldn't accept any less than 100rmb an hour for working at a school (but anything up to 150 isn't unrealistic), and 200rmb for private one-to-one lessons.


There's also some modelling, acting and dodgy “white guy in a suit pretending to work for a company” work about.



“Real China” Factor


I remember listening to a Sinica podcast a few months ago where the hosts were reminiscing about life in Beijing in the 90's and thinking to myself “that sounds a lot like the Harbin of today!”. From the perspective of a foreigner looking to understand China's past, present and future I believe that Harbin's development is at a real “sweet spot” right now. The infrastructure of a modern Chinese city (shopping malls, subway system, massive modern apartment complexes) are just in the process of springing up amongst the crumbling 5-storey communist-era buildings with their “学习雷锋”murals. The number of foreigners isn't so small that you get constantly stared at wherever you go (although that still happens quite a bit), but is also not so many that the locals are so used to foreign faces as to feel no curiosity. While it's been a few years since Hamamas was the only place in town which sold coffee and western food, you can still find yourself travelling halfway across the city on the mere rumour of a place which has decent cheese or Mexican food. You can still see the farmers come into the city at harvest time to sell their cabbages from the back of their trucks, and the old donkey and cart stills trots up and down 西大直街 amidst the cars (and occasional Porsche).


In other words, now is a great time to go to Harbin and experience both the “real China” and modern China side-by-side.

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@StChris: thanks a lot for the details, esp #38

Do you know if there's a list of the textbooks they use somewhere?

Which textbook(s) did you use yourself?

How many hours a day did you study, in and out of class?

Did the teacher give homework, and what kind?

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