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Definitive Guide to Studying in Beijing [UPDATED 4/11/2005]


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6/20/05 added juncheng & Direct Apply vs. Worldlink Section

4/11/05 added IUP @ Tsinghua info

3/6/05 added BNU info

Tired of answering the same questions I've decided to post this, the Definitive Guide to Studying in Beijing. I haven't studied everywhere in Beijing, but I have studied for a while, which makes me more of an expert than most. I will fill in details as I have time. please PM me with details or with questions you want answered. I will try to add some sections on studying at Tsinghua, Beida and at Private schools when I have some free time. If someone could send me info about studying at a university and impressions they had, please do so. thanks!!

I'd also like to add some thoughts about finding a good place to study. When studying Chinese, I think the following factors should be considered: the quality of teachers, the quality of materials, class size, school environment, costs. Of these I think teaching quality is extremely important. Even if a school is considered the best in the country, that doesn't mean their Chinese teachers are any good. Be aware of this.


Most schools still use BLCU materials (with Tsinghua (for the most part) and beida being an exception)

BLCU (Beijing Language and Culture University) aka. BLU (Beijing Language University)北京语言大学

Classes are generally in the morning Monday through Friday, 8-12 for short term students and 8:30-12:30 for long term students. Intensive classes have an additional 2 hours a day from 2-4. Optional classes are available, including tai-chi, calligraphy, HSK prep, etc. There is one excursion (free) to the great wall. There are two types of courses, short term and long term. If you want to get there by taxi, you may have to say the schools old name Yuyan Xueyuan (语言学院).

Short Term: 4 week($420), 5 and 6 week($500,580), 12 week $1000,$1500[30hr/wk], 20 week ($1400,$2300[30hr/wk]) courses diveded into 8 levels (from beginner to advanced) A, B, B+,C, C+, D, D+,E. Students are placed by testing(essentially an unofficial HSK) unless they identify themselves as zero-level (no knowledge or little knowledge). A is for zero-level students. The levels get increasingly difficult, but most levels have a combination of Comprehensive Chinese (综合), Listening Comprehension(听力), and Spoken Chinese(口语). At D, students also study Newspapers/journal reading (报刊). [can anyone tell me what levels A, C and E study). C+ and D+ use different materials (possibly experimental materials) and are more difficult than C and D. I'd consider textbooks for B to be a little behind the times.

Students are predominantly Korean (60-85%), Japanese (15-35%), Thai or Indonesian. Westerners are a definite minority. There is no official interaction or activities between short term students and chinese students on campus. One advantage of the short term courses is you can jump a level (or more) if you study hard. In a one year course you'd be locked into the year regardless of how much progress you made.

Long Term: 1 year ($2800, $3000[caligraphy&painting]: two 20 week semesters). This course is offered through the Advanced Studies department (进修院) and is similar to their undergraduate levels. Students take a placement test at the beginning of the first semester and are placed in the either the first or second semester of years 1-3 (2nd year would be equivalent to level D in the short term classes). There are different levels of 1st year, but I'm not sure how they work [anyone know?]. 1st year is basic language, but uses different text books than those used for short term students; textbooks are the same as used by the foreign students majoring in chinese. Starting in the second year, students are allowed select electives for a total to meet their total of 22 hours. Most electives are with other Long Term students, but some may be taken with Undergrad students. Electives are not the same as electives for undergraduate (eg. 中国国情is split into two types, cultural and economic. )Another long term option would be to enroll as an undergraduate. The testing process would be the same, but the students would be different. Most long term students leave after 1 year, but undergrads would be around longer. Class times vary with the courses you select, but for 1st year they are all 8-12 (or 9-1pm since Nov08/2004) and are mostly in the morning for 2nd year. 3rd year is more varied. Students are more varied here with a higher percentage of westerners. The students that I've met seem to be more serious about studying, so that's a plus, too.

Brought to you by Zhende ma? a BNU review :clap (please send in reviews of places you've studied)

BNU (Beijing Normal University) a.k.a 北京师范大学 , 北师大, BeiShiDa

Classes are generally two hours a day blocked either in the mornings or afternoons. There are four levels with three classes in each level. For example, in level 1 there is 100, 101, and 102 in order of increasing skill. You are placed in classes by a placement test which is very similar to the HSK including an oral test. However, you have the option to move down a class or test up into a higher class if you feel you were incorrectly classified. Morning classes are from 8-12 and afternoon classes are from 1-4:30. Optional classes are available. There are scheduled activities roughly once a month. For example there is a Chinese Folk Music Concert, trip to the Great Wall (not free), Beijing Opera, etc. Between semesters there are larger trips like excursions to Harbin, Hainan, Xian, etc.

Types of classes include Chinese listening (听力), reading and writing (读写), conversation (会话), and newspaper/magazine comprehension (报刊).

Short Term: I can't tell you much about this since I haven't attended, however, the price is US$390 for 3 weeks, 450 for 4 weeks, 545 for 5 weeks. You must have your application in by June 30.

Long Term: 1 year ($1400 for one semester; $2700 for two)

Application deadlines fall semester: May 30, winter semester: December 15.

BeiShiDa is located in North Beijing near the third ring road in the Haidian district. BeiShiDa is conveniently located on several major bus lines as well as a 10 minute walk from the Jishuitan subway station making transporation easy. For the foreign Chinese learner, however, the largest advantage may be its comparatively smaller foreign element. I would estimate several hundred students (I don't have an exact number). 90%+ are Japanese and Korean and the rest are from US, Europe, Australia, and Africa. The general area has almost no other foreigners and few English speakers apart from University students making speaking Chinese a daily necessity. However, the expat areas of Wudaokou and Chaoyang are still easily accessible. The program and the administration are very well organized. Like most universities you have a foreigners-only dorm and cafeteria but you can mix with the regular Chinese students with minimal effort. Beishida specializes in teaching education studies, however, there are many more students and majors here. I would recommend this to anyone looking at a university off the beaten path of typical Beijing universities like BLCU, Beijing University, and Tsinghua.

(choudoufu's note: I've heard more and more good things about Beishida as time goes by. In contrast to bigger name schools like Beida (which I've heard described as terrible by some current students), Beishida students are usually happy with their choice.

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Please do NOT post questions in this thread - post them as a new topic, and if necessary the answers can be edited and placed in here.

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(because of character count, I have seperated the post)

Inter University Program @ Tsinghua University a.k.a IUP

please note that I have not attended IUP, and derive my information from various people who I've met in the program.

IUP is an extremely distinguished program created by Berkeley University and currently being run by Tsinghua University (It was previously in Taiwan). This program is reknowned for it rigor, for the high level of chinese proficiency students achieve upon completion of the course and the incredibly low student to teacher ratio (guaranteed at 1:3).

IUP offers three different courses, a 32 week academic year course for $13,000US, a 16 week semester course for $7,000US, and an 8 week intensive summer course for $4,000. This does not include housing, textbooks or other various expenses.

At these prices, IUP is considerably more expensive than any schools. Students at IUP are generally westerners, some established business people sent by their companies to study Chinese, and some are students who have just graduated from University. What they all share is a desire to learn Chinese well in a small, structured, rigorous environment.

Students are given a placement test before the course starts and administered an HSK upon completing the course. Classes are 4 hours a day (8:00-12:00) and consist of private tutorial classes and small group classes (3 students). Currently IUP has 30 teachers and 50 students, a ratio that maximizes a students time with teachers. The program is considered very difficult and teachers give 5-8 hours of homework each day. Students have generally remarked that there is a lot of pressure to complete the homework and without completing the homework you would fall behind in the class.

Many students mantion that they have no time to do anything except for study Chinese. They don't get into the robust lifestyle of Beijing as much as students from other schools can or don't have contact with everyday Chinese people. This goes to the core of the IUP programs greatest strength and weakness. Nobody denies the level of accomplishment IUP graduates have, but that achievement is at the sacrifice of being able to go out and discover Chinese culture for oneself. There are usually a few people who drop out of IUP in order to have more time to explore China and Beijing.

Teachers are generally young, in their mid 20's, and there is an extremely high turnover rate (I've heard numbers as high as 80% teacher turnover rate), so many of the teachers are teaching at IUP for their first (and possibly only) year. The reasons for this high turnoever are twofold: 1) teachers are trained extremely well, so they are able to find other Chinese teaching jobs quickly; 2) teacher are not paid extremely well, this causes them to want to find a new job quickly.

Textbooks are made in house exclusively for the IUP program (I haven't seen these materials, so I can't comment on them).

IMHO, IUP will help students achieve a level of Chinese far higher much faster than other schools in Beijing. But that level comes at two costs; it is expensive, more than 2 times the cost of BLCU, Tsinghua or Beida; and it requires a lot of study time, so you won't be able to have as much as a life as those who study elsewhere.

Private Schools:

Private schools are an option for people who want flexibility. Studying at a private school allows students to study for a short period (as short as two weeks), variable hours as little as one class a day (or as much as you want), all for a lower price (in most cases) than a university would offer. There are language schools across Beijing, but there is a concentration of them in the Wudaokou area near Tsinghua, BLCU and Beida. The most “famous" language school would probably be Global Village (地球村) but there are many more including ECC [and a bunch of other places whose names I will try to find out].

Global Village (地球村)(site in KOREAN, no English)

Costs 12yuan/hr - 15yuan/hr. The typical class is two hours and meets 5 days a week, but there are weekend (Business Chinese)only or meet once a week (Caligraphy). Students typically register every two weeks (you can register for a longer period if you'd like) and choose their own level. Classes have different sections taught by different teachers on different timelines (eg. In two beginner classes one might be studying lesson one and one might be studying lesson 5) This allows you to take some time off and jump right back in at the place you left off (albeit with a different class). Some teachers here are excellent and have reached a certain level of celebrity (one of my friends took an HSK class even though she had no intention of taking the HSK because she really liked the teacher); one teacher was so famous that they started their own Chinese HSK prep school.

Class offerings range from beginner to advanced. Intermediate classes study BLCU's "Bridge" (乔良) which would be the equivalent of D-level classes at BLCU. Advanced classes offer movie listening, Newspaper/Journal reading, writing, Spoken Chinese and HSK prep. Classes are also offered in Japanese and Korean.

Juncheng (courtesy of Roddy)

I'd seen their adverts in Thats Beijing, and had to go there to register for the HSK recently (after all the other places closed registration). They're a 3 minute walk from Beijing Railway Station, which means they're very central. Based in what looks like a private middle school. According to the receptionist they have about 100 foreign students from all over the world, and although I didn't get a guided tour the facilities I saw looked pretty good - clean, modern, friendly staff, and they had a pretty good stock of books. President of the school is a member of the International Society for Chinese Language Teaching ( 世界汉语教学学会)

They have the usual price list - a year is 2400US$, half a year 1200US$, 3 months 800US$ and one month is 250US$. They also offer one to one classes, HSK prep, etc. They have student dormitories and homestay options.

Private School Vs. University/College


Pros: 1)Solid and experienced teaching (most of the time)

2)A more structured environemnt (with tests)

3)Official Certificates, diplomas after completing a course

4)Chance to learn about new cultures from classmates.

Cons: 1)Expensive (compared to private schools)

2)minimal contact with local Chinese

Private School:

Pros: 1)Cheap - some schools are as low as 12yuan/hr

2)Flexible - you can come any time of year and enroll instantly. you can pick and choose classes.

Cons: 1) teaching quality (some say it's inferior)

2) environment is isolated.

3)minimal contact with local Chinese

Directly Applying vs. WorldLink, Educasian, etc.

People always are worrying about whether or not to apply directly to their university of choice or to use a service like WorldLink or Educasian. Both are fine options, but one is substantially more expensive than the other. Many people worry about not being able to speak Chinese well, getting lost initially, etc. I'm providing links to other threads about this. (links provided by Roddy)


WorldLink Links




Educasion Links



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Hi - I've got a little bit to add on two smaller Beijing uni's if you want to add this ...

I don't know about the costs of either of these unis as I studied at both on scholarships, but I gather they are fairly inexpensive.

Beijing Huagong Daxue (Beijing University of Chemical Technology)

I spent 6 months at Huagong Daxue in 2003. The uni is in a great location on the north 3rd ring road (near the economics and foreign trade uni and the sino-japanese hospital) pretty much midway between the old city, chaoyang clubs/embassies/cbd and and wudaokou (other unis). The campus is quite small but nice – dorms were modern and large and they have a great library for studying in. During my time there I was the only native English speaker (there were a few other Europeans who I tended to speak English with) in between 100 and 30 foreign students (lots of ppl went home when SARS broke out). The Chinese students at Huagong were a pretty cool mix and as a lot of them are studying engineering and science they were almost never pushy about speaking English. With so few foreign students it was a pretty friendly group (foreign students for various countries seemed to mix a lot more than at a bigger uni) and also the class sizes were pretty small – really good for individual attention. The only downside was that (my experience of ) the teaching quality for intermediate/ advanced students was a little variable and they didn’t really seem to have the resources/expertise in teaching Chinese that the big language universities have – most of the other foreign students were in first year/ lower 2nd year.

Beijing Erwai (Beijing 2nd foreign languages university)

I studied at Erwai in 2001. It’s way out east in the boondocks (although there is light rail out there now) in the middle of nowhere – there was a large supermarket and Maidanglao at the gate though. There were about 600 foreign students studying there when I was there (probably are more now) and maybe 5-6000 Chinese students – most of whom were studying English. The teaching/ resources at Erwai were generally quite good – and catered to all levels. The facilities at the uni were not so good – lack of places to study other than in my tiny room – but they may have been upgraded since then. The biggest downside to Erwai was the atmosphere and pressure to speak English. I felt there was excess segregation between Chinese and foreigners. People were so desperate to speak English and could even occasionally be seen hanging around the entrance to the foreign student dorms for the chance to do just that – the school was also very (overly) strict about Chinese people coming into the dorms – from memory even if you signed your friends in and they had id etc they weren’t allowed to bring any bags in.

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I'm currently going to both SL (www.slbeijing.com) and 地球村

SL classes are 90mins e.g. 8am-9.30am with 5 min break. I pay 24元 per class and 72元 for a tutor from SL. The tutor is so far really good. A young Chinese guy with a background in teaching English and Japanese as well as being a fudao to foreigners. I find him friendly, and good at explaining new words and grammatical points - only using Chinese (at my request for no English!)

The SL class is not so good. Only been 2 students (me and another) so far, but the teacher is lacklustre and cannot explain anything well. Perhaps others have had better teachers? But it's sort of like having a fudao with only two students, lots of opportunity to 'du' and ask questions. (Not that I've found the answers helpful, but maybe it's my Chinese tingli that's no good??!!). Again all conducted in Chinese (no English).

The 地球村 classes are also 24元 per class (not the cheaper price as stated above). Perhaps this is because I have only enrolled for 7 lessons - a short visit to Beijing. the teacher I have is excellent - very animated and expressive and can easily explain new words well. We do one chapter each lesson (quite quick). We do new words, take turns in reading a line from the text (about 10 students in the class) then the teacher goes through the text and explains the meaning of the text and any grammatical points. Although the grammar is very very light-on. But I like the pace and flow of the class.

Compared with BLCU, I'd say the fudao at SL and 地球村 teacher are on par with my experience with the good teacher I had (so better than the two not so good teachers). The dodgy teacher at SL is much worse than the BLCU zonghe teacher I had. So I'd say teaching quality really does depend on the teacher's skills and not the school (type).

My flatmate, currently at BLCU in D ban, says that for advanced levels the BLCU style is not very good, and she will be trying a few of the private schools out when this term finishes next week.

Hope this is useful, and in the right spot!

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My little testimony

Beida (Peking University), Spring 2008-02-19

I should start my mentioning that my benchmark for judging studying Chinese is the two semesters that I spent at Shanghai Jiaotong University during 2007. If anyone would like any information as regards my time spent there please contact me.

8 days ago, that’s when I arrived in Beijing to commence my half a year in China’s capital. My aim for this semester is to correct someone of those Southern China habits which I have attained whilst at the same time adding a few r’s to every sentence.

The application process began at the beginning of November, 07 at which time Beida required all those interested to post their applications with the skill & luck that the International Office would receive all necessary documentation on one specified day. One day late would mean no joy!! I estimate that around 90% of the students enrolled on varying mandarin courses at Peking are party to exchange programmes (most notably hailing from USA). CIEE also have their foot in the door to provide those students with no gumption or know how with help in the application process.

On Thursday of last week, those wanting to enrol on the short term language course had to register with Ms Huang & co at the Shao Yuan building on campus. This included paying the semesters tuition. The information pack provided by the University is very useful, further complimented with free tickets to see Beijing Opera, Acrobatics and a trip to Tiananmen amongst other activities. On Day two we had to take a placement test which consisted of 4 parts; Listening (which also represented your Spoken level), Reading, Grammar and a freehand section. The grammar was a little taxing for me as although I could recognise all characters, I felt that I was inept at being able to distinguish those words which are clearly synonyms. Day three we were placed into the relevant Hanyu and Kouyu class and collected are teaching materials. Day 4: Timetable.

Classes started yesterday: Hanyu class (Gao 1). My teacher is really well prepared and at age 26 is full of the necessary energy required to stimulate ones mind at 8am (yes Beida’s morning classes are at 8AM!). I met my Kouyu teacher today who is also very well prepared and is keen to make sure that students talk as much as possible in class. NB: All teaching materials are Peking University press such as the Boya Grammar textbooks.

On Thursday I will be attending the lecture during the afternoon which will direct us foreign friends as to what Optional courses are up for grabs and when such classes will transpire.

General feeling:

*Beida’s campus is fantastic;

*Food really cheap and tasty;

*Service provided professional and friendly;

*Opportunity to speak is plentiful;

*Lots of USA expats;

*Bad points include: Extra fee for library card and usage of public computers;

*Extra fee for Lunch card;

*Lack of halls on site for lao wai;

*Classes (as ever) could have fewer students. We have 15 registered students in our Kouyu class;

*Lack of Korean and Japanese students which means that English is always lingering in the background.

Classes are 50 minutes each time and usually two consecutively with a 10 minute break.

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