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dreamon

Best intensive Chinese courses in US?

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dreamon

Hello, Chinese learning experts,

What are the best semester-long or year-long intensive Chinese programs at US universities, colleges or learning centers? Suppose that someone has the time to focus entirely on learning Chinese for a semester or a year, but cannot stay abroad (e.g. because s/he is not a US citizen). Ideally, the program should start at an "advanced beginner" level (post-Pimsleur) and propel the student as far into the intermediate as possible, as well as create momentum for productive self-study afterwards. The latter implies that the student can read something by the end of the program.

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Meng Lelan

I should add that Middlebury has summer sessions for all levels Chinese even master's level, in fact I'm visiting there next week or so.

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Dmac

A friend of mine did the Middlebury summer program a couple years ago. He said it was excellent. Something interesting about it is the 'language contract,' where you pledge that the only language you will communicate in for the entirety of the program is Chinese (insofar as it's possible - if you have a medical emergency, or urgently need to phone home, you can obviously do so in your native language).

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jkhsu

If I had an unlimited amount of money to spend and don't mind moving to anywhere in the US, then yes, I'd attend the Middlebury program if I were at the advanced beginner level (as described by the original poster). I did check out the their website and it seems like a great program indeed.

However, what if someone can't move to Vermont for a semester or a year? And what if money is an issue? Here's what I'd suggest:

First of all, as long as the person has the drive and motivation to learn Chinese they can do this almost anywhere in the USA.

1. Sign up for the advanced beginner Chinese classes at your local community college. Many community colleges have them and since you only have a semester or a year, most community colleges teach up to 2 years of Chinese, finishing up the intermediate level.

2. Talk to the instructor and tell them that you will be spending 100% of your time on learning Chinese and have them give you some extra work outside of the classroom work.

3. You need to get textbooks from various sources as one set will never cover everything. My suggestion:

a.) Beijing Language and Culture University Press - (i.e. New Practical Chinese series 1-3) (Always get a textbook set that is directly from China or Taiwan)

b.) Princeton University Press Chinese books: http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/series/plpmc.html

c.) Cheng and Tsui books: http://www.cheng-tsui.com/catalog/chinese/language_learning

4. Hire a tutor to meet with you at least twice a week to go over how to study the books you bought

5. Download free podcasts and audio from the Internet and listen in your spare time

6. Join meetup groups or start one on your own to meet others who are learning Chinese

I could go into details on each of these ponits but it's not appropriate for this thread. The point I wanted to make is that you can create your own immersion intensive study program almost anywhere in the USA for a fraction of the cost of traveling to a university program.

Remember all of these suggestions are assuming that you are at the advanced beginner level and you only have a semester or a year. My goal would be to attain the upper intermediate / beginning advanced level by the end of the study. If you look at the Middlebury text books for Advanced Level 1, that should be where you want to end up and it is possible.

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amandagmu

I agree on the self-study but I also know that the two things that make a difference are the simulation of full immersion and the discipline factor. I tried for years, unsuccessfully, to learn Chinese through a combination of university program, conversation through adult education, tutors, and Chinese friend. My problem was basically that I could not replicate the learning environment I eventually got when I went to ICLP: all Chinese, all the time in the classroom/school and around the city (when not with English-speaking friends of course) AND fantastic classmates. It was a high pressure environment and I've heard Middlebury is similar. By the time I left ICLP I was writing 15-20 minute speeches and 4-6 page essays on topics in history and politics. I was reading my research (microfilmed 人民日报 at the time) by the second quarter (of three). The method works.

Anyways, the OP asked for the best and fastest program - regardless of cost. One thing you can do if this is far enough off in the future is check out Middlebury's scholarships (full and partial). The application is due far in advance, but I have several friends who went to Middlebury and all of them had at least part of the tuition covered through scholarship.

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jkhsu

I tried for years, unsuccessfully, to learn Chinese through a combination of university program, conversation through adult education, tutors, and Chinese friend. My problem was basically that I could not replicate the learning environment I eventually got when I went to ICLP

Can I ask you what level of Chinese you were at when you entered ICLP? I suspect it was further along than advanced beginner. To me advanced beginner really means either (1) you're at the 2nd semester of a college elementary level mandarin course or (2) you are a heritage speaker with zero knowledge of reading or writing. Most advanced beginner courses take you to the intermediate level in a single semester or a single intensive summer course.

Programs like ICLP, IUP and even Middlebury are great and given the time, money, etc, I'd definitely say go for it. However, if you are at the beginner or advanced beginner level and you only have a semester or year, you can get pretty far along working with your local community colleges, reading the right textbooks, tutors and personal drive / discipline etc. (for most major cities in the USA that is).

Now, if you are at the intermediate level (1000 words or so) and you want to get to native level fluency (or as far as you can) in oral, written and reading in a year, then attending one of these immersive programs or moving to China or Taiwan is the way to go.

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roddy
I could go into details on each of these ponits but it's not appropriate for this thread.

Start a new one. It's free.

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rmpalpha

Meng Lelan: do you have any idea how the Middlebury program would work for a deaf person (like me) who has little to no interest in developing "listening" and speaking skills?

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Meng Lelan

You know what, rmalpha, that's why I am visiting the Middlebury program in person about early August or so after I come back from the Dallas tournament to see what class choices there are, what the professors are like, what would happen if someone wanted more focus on something like reading and writing vs listening and speaking. If you're looking at the beginning or intermediate level I would think they kind of push all four skills in but at the graduate level there, they let you specialize, like there's a course in phonetics/pronunciation, there's a course in modern literature, etc probably easier to let you get away with less listening and speaking at the graduate level.

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dreamon

amandagmu> Middlebury and Cornell. If you have money or can get a loan, this will get you much further than anywhere else.

Thank you for the suggestions! Middlebury seems to offer only summer programs, not semester- or year-long programs, which is useful too. Cornell's FALCON program seems to offer two options: summer and year-long; in the case of year-long, the second semester occurs in Beijing, i.e. almost half-a-year outside the U.S. Money of course matters - no millionaires here - but a reasonable fee with a competitive price-to-value ratio is fine.

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Meng Lelan

Just back from visiting the Middlebury Chinese school. It's amazing. At least for the grad students, they have classes on the first floor and live on the third floor and even some of the teachers live in dorms with them. Everything is labeled in Chinese even the do not enter sign on a maintanance room door. Chinese is going on 24/7 there. The teachers I spoke to, their Mandarin was so clear and standard that I hardly even had to resort to speechreading, it was amazing.

As soon as the application comes out in October I'm going to be the first one to complete it. Fellowships and scholarships are available, so make sure you read through the financial section on the language school website. And even if I don't get any fellowship after applying, I'm just going to either save up for it or get a student loan from my bank. I really feel like I've found the right place.

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bunny87

the application comes out in October for the summer, fall, or spring session? are you just doing language courses or a whole grad program? cause that commute from 3rd floor to 1st sounds so wonderful. Now I wanna go and see the place for myself. I don't want to be stuck in a dorm that has paper thin walls and teachers just beyond. especially when i call home upset. I could be upset before I even try going there. looking at wiki, middlebury is a school that rejects tons of applicants because it's a "little ivy" school. i don't know if i could apply and handle such rejection... particularly because i'd lose almost a hundred dollars applying. :unsure:

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amandagmu

When I began at ICLP my Chinese level was low intermediate by their standards. I do agree with you that ICLP is not the appropriate place to be for novices or even elementary level - actually, they won't even accept you into the program unless you've already had the equivalent of two years of Chinese at the college level and had one of your former language teachers recommend you for the program. However, the programs I mentioned above, as far as I know, will take you at almost any level, so if the OP has taken a semester of Chinese that should be sufficient to jump right into the other programs.

Also, I really do feel like the environment in these programs is just that much better for training quickly. I have met people who have studied Chinese for only 2 years but spent one or two summers at Middlebury (while the rest of the time only studying part-time or on the side) and they are already at the advanced level. That's impressive.

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Meng Lelan
the application comes out in October for the summer, fall, or spring session? are you just doing language courses or a whole grad program? cause that commute from 3rd floor to 1st sounds so wonderful. Now I wanna go and see the place for myself. I don't want to be stuck in a dorm that has paper thin walls and teachers just beyond. especially when i call home upset. I could be upset before I even try going there. looking at wiki, middlebury is a school that rejects tons of applicants because it's a "little ivy" school. i don't know if i could apply and handle such rejection... particularly because i'd lose almost a hundred dollars applying.

The application comes out in October for the summer language programs. I'm not applying for the fall or spring sessions because I teach in Texas during the school year. They have a master's in Chinese that can be done in four summer sessions which is going to fit in with my job teaching from August to June. You really ought to see the place for yourself it is amazing. As for calling home upset the language pledge is such that maybe you should get a cell phone and go off campus to call home upset in English or just bring a laptop and email home upset in English. Not sure if Middlebury has some English-blocking firewall but at any rate, even if they do, I want to go.

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jkhsu

@amandagmu

I agree that if one can attend an intensive immersive type of program one would be better off at any level. You are right that I went off topic and the original poster wanted to find the best program in the US. Incidentally, I just read the ICLP website and they are now taking beginner levels too. This is great news.

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rmpalpha

@Meng Lelan: It's great that the Middlebury school seems like a great fit for you. What was your impression about how effective the program would be for a deaf person like me (completely deaf, no interest in developing speaking/"speechreading" skills)? Do you think the program would be a good fit for me in that sense?

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Meng Lelan

I think if you went to Middlebury you would be in the Intermediate class, am I correct about that? The undergraduate level is where they push in all four skills - reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I am not sure if they do it as one general Chinese course (like you were doing in your college class) or if they separate each skill in a focused class (like I did when I was in China - we had a Reading class, an Oral Chinese class, etc). You probably should ask about that. Maybe they can let you just take the Reading class and the Writing class and not take the Oral Chinese class, but if they do it as a general Chinese class with all four skills mixed together then you will be stuck doing what all the hearies are doing. You might want to directly contact the Middlebury Chinese School and ask that. I'm going to be in the graduate level so I have more control over what class to take, for example, I can choose a literature class instead of a pronunciation class etc.

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roddy
You know what, rmalpha, that's why I am visiting the Middlebury program in person about early August or so after I come back from the Dallas tournament to see what class choices there are, what the professors are like, what would happen if someone wanted more focus on something like reading and writing vs listening and speaking

Do tell . . .

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Meng Lelan
Do tell . . .

See my posts #12 and #18 and if you want to read about it in 中文 then see my blog entry under the picture of the giant sunflower (though someone said the photo wasn't showing up when trying to view it).

A college professor from here in San Antonio who is a fellow board member of mine is going up to Middlebury to teach a graduate class next summer by the way. She is a very good, dedicated teacher and I am hoping she will be teaching one of my classes next summer, if I get in.

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