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Yesiclass Review


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To date I have not seen many reviews of private schools or instructors posted in the forums. I hope this review encourages others to talk about their experiences. Many people who opt for private instruction as opposed to a semester at a university have little time to spare. This lack of time usually rules out arriving in Beijing and spending a few days evaluating different schools. These limitations can make critiques on the internet about private Mandarin instruction very valuable. After some searching, I arrived at the website www.yesiclass.com. The short pinyin name for the school is Yă Shè Xué Xiào. I eventually chose this school for a number reasons – the primary one was that many other websites acted as intermediaries, placing students in schools they were not directly connected to.

I started sending emails to the point of contact email address given by the site. I was looking for one on one instruction for a short duration (three weeks). The coordinator suggested a host family package. I would live with a host family during the instruction. My thoughts are mixed on the value of living with a host family and I will expand on this later. The price I was quoted was $50 (U.S. dollars) a day. The school included tours to famous sites around Beijing in the program. The coordinator told me that the fee was to be paid on the first day. I told the coordinator I was limited by withdraws I could make from the bank and could not pay this immediately. We agreed that I would pay by the end of the first week. I was also told by email that school representatives would meet me at the Beijing Capital International Airport.

Two school representatives did meet me at the Airport. These two spoke little English, but that didn’t bother me as I’m a firm believer in language immersion. I understood enough to know that we were going to lunch. We went to a restaurant in the central business district and the coordinator who I had exchanged emails with met us. We ate a lunch and afterwards the coordinator reviewed the school’s rules and regulations. The rules were very basic and included no surprises. The two representatives who met me at the airport then took me to the host family’s apartment.

The family lives on Jiatong University in Northern Beijing. They included a husband, wife and a cook. The father is a dean at the university. I lived in the room that belonged to their son who was abroad studying. A bathroom and study to call my own was provided. I’m fairly certain the cook was an employee of the school, but I’m not sure. Regardless, she prepared some great meals. In fact I think I ate too much. Of the three, only the father spoke limited English. Again, the lack of English proficiency among the family did not disturb me in the least. The next day classes began.

Instruction was divided into comprehension and listening. Usually three hours of comprehension occupied the morning with two hours of listening occupying the afternoon. Comprehension included vocabulary, grammar and writing characters with reinforcing exercises from workbooks. Listening basically used tapes to identify tones, initials and finals and comprehending conversation. The course used 2004 edition Beijing language and Culture University workbooks and tapes. The instructors were all college students or recent graduates. Most of the instructors were English majors. This presented a problem to me at first because so much English was used. I spoke to the coordinator about this a couple of times and the instructors began using simple phrases in Mandarin when giving instructions. The other change I requested was that the teacher, particularly the comprehension teacher conduct more structured conversation with me based on vocabulary and grammar taught. This was too was adopted by the teachers. The teachers taught me at the family’s apartment.

It may sound odd, why I wanted less English, but a prior experience of mine learning Thai was very successful using complete immersion. I’ve tried the traditional way of learning sitting in a classroom with teacher explaining rules with Spanish – didn’t work for me.

I did ask to visit the school’s brick and mortar building which is located south of the Summer Palace. The students there at the time were all Chinese students learning English. It did trouble me a little that I didn’t meet another westerner learning Mandarin. I got the impression that at least in the summer months much of the school’s business came from Chinese-American families who paid for their children to study Mandarin. I’m not sure how many of the school’s students reflected my profile – a law student who just turned 30.

Depending on your profile a host family is a mixed bag. On one hand I learned much about how a middle class Chinese family in Beijing lives. On the other hand I’m very independent and some slight friction resulted. It took a call to the coordinator to get the family to let me explore Beijing on my own one day. Up until then the family chaperoned me wherever I went. Another consideration is that in a home you have to participate in group activities sometimes. Taking walks, playing cards and going to Tai Chi are great, but can subtract from study time and are hit and miss on language learning value. The one good thing is that if I resume studies in Beijing I know some Chinese residents. I have seen posts over and over talk about the difficultly of establishing Chinese contacts/friends. This program definitely allowed me to meet some people I can call upon in the future.

Overall the course gave me a basic foundation in Mandarin. My tones need a lot of work, but hey I can read some words and some of what I say makes sense. I’m undecided if I will go back to them. I recommend if are looking at private instruction figure out if you want immersion or not. Once you make that determination ask questions about the teachers – how much English do they use? The students – do you have other students studying Mandarin? This can be a blessing and a curse. If you are interested in immersion you may be tempted to speak English too much. Down the road I’m thinking about one of the universities, but I fear I will fall in “the hang out with people you understand” trap. Of course, you also want to ask about the price. I’m certain if you demand far enough in advance to pay as you go along most private schools will agree. In this case the coordinator claimed the school had to pay the family up front.

Again, I hope to see more posts on private schools and tutors. I also hope this post is helpful and sparks some response.

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Unfortunately, I don't remember the prices for instruction without a host family, but I imagine it is considerably less. I had some money saved for the purpose of attending a private course and was looking for the greatest amount of immersion possible.

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