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hunghey

Nottingham Trent University, UK

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hunghey

hi,

ive applied to study chinese mandarin at nottingham trent university in england and i just wanted some reassurance on the quality of study, if anyone has been there. for example, after i emailed them asking for the expected level of language proficiency in mandarin after studying for 3 years they replied with, "you will be able to communicate with native speakers, read more than 1000 characters, and write more than 500 characters." is that normal? because it doesnt seem like much to me.

my degree lasts for 4 years with the 3rd year to be abroad in a chinese university (most probably blcu), so this estimation is just after the year abroad and not with the completed final year.

excuse the long winded post - any replies will be appreciated :)

hunghey

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anonymoose

I haven't studied Chinese at university, so I can't comment on that course in comparison to others, but I agree that it doesn't sound like very much. You will not be able to read a lot with only 1000 characters. I think anyone graduating from a 4-year chinese degree should at the very least be able to recognise 3000 characters.

In any case, if you do end up going there, my advise is do lots of self study, and try to make use of your teachers when you have access to them. In other words, study on your own, and then ask the teachers about things you aren't sure about. Also, most universities in the UK have a lot of chinese students, so try to make friends with some of them and do language exchange. This way you'll be able to gain a lot more from the four years spent there than if you just stick to the requirements they set you.

Good luck.

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imron

1,000 characters in three years is less than 1 character a day. That's significantly slower that what you will be able to achieve if you put in even a tiny bit of extra effort. For example, when I studied a year of Chinese in Beijing, I comfortably learnt 5-10 characters a day.

I also have no idea what other Chinese degrees are like, but agree with anonymoose that you'll get the most out of your degree by doing lots of self-study, and then asking your teachers to fill in the gaps - but then again, that will probably be the case whatever degree you choose.

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hunghey

aw i was afraid that was the situation! but thanks for all the quick replies :) the thing is, chinese mandarin studies in nottingham trent university is quite a new subject for them so they are probably a little bit inexperienced in this area. thanks for the advice; i think ntu has a chinese society group thing that i might join. can any of you offer any advice on how to structure your learning consistently? ive downloaded anki which seems like a great program but i have yet to make any use of it, i was recommended to not learn any chinese beforehand since it might interfere with the learning in uni.

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Shadowdh

I have been studying at the Uni of Westminster in London and while it lacks in certain areas (mainly in bureaucracy and time spent in class, as the teaching is great)... at 2.5 years (plus 9 months spent in China, unplanned) I would say my character knowledge is more like 3000 or above, and writing is more like 1000 (perhaps more)... the figures you give certainly sound low but they may emphasise speaking more than reading/writing... anyway, I agree with the others... study diligently outside the class and ask the teachers loads of questions and you will do well, better than those who only take the class with no study...

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imron

Don't be too disappointed about the course. Learning Chinese to a decent level of proficiency is going to require a lot of effort on your part outside of class regardless of what course you are doing.
As for learning before you start, personally I wouldn't worry too much about it interfering. What I would do, is start to find out about tones and basic pronunciation, and listen to as much as possible to learn to differentiate the different tones and sounds of Mandarin. Giving yourself a good grounding in tones and basic pronunciation will be of great benefit later on.

can any of you offer any advice on how to structure your learning consistently?
Make sure you practice everyday, even if only for 10-15 minutes. Use something like this* to help you.

 

*I developed this tool

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hunghey

that sounds great! ive also applied to university of westminster and have been given a conditional offer; i am a bit torn between ntu or westminster - ntu has (a nice campus :P) the better overall grade, i.e. league tables, but westminster definitely has more experience with teaching mandarin chinese and it is rated excellent, i.e. teacher assessment. i emailed westminster too, regarding the same question just because i wanted a comparison with ntu and this was their response:

"After a four year degree including a year abroad I would expect students to know in the region of 1500 characters both active and passive, although it is very difficult to give exact figures and it can vary considerably depending on how studious the student is. Certainly you would be expected to read newspaper articles with a certain degree of ease at the end of four years."

but then the fact that youve learnt more then what the teacher estimated is an example of the much important work outside of class! ill be going to the ntu (14th march) and westminster (11th march) openday so hopefully that will help make my mind up..

ok, i will try and become comfortable with the tones/pronunciation and reading pinyin beforehand, i can speak basic cantonese so hopefully they will give me an advantage too. this website: http://www.sinosplice.com/lang/ seems like a good introduction to the language.

thanks for all the advice and i will check out that dont break the chain website :)

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Lu

I learned 10 characters a week in my first few weeks in uni, that's already more than one a day, and the amount was increased considerably after that. I think I was at 800 characters after... was it half a year or a year, I don't remember. 1000 characters will enable you to read childrens' books, with the help of a dictionary.

And 'being able to communicate with native speakers' is awfully vague. My dad could 'communicate with native speakers' after a few days in Beijing, he'd say Oo jhang piao and the native speaker in the subway ticket office gave him 5 tickets.

It might be that this uni has more emphasis on the cultural part of Chinese studies, and then the light language learning is a bit forgiveable. But if learning Chinese is your goal, I'd suggest trying for another university.

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James Garrison

Maybe its "only" 1000 characters because most students won't have chances to speak much outside of class? Or they just set modest goals in order not to scare people away or disappoint modest learners? The other day I looked at the online year 4 course for MIT (an extremely well respected school here in the states) and I was surprised at how easy it was, given that this was what seniors were expected to know to get a degree in Chinese. Perhaps unis concentrate more on fluency with a solid base of characters than an overly ambitious amount...

1000 is actually fairly decent, and if you can instantly recognize that many, then that's not bad at all. Keep in mind that the vaunted "1000" character threshold is a pretty useless and arbitrary number as a measuring stick, actually - by the time you reach 1000, there will be many more that you might have a loose grasp of. I'd say 1300 at least to read anything more complex than one of the purposely easy/intermediate scripts that you see at places like Chinesepod, the BOYA beginner and intermediate book, etc.

That said, 1000 is fine for daily talk, chit chat, SMS and email, etc, and even a few hundred (depending on which characters you focus on) characters will allow you to feel like you are really making progress. :)

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adrianlondon

If the course is new, it could be that no-one's completed it yet so they really have no idea how many characters they will end up teaching. They may have just guessed.

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imron
That said, 1000 is fine for daily talk, chit chat, SMS and email, etc,
I guess it depends on what the OP's goals are for learning Chinese. It's nowhere near enough if you want to be able to use your Chinese in any sort of professional capacity.

I agree though they are probably just setting the bar low, because they know that it's something most students should be able to reach after 3 years. The Westminster comment however was spot on:

although it is very difficult to give exact figures and it can vary considerably depending on how studious the student is.

Actually, also just as importance is perserverance. If for example, you learn 5 characters a day, and do that every day without fail for a year, you'll have learnt more than what both schools said you would learn after completing your degree. The difficulty here isn't in 5 characters a day, as that's quite an easy pace. The difficulty is in every day without fail for a year.

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hunghey

you all offer good advice - thanks. reading these replies its clear that the emphasis is on a good balance of academic learning both in and out of class. i havent officially made my mind up on either ntu or westminster, but im leaning more towards ntu as they seem to be quite well organized and have a good community vibe. i think its quite possible the uni just provided a rough estimation, since it is a new course - im talking roughly about 2-4 years new!

ideally, i would like to be able to converse in mandarin quite fluently after the four years since i would be interested in gaining some basic experience as a teacher of english in china and then move onto studies in language translation, so, proficiency in mandarin would be quite a big step towards these aspirations of mine!

both ntu and westminster use the "new practical chinese reader" textbooks to teach, would following the textbooks to an intermediate/advanced level actually lead the learner to a realistic intermediate/advanced level of proficiency?

thanks all!

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JenniferW

From their website, it looks as if Chinese is only offered at Nottingham Trent as one option in their joint honours programme, i.e. it would only be 50% of the degree course. That could be why the final level of achievement expected would be lower than you were expecting. Other universities in the UK offer it as a single subject undergraduate degree, including SOAS (London), Edinburgh, Leeds and Oxford. The UCAS listing for 2009 entry makes it look as if Westminster also only offers Chinese as part of the course, like Nottingham Trent.

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Shadowdh
that sounds great! ive also applied to university of westminster and have been given a conditional offer; i am a bit torn between ntu or westminster - ntu has (a nice campus :P) the better overall grade, i.e. league tables, but westminster definitely has more experience with teaching mandarin chinese and it is rated excellent, i.e. teacher assessment.

I have a class that day, do you know which campus you are going to? As JenniferW mentions UoW does run Chinese with another subject, you can do it 50/50 or 72/25 (or vice versa). It used to be single honours but they changed it recently... I definitely rate the teaching there... in the 3 years (well 3.5 really but 9 months was in China) I have only had one mediocre teacher, the rest have been fantastic. Good luck with your decision...

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anonymoose
ideally, i would like to be able to converse in mandarin quite fluently after the four years since i would be interested in gaining some basic experience as a teacher of english in china and then move onto studies in language translation, so, proficiency in mandarin would be quite a big step towards these aspirations of mine!

Firstly, for teaching English in China, you do not need any knowledge of Chinese, and many schools in fact prefer you do not speak Chinese, or at least prohibit you from doing so in class.

As for being able to converse fluently, this depends on a couple of factors. One is your personal ability for grasping the language, and the other is how you define 'fluent'. I know some people who can just about order a beer in broken Chinese, and call themselves fluent. On the other hand, I have an HSK Level 8 (and am expecting to comfortably get a 9 the next time round :wink: ) and I personally feel I am far from 'fluent', or at least not at the level I'd like to be at.

I think if you work hard for four years, and taking account of the fact that you'll have a few months of experience in China, you should in that time be able to reach a level where you can comfortably communicate about most topics in Chinese. You probably will be stuck for words a fair amount of the time, but at least you should have enough knowledge to get your meaning across by using alternative phrasing, for example.

However, as I mentioned, to a large extent this depends also on your own ability to pick up new languages. I know people who've been studying (though not necessarily very diligently) for several years, and can still barely hold a conversation, yet others, who in four years or less, could hold a conversation in Chinese with facility.

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hunghey

i totally forgot to mention that - i am doing joint honours at both ntu (international relations) and westminster (linguistics), but i was under the impression that they would teach you the core modules to do with the language, and maybe less of the cultural side of things. as i am only doing two a-levels, other universities like SOAS, Leeds, that you mentioned did not accept me. i was doubtful but still hoping to pass with a good reference, personal statement and predicted grades but i guess it doesnt work that way!

i will be going to the university of westminster open day at the regent street campus and it starts from 2:30pm-5:30pm. to be honest, one of the major reasons why i am leaning more towards ntu has nothing to do with academics but more to do with the social life, since i already live in london, studying at westminster would mean i would stay at home which isnt that attractive to me. but then this also depends on the quality of teaching at ntu, since i dont want to make a bad decision that will last me for 4 years of my life! about the joint honours, does anyone know the advantages or disadvantages of a 75/25 split? it seems kind of impractical to only study 25% of a subjects syllabus...or do i have it backward?

by fluent, i mean, being able to converse about most subjects easily, sounding and pronouncing words similar to a native, being able to read a newspaper or short novel, and the ability to write an informal letter or email. my cantonese accent isnt too shabby but the few phrases/words i can speak in mandarin need some work! i know that knowledge of chinese mandarin isnt needed for teaching english in china, but i guess what i meant was, if i were to teach in china, i would feel more comfortable knowing the language of the country since i would be living there for atleast a few months. wow, goodluck with your exam :) how many years have you studied?

again, thanks for all the advice and comments :)

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Shadowdh

I have spoken with students doing the Chinese/Linguistics and they have said that it was pretty tough, I like the Chinese/IR joint honours... they teach you the core modules for each and then depending on the split (50/50 or 75/25) they will go further (for Chinese if you do 75/25 you do all the modules, including an extra language class and a cultural class, at least thats at uni of Westminister...).

joint honours, does anyone know the advantages or disadvantages of a 75/25 split? it seems kind of impractical to only study 25% of a subjects syllabus...or do i have it backward?

My class is from 2-5 so I will be otherwise occupied, but feel free to pm me or email me if you have any questions that the uni cannot or perhaps willnot answer. re the socialising thing... tbh I would stay in London and concentrate on getting good marks, I have seen many students following the social path and just bombing out... re the advantages/disadvantages... depends on what you are looking for... I have friends who did the 50/50 and wish they had done more Chinese (ie the 75/25 split) and vice versa. You dont have it backward but (again from my perspective) the split reflects your interests and ideas of what you want from your degree, in the 25 bit you study the core modules and nothing else.

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pookie

I may be replying too late but I studied Chinese at NTU. Although it was just an option with my Software degree.

The quality of teaching was far better than Leeds where I have also studied Chinese and NTU has an awesome social life. Just one question though - is this being taught at the City or the Clifton campus?

Cheers

Sean

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hunghey

hi,

ive chosen ntu as my firm and westminster as my insurance choice, but any new information about ntu's mandarin joint honours degree is welcome! are you referring to the optional language programme or the joint honours degree? http://www.ntu.ac.uk/hum/courses/ulp/index.html

the mandarin chinese joint honours course is taught by the arts and humanities school, so that will be at clifton campus. a bit far from the city for my liking, but what can ya do :conf

wow, im impressed, leeds is one of the top universities to study mandarin chinese in the uk, at least according to the league tables. what was good about the teaching at ntu? and thanks for the info :) im really looking forward to uni life!

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