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Shi Tong

Unique Dilema.

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Shi Tong

Hello all,

I'm new here and I'd first of all like to thank everyone for their responses, since I hope I'll get a few!

I'm an English person who can speak relatively fluent Mandarin Chinese, though I've only had 3 months of formal education.

When I went to college in Taiwan at age 24 I didn't think I would get anywhere, but to my own surprise, I managed to get all my tests over 90% and was offered a scholarship. Unfortunately I had to return to work at this time, so I couldn't carry on my Mandarin learning, but I did carry on my speech because my wife is from Taiwan, and from there I managed to learn to speak very well, in that I can speak on a lot of subjects, to a relatively deep level.

However, I'm not in a position where I have no qualification in Mandarin, and I would like something to show for my time. This means that I would like to possibly end up taking a GCSE, or even an A-level and upwards.

My unique dilema is that:

a) I dont know where I stand with how much I know.

B) I dont know how hard exams in Chinese are in England.

c) I speak with a Taiwanese accent, with Taiwanese slang.

d) I write and read (a small amount), in Traditional characters.

e) I dont have any idea where I could study these skills in the UK, which would be relatively local/ easy to reach.

I hope to spend some time here if I can kick start my Chinese again and start learning how to read and write a lot more, so I hope that I get a few responses to my post, and thanks again in advance for any advice anyone has to offer.

- Shi Tong.

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xianhua
I write and read (a small amount), in Traditional characters.

Have a browse on the internet for some past GCSE and A' level papers, and see how this fits in with your written and reading skills. Obviously with these examinations, writing and reading will be a major part so you may need to work on those areas. From what I've seen in the past, the gap between GCSE and A' Level papers is quite sizeable.

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elliott50

The UK Chinese GCSE & A-Level exams are provided by www.edexcel.co.uk.

The good news is that you can take both qualifications using full-form characters.

The bad news is that you are very unlikely to find evening classes even teaching to the GCSE level (unless you live in a big city) and if you do, they will almost certainly teach using simplified characters. For example the EdExcel authorised A-level teaching materials are only available in simplified characters as far as I am aware.

Given your unique situation, you may find that a tutor is a better approach. Certainly most school-teachers who teach the GCSE & A-Level exams to school-children will also moonlight as tutors for adults. So my advice would be to find the nearest local school that acts as a test centre (see the website) and go from there.

I agree with xianhua, the gap between GCSE and A-Level is far greater than one might expect and probably difficult to bridge for school-children who do not have a Chinese speaker in the family.

For myself, I have chosen not to take the exams so far because they require a high level of written chinese. I am currently concentrating on learning to read and speak business chinese, which seems more relevant to my current needs.

Have you considered taking the HSK exams instead as there is very little writing involved in the (current version of the) intermediate level exam? They are available from both SOAS in London and at Sheffield University (both have Confucius Institutes).

Edited by elliott50
The HSK is also available in traditional characters - thanks chrix!

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chrix

You can take the HSK in traditional if you wish so. I'm not sure how it works, since I took the HSK in simplified (even though I mostly studied traditional myself), I'd think you'd need to request the exam papers in traditional well in advance.

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Shi Tong

Thanks sooooo much for the replies, they are really useful!!

Funnily enough, I do know a tutor who I see practically every week- she's a friend of my wife's and she already teaches students to GCSE level of Chinese. She also uses a text book/ text books called "Kuaile Hanyu", and apparently they teach both traditional and simplified.

I'm considering learning both at the same time if I can- I think simplified characters can be really easy- like learning that guo2 (country), in simplified is changed from the complicated looking traditional character to simply putting "yu4" inside the "kuo3" character, how easy is that?! ;)

I reckon you could all be right- I should probably hire my friend to assess where I stand with my Mandarin- seems like a really good way to start.

I do live in South London and I know that they have Chinese courses in Croydon, but as a couple of you have mentioned- they dont really teach to GCSE, and I think I would get pretty bored pretty quickly with learning stupid simple phrases that I already learned 8 years ago.

May I also ask- what is an HSK?

xinhua- I will take a look at past GCSE/ A-level papers if I can find any- good advice.

I think that the A-level could definately be a high step- I will probably concentrate on getting a GCSE first, even if it turns out to be easy for me- then I will have the credentials to move on.

Thanks again!!!! :)

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imron
You can take the HSK in traditional if you wish so.
Can you? I thought it was simplified all the way. I'd be interested if anyone knows anything more authoritative.

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taylor04
I think simplified characters can be really easy- like learning that guo2 (country), in simplified is changed from the complicated looking traditional character to simply putting "yu4" inside the "kuo3" character, how easy is that?! ;)

It can be easy, but once all the characters start looking alike, it starts getting harder:D I wish you luck with learning both simplified and traditional, I've never tried it, let me know how it goes! Also a good way to help reinforce and learn to write new words is skritter, they have hsk lists on there aswell

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chrix

renzhe created a list of them elsewhere on this forum, I've made an anki deck out of it. PM me if you want it. (Once I get through it, I might publish it here).

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renzhe

I personally recommend learning one set of characters first before learning the other one. Many other people will agree.

Learning 3,500 characters is hard enough. Once you get that done, you can think about the other variants. Then it's easy.

Simplified characters are often easier because of fewer strokes, but not always. As with many things relating to the Chinese language, it's hard to make generalisations.

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elliott50

I forgot to say... as an alternative to a GCSE... the Open University in the UK also has an undergraduate course in Beginners Chinese that you can do without enrolling for a full degree (though it uses simplified characters as far as I can tell) see:

http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/course/l197.htm

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jbradfor
I personally recommend learning one set of characters first before learning the other one. Many other people will agree.

Many people will. However, based on my experience the last year or so, I would disagree. I've been trying to learn both at the same time, and it's been working well for me. Right now I have the flashcards show me both, and I find it faster than learning either alone. The only downside is there are some characters I can recognize only if I see both forms together....

Part of the advantage to learning both is that I'm reading texts in both simplified and traditional.

The other advantage is that while usually it is easier for me to learn to recognize the traditional faster, for some characters the simplified is easier. 達/达 and 擁/拥 are two examples. So I learn the simplified first, and eventually my brain works its way over to the traditional.

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chrix

I agree like many others that it is not hard to learn both sets. And it's quite easy to develop a passive kind of proficiency in both, and always having both sets on my flashcards is a must for me (but fortunately pinyin toolkit does this automatically for you).

But if you really get into it, there's some difficulties, like:

- sometimes the phonetic element is only simplified for a certain (usu. frequent) character, while others with the same element aren't.

- often, several traditional characters are "rolled into one" simplified character.

And just in general, there are some obscure characters that have undergone simplification, and if you want to know them all, it is quite some effort...

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Shi Tong

Thanks very much again for all of your comprehensive replies, they've been really helpful.

One of the reasons I thought about possibly learning simplified characters as well as traditional at the same time was because my friend who does private tuition thought that I might be able to cope with it and told me that she thought it might be a good idea.

I think one of those reasons is because I already read traditional to a degree, and have no simplified, but LOTS of text books here and learning materials are in simplified, which means that if I had to use something, or I wanted to use something using simple stuff, I could chop and change to get the best of both worlds.

Personally I prefer traditional characters and Zhuyin (not ping yin), because I feel like both accurately represent the language a little better...

The main reason I like the Zhuyin is because, IMO, having a seperate character for all of the different sounds makes more sense than using the Roman alphabet which has too few.

The main reason I like the traditional characters is because IMO, they're a bit deeper and display the exact elements of the word to make pictorial sense in some ways (like horse having four legs instead of a line for it's legs... what's that all about?!)

I may think about flash cards with both characters on it because this could mean I could learn to READ both, giving me the opporunity to read material which i might find useful without having to learn to write it- it would also mean I can read my 5 edition Three Kingdoms in simplified when I can finally read properly!! ;)

I'm going to have to do my research and contact my friend.. then i think it's going to be a long long study route to fluency!! ;)

I feel very welcomed, thanks very much, and I'll be on here with my progress reports and figuring out ways of butting in on other people's thoughts!!!!

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renzhe
The main reason I like the traditional characters is because IMO, they're a bit deeper and display the exact elements of the word to make pictorial sense in some ways (like horse having four legs instead of a line for it's legs... what's that all about?!)

It's actually fire.

(Though it doesn't serve as a radical here)

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imron
The main reason I like the traditional characters is because IMO, they're a bit deeper and display the exact elements of the word to make pictorial sense in some ways
On the other hand simplified characters contain more whitespace, which in my opinion makes them easier to read on a computer screen than traditional characters of the same font size.

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renzhe

^^^ I thought I was the only one who felt this way :mrgreen:

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chrix
It's actually fire.

I don't think it means that there...

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renzhe

Of course not, it developed from a pictogram. I'm sure you'll correct me if I'm wrong, but the four "legs" got replaced by the fire radical when the script was standardised during the Qin dinasty.

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Shi Tong

I know that four strokes under the bottom of some characters means "fire" (my chinese name has a character with a fire radical underneath :熙), but as was mentioned before, I reckon that Ma (horse), has legs, not fire, after all, it's kind of a picture :)

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