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kongli

IUP vs. One on One instruction

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kongli

I have read what posts there are on the IUP program and I have applied to attend their summer program this year.

However, after talking with a few friends and looking at my bank account, I am starting to wonder if the summer program is really worth the money. Might I be better off just doing one-on-one tutoring at a mandarin school or simply hiring a teacher to work with me for a couple months over the summer? Initially what attracted me to the IUP program was it seemed that they really know how to teach chinese to those who have aims of pursuing academics or currently need good chinese for academic work, this attracted me cause I will be doing grad school next year with other chinese. However, upon thinking about it more maybe one-on-one tutoring would be even more helpful and less the cost. After all, IUP program is still with 2-3 other people. Or is there something really amazing about this program that makes it worth so much? I guess with individual instruction I could set all my own goals and dictate the pace of instruction, both of which could help or hurt me haha, but the IUP program is a more structured approach but could also constrain my ability to focus on things I really need (I.E. historical, academics texts).

Anyone have any suggestions?

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gato

I am bit puzzled by the claims of IUP's focus on academic Chinese, as well. I doubt they mean writing acadmic Chinese because academic writing would require native college level of Chinese, which is unattainable by foreign learners except for the rare few. So they must mean academic reading. But academic reading isn't that different from reading newspapers and magazines. Nobody gets special training in English to read academic papers. So I think the so-called focus on academic is a bit of a marketing gimmick. Maybe they do have great teachers with a well-thought out curriculum and in a small setting, but maybe that's not sufficient to justify its costs.

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aristotle1990

If you're motivated, these things are never worth it. You'd get better results by doing this:

1. Read the People's Daily and put every word you don't know know into Anki until you've added 50 new words.

2. Spent an hour or so channel surfing and watching movies, anything Chinese will do. This is supposed to be fun, so don't look up words unless you really have to.

3. Get a Chinese friend/language partner/girlfriend/boyfriend and go have dinner with him/her.

4. Throughout they day (except during step 2 and maybe step 3, depending on how interesting your conversation partner is), listen to Chinese music or Chinese news on your audio player.

I challenge any IUP student to get better results than someone who follows the above schedule for two months.

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BlueResident

the real magic comes when you combine IUP (or any structured course) and aristotle's free and easy suggestion

to aristotle: you're right, it is all about the motivation. i've been doing this for 4 years now, and i can really see results. however it would have been much quicker had I had a teacher, or a chinese girlfriend ;-) i know the learning would have been much quicker and deeper.

to kongli: i've also applied for IUP summer, so i can't comment directly about the program. My view though, is that you really take the risk with a 1-1 teacher vs. having a couple of teachers, and i'm assuming, the ability to change teachers/classes if need be. Having done 1-1s in the past, I sometimes feel that I keep to using the same phrases, structures, words etc. when conversing with the teacher. With a (small) group, you should get a variety of characters, topics, structures, etc.

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vkim67
1. Read the People's Daily and put every word you don't know know into Anki until you've added 50 new words.

2. Spent an hour or so channel surfing and watching movies, anything Chinese will do. This is supposed to be fun, so don't look up words unless you really have to.

3. Get a Chinese friend/language partner/girlfriend/boyfriend and go have dinner with him/her.

4. Throughout they day (except during step 2 and maybe step 3, depending on how interesting your conversation partner is), listen to Chinese music or Chinese news on your audio player.

I challenge any IUP student to get better results than someone who follows the above schedule for two months.

The only thing about this is it's hard for people to actually force oneself to do this regularly. I don't know about everyone else but even doing HW or reviewing is hard to do without getting side tracked and pushing it back.... there's always something to do and it always takes much more time than planned... doing laundry, going to a cafe to focus, researching HSK and grad schools, catching up with friends and the BF through skype, getting food, etc. It's just so easy to push things back... That's where these programs come in and provide structure, rules, deadlines, pressure, motivation, etc... as well as prepared materials and a plan. not saying they're NOT outrageously overpriced because they ARE... but if you can get a scholarship or grant to help cover the costs it would be worth it.

So in answer to your question... it depends on what kind of student you are, your studying habits, discipline, etc.

For those that CAN discipline oneself and push oneself to follow aristotle1990's suggestions............ I'd only add two more.

(1) Set periodic goals, give yourself a short-term purpose and ways to measure ur progress such as by aiming to take the HSK or something.

(2) A tutor to help explain things you don't understand, explain nuances, details of usages, correct any writing, explain grammar rules that even native speakers have trouble explaining even if they use those rules perfectly well. (After all, don't want to badger Chinese friends/bf day-in day-out to look over your essays or correct your speech left and right... especially at the beginning level there's SO many questions! (don't know what level you are at)

Also, I've watched Chinese movies and understood 10% of the Chinese, while still getting most of the storyline but other times just couldn't watch more than 7minutes of it if I don't understand it. From experience I'd say it takes more than just watching in a relaxed manner to improve Chinese level..it takes conscientious effort... tedious effort... unless u already understand most of the movie...

I can't speak for IUP but I am at CET, another one of those over-priced intensive programs, and it provides more than justttt a rigorous academic program. We live with Chinese roommates (last semester suitemates and i the 4 of us had an especially good relationship) and we also get to know most of the other Chinese roommates. We have a language pledge which does go right out the window @ bars but still overall we comply as best as we can elsewhere and we were all shocked at how quickly EVERYONE improved. The one-on-one topic was great for personalizing it to your own career or research interests. We had classes for both formal Chinese (ex. Business, Newspaper) and also oral (kouyu, one-on-two). The one-on-two covered both topics we would talk about in our daily life as well as social/cultural issues. These programs provide little perks that we don't have to worry about b/c its all taken care of and we can just focus on studying... housing (not IUP), support, activities, drinking water (have u tried carrying gallons back from the market??), cheap cafeteria food, a lot of supplies...

and if you're good at time management, you could probably fit in aristotle1990's suggestions into your life too. double whammy!

In the end, though, it IS up to you to be disciplined and study and continue your studies AFTER the program ends too.... just saying its much more convenient than living completely on your own in China.

I'm also applying for IUP (the year program) but if I don't get the scholarship I also applied for then I won't be attending bc I just can't afford it. If I could, I would. but that's just me... I need that kind of rigorous academic environment set up for me. Yep, I'm the type that pulls all nighters and runs to class with the barely finished essay in my hand just in time. What type are you??

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vkim67

So I reread your post and seems like you're really focused on the academic aspect to prepare for graduate-level research in Chinese... Perhaps these are couple other factors to take into consideration--

(1) If you don't study at IUP, will you be in China or in your home country?

(2) Your current level of Chinese and how much you need to improve to prepare for your graduate program.

This also matters because IUP will let you personalize a one-on-one class if your level of Chinese is high enough. Then you can choose to focus on historical/academic text. If not, then you can definitely personalize your own curriculum with a tutor.

yeah that's all I got right now.

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kongli
Nobody gets special training in English to read academic papers

Exactly, I mean it just seems that there really isn't any special 'method' except for reading a ton and memorizing and reading some more. Which I could presumably do at a faster pace with one on one instruction, and get any historical/academically complex things explained to me on the spot. Plus my classical Chinese is non-existent so I don't think I could get into there classical Chinese instruction program, but with a one-on-one tutor I could do some of that or at least work on something like 万历黄帝 with some classical chinese structures.

haha, as I am typing this my girlfriend's sister is telling me she will teach me for half the cost.

What type are you??

Lately, I am the type who doesn't go to class and spends most of my time doing the things aristotle suggested, working my way through newspapers/magazines/textbooks, listening to random things etc.

I am in China and I have a Chinese girlfriend and speak about 95% Chinese with her, so the whole language environment doesn't really appeal to me as I already have one.

My level of Chinese, I would say, is upper intermediate (I am basing this on nothing but perhaps an over inflated ego coupled with the fake modesty hammered into me by a year in China). But seriously, I can understand around 60% of Chinese t.v. shows (dramas and such, not the news) and am in a so called 'gaoji' level class at Renmin university.

Having done 1-1s in the past, I sometimes feel that I keep to using the same phrases, structures, words etc. when conversing with the teacher

True but I could also just change teachers every to weeks.

I guess the one-on-one option is appealing to me more and more especially because I could focus on history related Chinese materials. I have realized that if you focus on one subject with specialized vocabulary etc. you can make dramatic improvements in that subject. Example: News papers are still really challenging for me, but I can open a modern Chinese history textbook and get a good chunk of what's going on. So at the end of the summer session I might be able to read a history text book well, but be confused if I read something about underwater scuba diving. Where as with the IUP program, it would possibly a more 'comprehensive' boost to my Chinese level but not exactly what I immediately need.

Plus, I still have one semester here at renmin before the summer program, when I plan to improve my Chinese even more. hmmm, maybe I will start looking at one-on-one programs. I just don't know if I can justify the cost for what they are going to give.

With a (small) group, you should get a variety of characters, topics, structures, etc.

That's true but they also may be speaking incorrectly at times to, which I would be exposed too as well. Sadly I have a friend in the IUP program now but can't seem to get a hold of her and need to make this decision soon.

Thanks for all the advice, any other thoughts greatly appreciated.

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gato
News papers are still really challenging for me, but I can open a modern Chinese history textbook and get a good chunk of what's going on.

That's surprising. History textbooks (even modern history) generally should be at a higher level than the average newspaper articles. Are you reading 新京报 and 南方周末? Maybe you should concentrate more on newspapers and magazine articles for now. In fact, you would recommend magazine articles over newspaper articles at your level. They are usually at about the same level of difficulty, but magazine articles tend to be longer and more in depth. That would help you build stamina and expose you to more varied language structure. When I was heavy in study mode several years ago, I would head to the nearby 雕刻时光 cafe with a copy of 《财经》 or 《南风窗》 and spend an afternoon reading from cover to cover. At that time I probably had in the range of 10-15 vocabulary lookups per page, which is fairly manageable. I would usually read through each article straight through, underline the new vocabulary but not look them up until I was done with an article, and then I would go back and look the underlined new words en masse, and since I was using Pleco, each word looked up could immediately be added to a flashcard list. This helps to keep the flow going. You might want to try it.

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OneEye

Take this for what it's worth, but one thing the IUP has going for it is name recognition among academics. That doesn't make it any better or worse than any other program, of course. But every American professor I've corresponded with has recommended either IUP or ICLP (Taiwan's equivalent). It's likely because that's where they studied themselves, and so they recognize it as a quality program. I seem to remember reading that a lot of grad students and professors go to these programs when they run into particularly tough spots in their research, but I can't find where I read that now.

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amandagmu

"That's surprising. History textbooks (even modern history) generally should be at a higher level than the average newspaper articles."

No, I think it depends on what kind of textbooks you choose. I read a lot of secondary sources on my topic, so I am 1) very familiar with the vocabulary and context and 2) because I mostly read topic books, they're not nearly as convoluted as academic articles written for 读书 or something like that. In English I find it's kind of like reading something by Jonathan Spence (written for the average history buff and/or senior level undergraduates) versus a recent article by Dorothy Ko (written for an academic audience and a handful of China specialists who can distill academic writing). When I pick up a newspaper and the topic is not something I know much about, I sometimes understand very little without the aid of a dictionary to help me through the first paragraph or two; I can pick out the formal words and grammar, that's no problem, but unlike in germanic or romance languages, I find it difficult to "guess" the meaning of new Chinese vocabulary (well, it depends... I got much better after taking two classes for newspaper reading and practicing with pera-pan in firefox on a daily basis).

Personally, I think the decision to go to IUP could be a good one under certain conditions. First of all, I have heard that in both IUP and ICLP the summer session is more relaxed (interpret that however you want, it's hearsay). The second thing is that it is not a long enough period of time to see dramatic improvements. I found a few weeks into my second session with ICLP that I had improved a lot (so that's about 12 weeks into the program; 9-10 weeks per quarter, 3 quarters).

The one major difference - and I reiterate this can really make or break one's progress - is your classmates. We had group class (2-3 people) 3 times per day and once a day for one-on-one. I always liked one-on-one and dreaded group classes... but typically because that's where I absolutely could not slack off. The program costs a lot of money, but you typically get highly motivated students and have a ton of homework (at ICLP we wrote at least 2 or 3 文章 per week, often on topics of our choice). Whereas in my one-on-one classes I decide when I am lazy and don't feel like doing homework, IUP/ICLP doesn't allow for it. Most of the time every one of your classmates will force you to be on your toes in class. Which brings me to my next point -- if there's a simple thing you can't or don't quite grasp, having 2 or 3 others quickly boost you up alleviates the one-on-one problem where your teachers hangs on something forever until you either say "ok I got it let's move on" or you lie and go figure it out on your own later on. I found my classmates to be mostly graduate students and professionals who were willing to discuss topics beyond pop culture and simplistic, stereotypical views, so even if the teacher wasn't up for that the rest of us were (for example, since it was the presidential election year in both the U.S. and Taiwan we had many thought-provoking discussions about the government, policies, healthcare, political parties, societal issues, financial crises, unemployment etc etc....). We also had quarter-end activities where we set up panel discussions and debates; for example, one quarter I wrote a 15 minute speech about the EU and French nationalism and then took questions. Another friend of mine wrote an interesting speech about the ways in which Marxism, Leninism, and Maosim have influenced today's policies in China. I can also attest that getting my classmates' and teachers' opinions during these group discussions and panels definitely helped raise my level of Chinese such that I can go to lectures or talk to professors at the university now and discuss my research with them without feeling like an idiot (well, most of the time :-) ).

So I guess a couple of questions you need to ask yourself: Do you work well in a competitive and pressure-filled environment? Because that's what you get with that program, it's a 100% full-time job, with very highly motivated students, and I have never gotten that with any other program I ever attended. Might you be able to stay longer if you choose to? I don't think you'll see much improvement in just a summer session... but I could be wrong. And yes, the cost is steep, so you should start looking for scholarships ASAP, or finding aid to help out.

As far as I know, IUP, ICLP, and CET-Harbin are the only programs that attract and teach students to this depth, but if anyone else knows similar programs I'd love to know. Unfortunately I've never been the type who does well "self-taught" (I so wish I was...) so I'm always looking for schools and teachers who have experience and an open-mind to discuss academic topics. Some of my teachers at ICLP were genuinely interested in discussing research topics with students and often contributed their own opinions and asked very well-informed questions.

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kongli
That's surprising. History textbooks (even modern history) generally should be at a higher level than the average newspaper articles.

Yea, right after I posted that I thought, that is actually probably not true. I have just been working through 中国近现代历史纲要 and a lot of the same vocabulary seems to get repeated (反对革命,资本主义,侵略者.爆发 etc) Plus it seems like less history and more, to put it frankly, propaganda. I have also recently found out it is used in a lot of colleges in China as the textbook for most introductory modern history courses (but it randomly quotes a 1980's version of itself so you know it's legit). So yea, I recant the above statement but also think there is definitely specialized vocab for history as compared to other subjects. Also, I should say when I look at 文史参考 I find it too difficult. But at the same time I think there can be a wide discrepancy between newspaper articles. I just read something from 北京晨报 about the rate of crime among 新生代农民工 going up and it gave case examples. That article I found not to hard to get through,I had to look up words but could probably understand about 70% without a dictionary. However sometimes I look at articles and can seem to only understand around 15%.

Yea, I think I will start taking in magazines, they seem funner than newspapers.

but one thing the IUP has going for it is name recognition among academics.

True, but if I can manage doing a masters in Chinese I don't think I will need an IUP summer program to to give credibility to my Chinese skills.

Thanks again to everyone for the replies and being kind of sounding board for me. Really appreciate it.

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gato

《文史参考》 is a fantastic magazine. You should get up to speed asap so you can enjoy it. I picked a copy for the first time a few weeks ago, the issue with the cover story by the Party historian 何方 on the struggle between Mao and 张闻天, who was the Party's general secretary during the Long March. A very revealing story. I'm surprised that a magazine belonging to the People's Daily Group would be so much on the cutting edge.

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roddy
I doubt they mean writing acadmic Chinese because academic writing would require native college level of Chinese, which is unattainable by foreign learners except for the rare few.

There must be foreign students doing undergrad degrees at Chinese universities who have (or even just choose) to turn in essays and do exams in Chinese. Fair enough, they won't be training you to submit journal articles, but academic writing could easily cover much less challenging tasks.

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gato

I sort of exaggerated, but writing is much more difficult than reading. I've also heard that foreign students in degree programs in China have an easy pass and usually have their own separate exams and assignments.

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roddy

No doubt. But not our kongli. He's going to be doing things the hard way.

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Brian US

I know you mentioned some materials you've been working on, but can you find materials used in the actual program? This will of course give you an idea of what you can get out of it. Not sure if this is just the U.S. price, but it seems a little steep for $4,300 in a summer program.

Kongli is modest when he puts himself in the intermediate category. You just need to go to more classes next semester! Unless it's 听力, no one should have to go through that.

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amandagmu

Ah, I totally forgot to mention something worth mentioning (in my opinion). You need to find out if the teachers at IUP are willing to let you bring in materials and/or study 繁體字. One of the skills I gained at ICLP is the ability to switch between the two, which helps both academically (I can read things published by the lovely people at Academia Sinica) but more importantly, I can read my research materials. There's nothing more annoying than when I've had a one-on-one teacher or 交流 who freaks out on me when I whip out something I'm working on in 繁體字, or who outright refuses to help me (perhaps because he/she finds it difficult? I thought it wasn't a big deal but have noticed this depends on the person).

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Scoobyqueen
If you're motivated, these things are never worth it. You'd get better results by doing this:

1. Read the People's Daily and put every word you don't know know into Anki until you've added 50 new words.

2. Spent an hour or so channel surfing and watching movies, anything Chinese will do. This is supposed to be fun, so don't look up words unless you really have to.

3. Get a Chinese friend/language partner/girlfriend/boyfriend and go have dinner with him/her.

4. Throughout they day (except during step 2 and maybe step 3, depending on how interesting your conversation partner is), listen to Chinese music or Chinese news on your audio player.

I challenge any IUP student to get better results than someone who follows the above schedule for two months.

A teacher though will challenge you in areas you might not address in this self-study approach. I notice I am lot more exhausted mentally when I have been battered by a teacher in a one-to-one simply because they force you to go over stuff that you may not go into depth when on your own (because it is not as fun).

I have heard great thing about IUP and have met several teachers of this programme. They all said the same. It is extremely demanding and even the teachers are exhausted but apparently they have good results. I think the BLI school uses a similar approach to IUP. Incidentally BLI does use some history books in their lessons. If you have limited time, I would always go for one-to-one rather than group lessons. In Beijing you are looking at around 120 - 200 yuan an hour.

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amandagmu

I think scoobyqueen hits the nail on the head, especially when it comes to the inclusion of history materials and the pressure of the teacher.

But what I was also trying to get across in my last post is that one of the big benefits of IUP/ICLP is that you will be able to exchange ideas and opinions to/with a crowd of people who have similar goals to yours, and teachers who really will take you to the next level outside of the language learning process itself. In other words, your thinking, speaking, and methods of discussion in Chinese will improve. Supplementing this with real live lectures at a university is very helpful but daunting. Sure, you could attend them, but how should you express yourself and your ideas in a PhD colloquia entirely in Chinese? I really don't see how reading on your own or watching TV is going to do much besides simply raise your level of Chinese vocabulary and/or current events. Getting a language exchange partner who can help get you to that level is damn near impossible, and professors/other grad students are frankly too busy to spend time helping bring you up to that level (although they are usually willing to listen to you over coffee/tea and lunch, they just won't correct you or give you specific ways to improve). To put it another way, think of graduate school in your native tongue. If you read a book in English but don't have a class or seminar to attend to *discuss* it, how much are you really getting out of it? How would you discuss the book/research in a seminar setting? Probably not the same way you speak to family and friends. I personally think that IUP/ICLP will prep you with the proper vocabulary, setting, and tone such that in the future you will be more comfortable and prepared in academic settings above the undergraduate level, and that's the reason why most academics encourage their students to attend them. You certainly don't want to participate in a seminar speaking like you would with casual friends.

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kongli
No doubt. But not our kongli. He's going to be doing things the hard way

Yea, unfortunately I would be only screwing myself over with an easy pass. Not like I just need the degree to put on my resume, I'll actually have to demonstrate some sort of knowledge in my field in order to progress. I mean as much as wasting three years of my life just skimming by does appeal to me, that's what college was for.

《文史参考》 is a fantastic magazine. You should get up to speed asap so you can enjoy it.

Cool, good motivation to get to that level. A friend of mine is translating some articles from the magazine at beijingtimemachine.com.

You just need to go to more classes next semester!

Never! I defy anyone to find value in the kouyu, jingdu or tingli classes. The last jingdu class I went to we played a game were one person wrote the name of a province on the black board and another person had to go up and write the abbreviation. In Jingdu class! Whatever value that could have been extracted from that lesson was non-existent because she didn't tell anyone to prepare the night before.

I rest my case.

one of the big benefits of IUP/ICLP is that you will be able to exchange ideas and opinions to/with a crowd of people who have similar goals to yours

Thanks for all the feedback, and this does definitely appeal to me. However after talking to a friend currently in the program it does not seem like a sure bet that you would be placed with like minded individuals.

Might you be able to stay longer if you choose to? I don't think you'll see much improvement in just a summer session...

No I wouldn't. So I think I am going to just do one-on-one lessons and try to make the most out of the short time I have. I have no doubt that IUP is a great program, especially if attended for the year, but I don't think it is currently the best option for me.

in Beijing you are looking at around 120 - 200 yuan an hour.

That seems a little high. What kind of teachers are you talking about? Teachers with PHD's and extensive teaching backgrounds? I was thinking about just posting some adds on the internet specifying what I was looking for and see what bites....maybe not the best idea?

I really don't see how reading on your own or watching TV is going to do much besides simply raise your level of Chinese vocabulary and/or current events. Getting a language exchange partner who can help get you to that level is damn near impossible, and professors/other grad students are frankly too busy to spend time helping bring you up to that level (although they are usually willing to listen to you over coffee/tea and lunch, they just won't correct you or give you specific ways to improve).

Excellent points. I totally agree and can see that as of late my comprehension is going up but my ability to express myself regarding complex ideas seems to just be stagnating.

I think I good way to improve this would be to review journal articles, book segments and than discuss them with a teacher. Then they, despite being specifically trained in that area, could at least help me figure out how to express my ideas. But yes I think that what you mentioned about exchanging ideas and conversing with classmates is something that I would miss out on with 1-1 instruction. What do you recommend to improve one's level from conversational to being able to articulate complex thoughts? Or is it just something that one will gradual attain through continued study?

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