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Where should I study?


poofspoon

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Hi!

I'm a new poster to the forums, but it's been an invaluable resource in my Mandarin studies. I imagine mine is a common question: where should I go to learn Mandarin? My background is six months of self-study, plus I will be hitting the books hard this coming semester and have basic conversational Mandarin skills by the time I'm ready to go in the fall. I'm planning on doing the 2011-2012 academic year in China, either both semesters in one place or splitting it between two locations. I'm thinking of doing one semester pure language study and the second at a Chinese University taking actual classes in Chinese history, philosophy, etc.

My highest priority is learning the language well, including an area with relatively few Westerners (especially first semester), and primarily speaking standard Mandarin, which limits me to the northeast. Secondary considerations are air quality and weather (warmer=better), but these aren't deal-breakers.

The budget is $20,000 for the whole year, thanks to a scholarship, which seems sufficient for just about any program I can find. So go crazy with any recommendations! Thanks a lot for the advice!

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I'm most probably off to the U of Jinan i Shandong in September. Largely because of the free tution/location...its also a bit off the beaten track. But there's also some highly ranked unis in Shandong province if money's no object.

I had fallen in love with the South West University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu- better weather and standard Mandarin. Chengdu also gets high praise from most here.

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My background is six months of self-study, plus I will be hitting the books hard this coming semester and have basic conversational Mandarin skills by the time I'm ready to go in the fall. I'm planning on doing the 2011-2012 academic year in China, either both semesters in one place or splitting it between two locations. I'm thinking of doing one semester pure language study and the second at a Chinese University taking actual classes in Chinese history, philosophy, etc.

Uh... you really think that showing up with basic conversation skills and just one semester in China will leave you ready to take actual classes? Seems a bit hopeful to me........ but maybe you're extremely gifted with languages and have an intermediate knowledge already?

My highest priority is learning the language well, including an area with relatively few Westerners (especially first semester), and primarily speaking standard Mandarin, which limits me to the northeast. Secondary considerations are air quality and weather (warmer=better), but these aren't deal-breakers.

Northeast, few native English speakers, good air quality and warmer weather = Dalian, but not in the winter time. I don't really think anything else in China fits your (quite specific) criteria. Even Dalian is cold in the winter.

The budget is $20,000 for the whole year, thanks to a scholarship, which seems sufficient for just about any program I can find. So go crazy with any recommendations! Thanks a lot for the advice!

China keeps getting more and more expensive... this is fine for a standard university that offers intensive group classes, but honestly to train to the level you'd like in one semester, if it is even possible, is going to require a program with smaller classes and/or one-on-one private schools or tutors. Of course, if you're in this for the experience and colloquial speech, then maybe you'll be fine just hanging out in a place like Dalian for the year. How badly do you need to learn mandarin in the time specified? Will it be required for a future goal (work, grad school, research, etc) or do you have time to spare?

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So there's some doubt about me taking actual classes in Chinese by after a semester. I'm a pretty fast language learner, and I've already got a pretty good base, so I'm hopeful a semester living in China will put me at a sufficient level. If not though, I'll just keep taking language classes instead. Right now, my main focus is on finding great teachers and a good city or two. Anything else is flexible, so don't worry about the weather or whatnot if you found some amazing school in Harbin and its a fun city.

Has anyone had any experience with schools or living in Dalian?

Thanks for the advice!

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Well, I'm fluent in French, advanced in Chinese, and speak some Spanish and German. Chinese was/has been the toughest primarily because I can't increase my knowledge the way I have in the other languages - that is, primarily through reading, reading, and more reading. Don't get me wrong: Chinese grammar is much simpler in many respects. It's the fact that speaking/listening and reading/writing in Chinese seem to be tasks far more separated than in the standard romanized languages I'm accustomed to. (Of course, if you know Russian, Japanese, or Korean, you might have an easier time in Chinese. Who knows.) Tones, for example, I've only really been able to successfully learn through months of solid immersion after having already reached an intermediate level. Reading newspapers came next (I memorize quickly, which is damn good because newspaper reading does not resemble colloquial speech), around the same time I could start to listen to university lectures. As far as movies and TV shows go, well that all depends on the accent and/or amount of colloquial speech thrown in. I still have a lot of trouble with some accents, cannot understand any dialects outside standard mandarin, and am not that much of a fan of learning slang.

The best bang for your buck is probably not taking a shot in the dark. I'd seriously consider a program in Harbin (HUT or CET). IUP-Beijing and ICLP-Taipei are too expensive IMO, but they will get you to a nice level very quickly. Otherwise I'd find a private school with one-on-one classes or small group classes. If you really are looking to improve leaps and bounds quickly: plan to take classes 5 days a week, around 4 hours a day, with the same amount of time spent on homework, in one of these situations I mentioned. Do not expect to have a lot of time outside of class and homework to take trips or anything, but of course language partners and other social activities in Chinese can always help you improve. (Plan to spend at least an hour or two each day detoxing yourself from the intensity of the learning experience.... watch a movie, read, go to the gym, talk to friends on Skype, etc. :) )

I'm sure other people on this forum can contribute their own experience, but in a short time frame this is what worked for me. Beginning at the intermediate level in ICLP it took me about ~12-14 weeks (October-mid January roughly) to reach a level where I could start sitting in uni lectures and try to read the newspaper (and actually understand some of it). I couldn't get that from the summer programs I attended at regular universities in Beijing and Dalian: the teachers and students were too lax and/or lazy.

EDIT: I should add that I took this route (one year at ICLP) because I needed to get to an advanced level of Chinese for my dissertation research as quickly as possible. I did not really have the ability to sit around and figure things out later, it was either learn Chinese or leave grad school!

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if you prefer a city in the northeast, air clean, i think Dalian or Qingdao is a good choice. this two coast cities are hot tourist sites of China. and if you wanna know more about China modern development, you can consider Shanghai, the most charming city of mainland China.

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  • 1 month later...

Harbin University of Technology. See: http://www.hyccchina.com/UnivercityInfo.aspx?id=9 (information in English). By the way, hycc is a company that can set you up at a university for a very modest fee (IMO). Adam, one of the (English) co-founders, is amazing. Ask for him if you want more information on their services.

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you don't need to go to the northeast to learn mandarin. i recently travelled through parts of yunnan, and i was speaking mandarin to every chinese person i met there.

and even in the northeast, people don't all speak the kind of standard mandarin you hear on TV.

i live in yantai, it has relatively good weather, few foreigners, and everyone here other than older, less-educated people can speak very good mandarin. the downside is that there isn't really much to do, and it's not a convenient place to live if you plan on travelling much

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