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Chinese at SOAS


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So I realise there is a similar topic to this, however it has been quite a while since anyone left a post and fear that if I do reply it will just go unnoticed, sad times.

Anyway so I'm considering a BA Chinese combined at SOAS and wanted a little information from current or former students. If your not a student but you have information then that would also be great ^_^

So here's what I wanted to know (in list form of course because lists are super cool):

-What is the syllabus like? (what you learn first, intensity of course, effectiveness)

-What resources are used? (textbooks, audio, interactive, etc..)

-Style of teaching...good, could use some work?

-How much time is needed a week in order to keep up with the lessons? Was the course harder than you expected?

-What knowledge did you have before the course and did it help at all?

-What do you suggest I do to prepare (get a head start)?

-Did you pass/fail? What would you have done differently?

-If given the choice again would you still study Chinese through a taught course or try and make it on your own?

-At the end, how much Chinese did you really learn? (speaking, listening, reading, writing)

You don't have to answer all of the questions and some questions might not apply to you but as much as you can would be fantastic!


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I actually did a floater in Chinese at soas last year...

Hey wow! Thanks for that info, I really didn't think anybody was going to answer. Reading all of that it does seem quite daunting I really hope I can keep up with the course load, but I love the language so that should hopefully get me through and a lot of hard work. It will be worth it in the end. I've seen some 3rd, 4th years and their level is amazing I can't wait to be speaking like that!

Start learning characters? Already? I've been researching and apparently learning characters at the beginning doesn't really help since you wouldn't know how to pronounce them yet, wouldn't it just mean a lot of re-learning after you've learned the tonal differences and the pronunciations??

Is that the textbook you used for your module? Is it also used in the Chinese degree?

Oh and are you talking about Dr Song Lianyi? He was the one who approved my degree transfer, seems really nice ^^

Thanks again!

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The book. Is the same for both. Just make sure u get the full character version for the degree

Also if u get the book it teaches u how to pronounce the characters so yer. Learn them now! If u can find the book

I have also transferred this year so It seems that we will be on the same program. My Soas email is [email protected] so hit me up around freshers week if u need a hand. I've already been here a year and already know most of the book by heart but am starting from year 1 of the degree due to it being a diff degree title ect. In a way I'm more advanced now than a complete beginner but we will probably be in the same class in a few weeks time.

Are u a new Soas student? If so be assured that Soas is intense academically but probably the most informal and friendly uni in England. I'll be inducted into the Soas family in no time.

Good luck and see u soon

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Are u a new Soas student?

Nope, already been a soasian for a whole year doing a different course. Thanks for all the info I'll probably pop into the soas bookshop sometime next week to pick up the book and I'll make a note of your email if I need anything else ^^

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Nope, already been a soasian for a whole year doing a different course. Thanks for all the info I'll probably pop into the soas bookshop sometime next week to pick up the book and I'll make a note of your email if I need anything else ^^

So we are in exactly the same boat then. lo interesting. I was doing economics last year but hated it and ended up falling in love with my Chinese floater. The Soas book shop has the books but they are also in the Library on the C floor in the stacks near to the entrance to the Chinese reading room.

Also, u cant learn a character without learning how to pronounce it. How would you even know which character you were learning? Besides, it's really not as difficult as you are probably thinking. Mandarin has 4 tones and 1 toneless, the tone relates to the word so Ma3 馬 is horse whilst Ma1 媽 is mother. However, This is not always the case as like in English there are multiple words that carry different meaning yet share the same tones (characters will be different). Also for the sake of sounding more natural and for sentence flow many of these tones can end up changing whilst talking. This isn't really a problem due to the relevance of context. 9 times out of 10 you will always know whats going on due to context more than perfect tones. This is also how Chinese people will be able to understand you.

If you want a head start then I will give you Lesson 1 of the book right now. Learn these characters for the first day and then come in and see if it helps or not.


1 flat and long

2 start flat then upward

3 down then up

4 short and abrupt

5 no tone just say like you see lol

天 tian 1(tien) = sky; heaven; weather; day

氣 qi 4 (chi) = air; breath

很 hen3 (hun) = very; quite

好 hao3 = good; well; fine; all right, OK

冷 leng3 (lung) = cold

嗎 ma = no tone = question particle ?

不 bu4 = negative; not so; no

熱 re4 = Hot

今 jin1 = now; at present

真 zhen1 = truly; really; real; true

我 wo3 = I

你 ni3 = you

您 nin2 = you (formal)

也 ye3 = also; either

們 men2 = plural suffix for personal pronouns 我們;你們;他們

忙 mang2 = busy

昨 zuo2 = yesterday

呢 ne no tone = particle for follow up questions

早 zao3 = morning; early

啊 a! no tone = question and model particle

都 dou1 = all; both

請 qing3 (ching) = to request; invite; please

坐 zuo4 = to sit; to travel by

再 zai4 = again, once more

見 jian4 = to see; to meet

他 ta1 = him; he

她 ta1 = her; she

Learn these and then come to class and you will be taught how to pronounce then and the combinations used to create other words.

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Dcboy thanks for taking the time to do that, it doesn't look so bad to learn, as long as it's not 1 lesson every day!

Ok, out of curio, I'm starting Chinese this year at soas and was wondering are books available to buy second hand at the uni, or... do you recommend i buy them prior to the start of term? cheers

If you want to try get the book second hand there are quite a few around soas; oxfam, judd books, waterstones etc. Or you can post on the SU website to see if any soas students can give you their old copy.

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[The original "derail" started with my post. I still think it's good advice, so I'm going to post it again, with some additions. Delete it if you disagree.]

What do you suggest I do to prepare (get a head start)?

Get the textbook, start to learn the meaning of the characters used in the first couple of chapters. Most people here recommend using a SRS-based flashcard program to help you learn vocabulary. If you're not familiar with them, now would be a good time to learn (before classes start), search here on "anki" for some ideas.

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[quote name=hongputaojiu'

timestamp='1315773893' post='259360]

Hi there SOAS people

I am just a little curious why you are being taught traditional characters when you are off to BNU in 2nd year and will be using simplified...just seems a little 奇怪 to me!! or are you expected to learn both simultaneously?

Yes we learn both, It's because SOAS is just extra like that. We also gave to learn Classical.


Lol that's just lesson 1 it gets MUCH longer and harder. It's a new lesson every week. By lesson 12 you will be crying lol.

Also u have to learn grammar and all the radicals In order by heart. It's not easy but it's rewarding.

Anyway. All will be reviled in a few weeks. I can't wait to get stuck in again. :)

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