Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

  • Why you should look around

    Since 2003, Chinese-forums.com has been helping people learn Chinese faster and get to China sooner. Our members can recommend beginner textbooks, help you out with obscure classical vocabulary, and tell you where to get the best street food in Xi'an. And we're friendly about it too. 

    Have a look at what's going on, or search for something specific. We hope you'll join us. 

Recommended Posts

Fabiao

Hi everyone. In autumn I'd like to spend at least a semester in China to improve my chinese, but i want to pick a smaller and less international city than Beijing. I found Xiamen really nice. Can someone tell me if Xiamen is a good city/university to learn chinese ? Thanks

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

joshuawbb

I live and study in Xiamen, and find the atmosphere here in general very nice. The city itself is one of China's cleanest and least polluted, right on the coast with lovely beaches, and right next door to Taiwan. You'll probably like it here a lot if you prefer slower and more laid-back city life.

I currently study at Xiamen University. As for quality it's been very mixed. Teachers tend to be a mix of Fujian born and bread and teachers from other provinces - nothing wrong with that and I find the teachers with the local accent just as good as any other accent would be in my opinion, and their accent doesn't have any sort of negative impact to me.

Classes in the university depend on your current level - there are levels beginning from virtually zero all the way up to 4th year and beyond. Each level is labeled by year (i.e. 1st year, 2nd year), and each level is divided into two sublevels, e.g. 一年上,一年下. You'll take a placement test and be put into a class depending on the reuslt. Classes are divided into three main class subjects - general Hanyu/汉语 class, listening/听力 and speaking/口语 which will make up the mandatory credits of your semester. Teaching is usually 3 hours per day (4 if you include breaks), 5 days a week. You can choose a limited amount of elective courses from a broad selection, including self defence, other academic courses such as reading and writing, etc. I personally didn't choose any myself this semester, as I have too much of my own study outside class.

You'll usually have a different teacher for each class. As I mentioned above, overall quality has been very mixed - your own impressions on quality depend entirely on your view of the teaching, methods and the way you prefer to study yourself. My first general Hanyu teacher last year was from just outside Beijing, taught in his Beijing-esque accent and was excellent - with a great teaching philosophy encouraging students' active participation, and was admired by most of the class. He later left for France and was replaced by another teacher. She was nice and kind in personality, but taught very little outside plain textbook guidelines and lessons tended to be rote, and she encouraged very little student participation in terms of conversation and discussion. We weren't gaining much input and the class dropped in number.

For listening, our teacher was again a good friend in personality, but our teaching consisted of continuous repetition of listening tests from the book, again and again. This was rather expected, and from the impression I get, most listening classes teach in a similar way. The tests were dull but good training for similar listening tests in the HSK, however were marred by atrocious sound quality - apparently someone did little more than re-record the tapes through a computer microphone into MP3 format. However on the good side, about 10% of the lesson would be a spoken presentation by one student each day, and the student would have to prepare a topic of one's choosing, and perhaps write a script. This was excellent and I loved the opportunity for freestyle expression.

Last year we didn't have a speaking lesson teacher, and our listening teacher occasionally gave spoken lessons in place. One more thing I would say is that the books we used last year were outdated and poor in material (Hanyu Jiaocheng - the blue and white old publications). The dull photos on the front of each one were good representations of the content inside, sorry to be so blunt. My girlfriend read through them and agreed that they were poor accompaniments for study. At the end of the semester each student was given an evaluation sheet to evaluate teaching quality and materials. Most people (from my impression) scathingly criticised the books, and this year we have new books - still the Hanyu Jiaocheng series, but 2009/10 new editions with completely new content. These are far from perfect but fairly good, and are a vast improvement over the previous books.

Continued below in my next post.

Edited by joshuawbb
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
abcdefg

Joshua -- A little more about Xiamen as a place to be and live, please when you have the chance. Not just information about the courses at the university. I would value your impressions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
rezaf

Don't study in the south. The pronunciation is very different from Putonghua. It's like you learn one language in the class but you have to understand another language outside. I sometimes feel a little bit awkward when I speak standart Putonghua in Shanghai. Then I have to add a lot of Shanghainese expressions like hao vo la, dei a... to make the conversation more natural.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
rezaf

Actually I think southern accents are cool but I feel more comfortable when I speak to someone from Beijing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
abcdefg

Thanks, Joshua, for that excellent report. I like Kunming a lot, but it sounds like Xiamen is also a good place to live. I will go explore it a bit later in the year.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GaoLao888

Can't beat the BBQ and hotpot in Xiamen!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fabiao

Thank you joshuawbb !! Really a good report!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
xueshengDan

Yes, Joshua that was an excellent run down ( report) of the city. :clap

Thank you for the detailed information.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
putonghua73

I too, must also add my thanks to Joshuawbb for posting an extremely detailed, thorough and comprehensive guide to living and studying in Xiamen.

Your postings are an incredibly valuable resource, and Xiamen does indeed sound like an alternative to Kunming. My only pipsqueak of concern is Chinese language courses at the University - my desire to avoid classroom based learning with variable teaching is why I primarily chose to study at Keats here in Kunming.

I'd be quite interested in investigating Xiamen - if I could find 1-2-1 study options - as a place to study for my next sabbatical to China after this present sabbatical, were it not for the fact I now have a girlfriend here in Kunming, and have developed a number of [Chinese] friends here.

Were I studying in China for a year as opposed to 5/6 months than dividing my time between two places would be an extremely attractive option. But I'm already developing roots and ties in Kunming.

Once again, thank you for taking time to post such a comprehensive guide to Xiamen. I don't suppose you wish to travel around other parts of China to do the same ;) Hey! Maybe a new career opportunity for you!

Cheers!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
joshuawbb

Wow, so many thanks! I didn't expect that :D You're welcome, and thank you very much too.

My girlfriend and I sampled several hotpot places in winter - I'm far from an expert on them though, so I think she'd be better at recommending places. I think there are several pretty good BBQ places here. There is a Brazilian BBQ place - can't quite remember the name, but it's a chain I've been to before in Shenzhen.

I'm not quite sure myself of all the one-to-one study opportunities but I'm pretty sure there may be some here - I don't remember an institution from memory, but the student noticeboards in the overseas teaching building here are usually crammed with adverts, mostly from Chinese students, overseas students or other Chinese people offering 1-2-1, etc, but I think I've seen one or two institution adverts. The administration have cleaned the board now of all the old paper posts but I'll look out there. It's a shame really, I wanted to photograph it since the layers of notes looked artistic in a random way.

Indeed in the university, teaching is classroom based and I haven't seen any variation from that in my course unfortunately, but I didn't really expect it to vary myself. I think 1-2-1 would be far more satisfying than my class, so I might go looking for such a place myself. If I was able to get a residence permit studying 1-2-1 now I would look for the next opportunity, since I find my self study seems to help far more than what I'm learning in the class.

Oh I'd love to make a career out of travel writing if I could, haha, not that I see myself as particularly good at it. I wish I was able to travel around China and get to know many cities as well as I've so far become accustomed to Xiamen.

Many thanks again for all your words :D

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fabiao

Hi Joshua, I have another question for you. Today I talked with my chinese teacher about Xiamen. He told me that south of Nanjing everyone speaks a dialect totally different from putonghua. Southern people understand and speak standard chinese but among them they speak dialect. So, how are things there in Xiamen? Can you understand town-talk? Thanks

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jirbau

Hi, does anyone know a good website where I can look for apartments or houses in Xiamen?

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jalsamarrai
Hi, does anyone know a good website where I can look for apartments or houses in Xiamen?

In response to jirbau...how is your Chinese level? If you can read Chinese, then I would recommend a site that most Chinese use...58.com. This link here will take you to apartments that are being rented out in Xiamen http://xm.58.com/chuzu/. If you have any other questions, please do ask =)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jalsamarrai

I would like to share my opinion on this matter of studying standard Mandarin in Xiamen...I have been in Xiamen for about 2 years now, and the more I am here the more I realize that Xiamen is not an ideal place to study STANDARD Mandarin. I have been lucky and fortunate enough to have traveled to over 25 cities and 14 provinces in China, and I have to be honest in saying that the Chinese spoken in Fujian province is some of the worst I've ever heard. My own Chinese level is probably at Upper-intermediate, and I currently have a Chinese girlfriend with whom I live and speak only Chinese.

If you have lived in Beijing, Tianjin, or anywhere in that general area and have studied Chinese before coming to the south, then I think you will be fine living down here. However, if you are a new learner and expect to learn Chinese in suitable environment, then Xiamen is not the city for you. The locals here do speak Mandarin, but their grammar, accent and pronunciation are all pretty heavily flawed. Examples:

-The number sounds for the number "2" and "6" are pronounced incorrectly..."liu" and "er"

-Grammar structures such as: 聊下天 is often spoken 聊天下 here...this is grammatically incorrect and arguably strange to northerners, and people who speak standard Mandarin

-As mentioned previously by joshuawbb the "h" as in 是,时,事 are pretty much nonexistent

-Words including the "h" and "f" sounds are pronounced unclearly...there's a joke here where 飞机飞了 is pronounced hui1 ji1 hui1 le due to their mispronunciation of the "f" sound

-You will hear a lot of words that don't exist in standard Mandarin and will not be understood by not from this province, such as the word "to stick" 粘贴 being pronounced “nian" with a first tone...basically they have taken a noun 粘粘的 and transformed it into a verb...

These are just some of the examples I can think of off the top of my head. I think what is most important when studying Chinese is to closely examine what your end goal is. If you are looking to speak very standard Mandarin, both in terms of grammar and pronunciation, then I think learning in Xiamen wouldn't be the best use of your time. If you are looking to casually learn Mandarin, while also enjoying the island life and being in a place with lots of foreigners, then I would recommend coming here. As for me, I came to China to learn how to speak excellent, standard, beautiful Chinese and small part of me wishes I had chosen a city where I was surrounded by people who speak standard Chinese. Either way, one must admit that Xiamen island is a nice place and does have its positive aspects, such as the beach and scenery.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
OneEye

Yup, sounds similar to the strongly 閩南話-influenced accents in Taiwan. It can get pretty punny sometimes, though. You'll see signs like "你2了沒?" (你餓了沒?). At one coffee shop I go to, there's a girl named 小慧, and the tip jar is labeled "小慧箱" (小費箱).

I find, however, that with most people, the dentals (z, c, s) and retroflexes (zh, ch, sh) are actually distinguished pretty clearly, though it didn't sound like it when I first moved here. I found out later that it's really the retroflexes and palatals (j, q, x) that aren't distinguished. That is, 'sh' is more or less the same as 'x,' for example. That's perfectly acceptable, because it poses no confusion (once you've trained your ear to hear it correctly). Palatal initials will always be followed by /i/ or /y/, and retroflexed initials never will be. That accounts for part of the "softness" of the accent, and explains why many people think they don't pronounce their "retroflexes." They do, just differently.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
alayeer

Hey, thanks for the wonderful information regarding Xiamen. I have also started to look information regarding this city, and I find that Xiada seems to be the most popular place to learn Chinese there. However I read that Xiada has increased its tuition cost for language program from 9000 RMB/term to 14000 RMB/term. What do you guys think about it? Is it still worth it to learn Chinese in Xiada? I see that Xiamen also has another unis like Huaqiao, or Jimei. Does anyone have any experience with the unis?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
carenja

Hi alayeer,

just saw your question about Xiamen... I studied there for one year, just finished in July this year. I think I have to disappoint you a bit. Xiada is not such a good choice anymore. The language institute has moved outside the city centre to Xiangan district, about a 1,5 h bumpy bus ride from town. This means you have the choice to live in the city and commute to classes everyday (which can be any day any time of the day which means you often need to stay the whole day to cover all your lessons) or you stay on campus at the international student dormitory (those guys party hard...). If I had the choice again I would go somewhere else. The city is nice but considering the trouble of commuting, it is not really worth it.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...