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So how was your first day of classes?


edelweis
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ohh, i missed the test. so they just asked me (in Chinese!) how long I've studied and i said two years. i wanted to say two years worth of classes in one year, but i didn't get that far. anyways, i think 听力 will be manageable if i prepare ahead of time, and i hope the rest of the classes are the same.

and yeah, even though the chapter lists 20 new words, there's always a few more in there that i forgot or have never seen before. that's the trouble of switching to use new book sets & teachers. but it's a good thing.. i think. you're learning more than what you paid for.

as for the mountain part. oh my god does it suck. it really does. the closer to the center of the university you go, the higher you climb. but luckily for me, i live off campus and take a street that goes along the perimeter of the university which is really pretty. and flat. so it's an easy ride. the foreign language teaching building is on the edge too, so i only ever get off my bicycle once for this one evil upward hill. as far as the food is concerned, i haven't tried too much. i can handle spicy, but it's not like i want to for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner. but the fresh pita bread here is the tastiest I've ever had. it's the one food i think it beats Tsinghua at. other than that, i feel like it's spicy noodles for every meal here. i'll wait until it's cold to appreciate that.

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ohh, i missed the test. so they just asked me (in Chinese!) how long I've studied and i said two years. i wanted to say two years worth of classes in one year, but i didn't get that far. anyways,
haha - I had the same when I went to BNU. I also said "two years" but wanted to add "one hour a week, mostly on my own" but had no idea how to say that, but they didn't wait and just said "xiexie" and ushered me out.

Took me two days to work my way down enough levels until I could actually understand anything :-)

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As a beginner in Chinese taking a class at community college and mostly studying on my own for 3~12 hours a day, I have to say this thread is very helpful. It's great reading through this and hearing real, live updates about life in Chinese universities. It sort of helps me prepare, at least mentally, for my future studying in Asia. (I actually want to study in Japan but we will see how the future unfolds)

One piece of advice I can offer to anyone at any level is to never limit yourself to what you learn in class. You might undertand what you are learning in class better if you go off the beaten path and read more material, even if it's something you read in a comic book.

It's always possible that all you needed in order to learn that new point was to see it used in something outside your textbook.

I know I'm not at tue university level yet, but as far as those no-shows go, they are total failures in my eyes. Leaving before the teacher, putting your stuff away while she's still talking... talking about football... texting!!! Total losers. Don't let them bring you down.

In my low level of experience at the communit college, I have notced that you can't expect to learn much if you only work on what was covered in class. Right now my class is still working on tones and 你好 and 你叫什么名字? while I am doing extensive and intensive listening and filling out my notebooks with hanzi and vocab. It's good to cover the basics though, and in class I can get feedback from the teacher and mandarin speaking volunteer tutor.

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I'm studying Chinese language undergraduate degree at Sun Yat-Sen University and had my first day last Friday. I used to be an exchange student at Guangzhou University for a year and a half, so at 中大 I started from year two. My class is 本二下.

On Friday I only had one class, and one meeting for new students where teachers explained some rules, how to select courses and so on.

My first class was comprehensive (综合) / intensive reading (精读). I don't know from which part of China the teacher is from but her Chinese was very clear and easy to understand. I was worried that the others students might be way better than me, but the level seems to be good. First the teacher told us how the grading works and what we are going to do during our Autumn semester.

Then we went through about half of the new words in chapter one. She asked one student to read aloud five new words in order to hear our pronunciation. Then she explained how to use those words and some grammar related to them. Sometimes she asked us to make sentences using those words. Next she asked us to read the first half of the text by our selves. After reading we started reading aloud after the teacher. In the end she asked if there were any questions or parts we didn't understand.

Our homework was to learn those new words we went through and review the text we read.

I hope all the other teachers are as good as this one. If I compare it to Guanghou University, there I only had one teacher as good as this new comprehensive course teacher. I have high hopes because this is supposed to be the 10th best university in China. If everything continues as well as my first class, then it's going to be demanding, but also gives me a chance to improve faster than I did at Guangzhou University. Until now I'm very satisfied.

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I don't know whether Chinese professors would add their own books in the reading list as Western ones would. Did they?

As far as I know my teachers haven't, but my friends doing their bachelors have had the teacher throw in their own book.

One thing i'm noticing in the lower groups is the lack of correction/feedback the teachers give; they hardly correct our tones and just say well done, despite how bad some of the words are pronounced.

Those are just bad teachers.

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@thrice12 this is one of the reasons I didn't stick with level 1. As in my first thread (linked at the top of this) I was torn between the 2 levels and those who recommended sticking with mastering the basics first all said this was to master pronunciation and tones first. However when I went there the feedback seemed non-existent - despite me having asked the teacher for this in particular. On top of that there are so many beginners in the class with different accents that listening to Chinese being brutalised in so many different ways felt if anything destructive to improving my own pronunciation/tones! Naturally, the problem still exists in the class above, where here the excuse of being a more advanced class not wanting to fix pronunciation could exist. I still find it hard to understand the Japanese-Chinese, Korean-Chinese and Russian-Chinese spoken, but at least it makes me aware that I'm probably heavily accented too and need to work on it.

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@all: thanks a lot for all these details, it's really interesting to read about your various experiences in Chinese universities!

Please don't hesitate to post more info :)

@gymnosopher and bunny87: perhaps you could learn the tingli vocabulary beforehand, and quickly skim the transcript for additional new words.

This way during class you could concentrate on listening and trying to understand sentences.

But actually I don't know how tinli classes are supposed to work...

Thanks for the details of level "testing" and your timetable and electives.

Calligraphy could reinforce the character learning, and painting could provide a break from all the studying...

@gymnosopher: 75 new characters a week sound like a lot, but perhaps it will slow down a bit after you're caught up with the vocabulary of that set of textbook.

It certainly sounds like you made a good decision regarding class levels, in view of the teacher/tones issues...

@bunny87: with the mountain thing I guess you don't need to worry too much about exercising :P Mens sana in corpore sano etc. (there's propably one or several chengyus about this, perhaps even local Wuhan sayings?)

@xuefang: thanks for the write-up. It's good that you are satisfied with at least one teacher. I hope your other teachers are also good. Do you already have a timetable? what about electives?

@thrice12: regarding tones, if you feel you need more correction, perhaps it would be useful to ask your teachers to give you more feedback, and/or ask them to recommend a tutor for this specific issue.

Solo work with tapes and recording yourself could help too...

@Brian US: thanks. You must be pretty busy. Don't overwork yourself...

(somewhat off topic)

@areckx: I completely agree about not limiting yourself to classroom learning.

It's just much easier to do that when you have some spare time (i.e. not studying full-time, and/or not having a full-time job as well).

This is partly why (residing in Europe) I was a bit reluctant to register for a class: last time I took a language class, I just didn't have any spare time or energy to enjoy the language beyond the textbook, as it was a class meant for full-time students and I already had a full-time job.

On the other hand, lighter classes just move along so slowly... but as you said teacher feedback is still useful... So after two years of studying Chinese by myself I will be taking a once-a-week class this year. Hopefully it can provide structure/feedback/motivation/skill balancing without taking up all my free time so that I can still enjoy and study Chinese by myself on the side.

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Tomorrow, I start my third week of class in the Mandarin Training Center at 國立台灣師範大學 (NTNU) in Taipei. Class has been good so far, the teacher is great, and we all get along well. We don't have separate classes (聽力,口語, etc.), just three hours per day with a 10 minute break between hours. I'm in the intensive course, so it takes around 3-4 hours to finish my homework and studying each day. We also tend to go out to dinner after class (class ends at 5, and we usually stay out together until 10 or so), and since not all of us speak English we end up speaking in Chinese, which makes for really good practice. When my wife, who speaks no Chinese whatsoever, comes along, I also have to translate into English. I have mornings for studying because my wife teaches English here and has to leave by 8AM to get to work, so I go to the library after that for a few hours. This gives me time to study ahead, or to learn additional vocab, or whatever.

Anyway, the worst part by far was the placement testing process. We were shuffled through like cattle, no clue what was going on or what came next, through a few different rooms to register, pay, etc. Then, bewildered, they sit you in front of a teacher who talks to you in Chinese, gets you to read a passage out loud, and then they herd you into a room for a timed reading test on the computer. The font the computers use is downright awful, to the point that I really had a hard time making out many of the characters. I feel like I could have tested much better under different conditions, but in the end I'm glad to be in the class I'm in because my speaking and my grammar knowledge really need some work. I'm not really learning any new words, but my Chinese is still improving a lot. By the end of the term I should be caught up to where I "ought" to be, so next term should prove more challenging.

From what I can tell and have been told, by the end of an academic year in the intensive program I should be able to read more or less on a high school level, and my conversation skills should be pretty good. After that, if I stay a second year I can take modern literature courses or 文言文 courses. If I do that I'll probably mostly stick with the latter. There are options to take extra classes (extra money too) like calligraphy, Chinese medicine, erhu, guzheng, Taijiquan, etc., but if I do take any it will be later. They also have free classes where you watch Chinese movies or TV shows. I haven't done any yet but I plan to later in the term.

Anyway, so far so good. I'm enjoying Taipei very much, although I could do with a little cooler weather.

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@edelweis My timetable looks like this:

Morning lessons are from 8:55 to 10:35 and 10:45 to 12:25. Afternoon lessons are from 14:25 to 16:05 and from 16:15 to 17:55.There's a 10 minutes break in the middle of each lesson.

Monday: 听力,(选)粤语入门,写作, 泛读.

Tuesday: 综合, (选)中华礼仪.

Wednesday: 口语,综合,(选)心理与生活.

Thursday: 泛读, 听力.

Friday: 综合,(选)书法,(选)篆刻.

From elective courses we have to choose atleast one. The teachers adviced us to not choose too many courses and I decided to take Cantonese and Calligraphy. That means I have 16,5 hours lessons a week. Which is quite enough when I add the time I'm going to use doing homework and preparing for classes.

Next term is going to be similar. About 5 compulsory courses and about 5 elective courses. Then starting from the third year (2012-2013) we will choose our major from two options: 1. 汉语教育 2. 商务汉语.

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@OneEye: thanks for the write-up. The registration/level placement procedure seems as utterly confusing in Taiwan as on the Mainland :mrgreen: . Your days seem pretty busy even with "only" 3 hours of classes per day. Does the intensive thing mean regular students have less class hours, or that they study at a slower pace? Also you mentionned that the other students do not speak English, what nationality are they?

@xuefang: thanks for the timetable. Mondays look rather full :-? you had better go to sleep early tonight. I'm curious about the fandu and xiezuo classes, when you have some time (and have actually attended them) could you please explain what those are like?

@all: I forgot to ask, were you recovered from the jet-lag by the time your registered/took the "level test"/started classes? Also, how many students are there in each class?

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@OneEye: thanks for the write-up. The registration/level placement procedure seems as utterly confusing in Taiwan as on the Mainland :mrgreen: . Your days seem pretty busy even with "only" 3 hours of classes per day. Does the intensive thing mean regular students have less class hours, or that they study at a slower pace? Also you mentionned that the other students do not speak English, what nationality are they?

They are busy. Essentially we are expected to do the bulk of the learning at home and then we review in class and she explains things further, then we have conversation practice. We have 聽寫 quizzes every day and chapter tests every 3-4 days. We move maybe 50% faster than the regular courses, but it is still quite manageable if you put in the 3-4 hours of homework/studying per day.

The regular classes meet for 2 hours per day, and the students are required to do 5 hours per week of supplementary classes (to meet the 15 hour requirement for a student visa). These can be movie screenings, classes on pronunciation or how characters work, which are all free; it can also be the paid culture classes, such as "Learning Chinese Through Chinese Medicine", guzheng lessons, calligraphy classes, etc., all of which cost NT$5000 per term (about US$170 or 122 Euros). The supplementary hours can even be earned by going to the library or listening labs, which to me seems like cheating, since students in the lower levels (who account for the vast majority of students here, as most places) are required to do those things anyway.

The other students in my class are Japanese and Russian. Some of them speak some English, but most have better Chinese than English. There is a total of 7 of us in the class, which is nice. The intensive courses have no more than 8 students, while the regular courses have up to 10. I was over my jet lag by the time I registered because I had arrived on August 17, and registration was on the 26th. Some people had just landed the day before, and some weren't even in town until September 3rd, so they took the placement test a few hours after landing so they could have orientation on the 5th. Not recommended.

I'm curious how the programs are set up at different schools. I assume they're similar in the lower levels in that you have to stick with certain classes until your level is high enough to be able to pick your own courses. Here's what I've been able to find out about MTC (it may or may not all be accurate, but I think for the most part it is). There are 9 levels, with 1 being absolute beginner and 9 being courses like Zhuangzi 莊子 or the Yijing 易經 (Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義 is "only" Level 8 if that gives you any idea). Levels 1-4 are considered foundational, and you have no choice but to take them in that order before taking any others. After finishing Level 4 you can take a test, and based on your results the other levels open up to you. My guide during orientation said that after Level 4 he tested into Level 6, but he's taking a Level 5 class because it's what he wanted. He also said that nobody ever takes Level 9, and that the last two who did were Zhuangzi and Laozi themselves. :mrgreen:

You're split into two groups in the lower levels. ABCs and people with a decent conversational ability are put into a writing-focused class, and others are put into a "speaking-oriented" class. I put that in parentheses because it's really a comprehensive class, especially if you're not Japanese or Korean, because you really have to work to keep up with the reading and writing. But it really is focused on Chinese as a spoken language, and the lessons are written in colloquial Mandarin. More formal written Chinese is saved for Level 5 and up. The textbooks for the lower level "speaking" courses are Practical Audio-Visual Chinese 實用視聽華語 1-4, which are OK despite what I've read. Nothing cutting edge, but with a good teacher and hard work they seem to do the trick. There is a Book 5 (corresponding with Level 5), but I've been told nobody takes Book 5, preferring instead to take the elective courses after the requisite Books 1-4 are done.

At Level 5 and above, the ABCs and the "speaking" students are all expected to be at similar levels on all fronts, so the classes are divided into Modern Chinese and Classical Chinese. On the Modern side courses can still roughly be divided between speech-focused and reading-focused, but you can take whichever you want as long as your test score qualifies you for that level. In Level 5 you have courses like Chinese Folk Tales, Chinese Customs, Business Reading, Business Writing, Radio Plays, and Qi Baishi: An Intermediate Reader. Level 6 has things like Business Conversation II, Tales from Chinese History, Idioms, and Chinese Newspapers. Level 7 has sequels to the aforementioned courses, News & Views, Financial News, E-Commerce Digest, Chinese Thought and Society, and Short Stories. Level 8 has further business-type courses, along with modern literature course like Hu Shi 胡適, Post-Cultural Revolution Literature, Contemporary Social Problems, Journal Articles, Short Stories, Modern Poetry, etc. There is only one Modern Chinese course at Level 9, and it's Taiwanese TV News Broadcast.

On the Classical side of things, Level 5 has only Junior High School Chinese Reader, and Level 6 has nothing. Level 7 has several "intro to Classical Chinese" type courses, plus Senior High School Chinese Reader, Sunzi 孫子, The Analects 論語, and The Four Books: A New Annotated Reader 四書讀本. Level 8 has Advanced Literary Chinese, 300 Song Poems 宋詞, 300 Tang Poems 唐詩, Chinese Literary History, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義. Level 9 has The Best of Classical Prose, Sima Qian's 司馬遷 Historical Records 史記, Laozi 老子, Zhuangzi 莊子, and the Yijing 易經. Not too shabby.

I've been told that I should be able to take Modern Chinese courses up through Level 6 by the end of 3 terms (they're on a quarter system here) if I stay in the intensive courses and work hard. I may end up staying a second year, and if so I'm going to load up on the 文言 classes next year. I don't know if intensive courses are offered after Level 4, but even if they are I probably will switch to regular when I start taking 文言 classes at Level 7. That will give me more time to learn the material really well (which isn't a problem at my current level, but when I get more advanced I'm sure it will be). It will also allow me more time to tutor or work (money is nice to have) and travel around Taiwan with my wife.

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@OneEye: wow it's some serious course of study that you have planned! Thanks for all the details :) . Interesting that they have specific classes for the huaqiao, I am not sure many mainland unis have this scheme. The smaller class sizes are also a good point.

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We never had any placement tests; at registration we picked a level and were able to change classes in the first week.

This Korean girl came in and slept at her desk almost straightaway! She went to sleep for 2 hours and missed the entire first class!

I'm in my 3rd week and they're really pushing hanzi on us, which i know is good but i'm struggling to remember what the characters mean :( i recognise them, but i just get mixed up.

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@areckx: I think native readers just look at the general shape of the characters and the context, and they can guess which character it is without seeing all the details. Same as we read words without checking every letter...

@thrice12: I think the same happens to everyone, the first hundred characters are really harder to learn. Handwrite a lot and take care to learn radical + phonetic element decomposition, not only a list of strokes. Afterwards it will get easier...

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From what I can tell and have been told, by the end of an academic year in the intensive program I should be able to read more or less on a high school level, and my conversation skills should be pretty good.

@OneEye, does your academic year start at the intermediate level? From my understanding, high school students can easily comprehend newspapers and probably some classic literature as well. Seems pretty intense. Great post by the way.

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@OneEye: wow it's some serious course of study that you have planned! Thanks for all the details :) . Interesting that they have specific classes for the huaqiao, I am not sure many mainland unis have this scheme. The smaller class sizes are also a good point.

Well, I always have big plans. :roll: But hopefully it will pan out like I want it to. I'm not sure, but I have a feeling that in the higher levels it becomes harder and harder to pass to the next level. So I may end up taking a few Level 7 courses before moving to Level 8 for instance, if I'm able to even reach that level.

@OneEye, does your academic year start at the intermediate level? From my understanding, high school students can easily comprehend newspapers and probably some classic literature as well. Seems pretty intense. Great post by the way.

Well, maybe lower intermediate. I'm halfway through Book 2. In regular courses it's one book per term, but in the intensive I should finish Book 4 by the end of my second term. After that I should be able to take Level 6 Newspaper Reading. However, I probably should have said "just entering high school" level, in that I will be somewhere between Level 5 "Junior High School Chinese Reader and Level 7 "Senior High School Chinese Reader". I do intend to take a few hours per week of private instruction with one of the instructors once the classes get more difficult so that I can hopefully get into the Level 7 courses ASAP.

As a reference point, I'm told that one term (3 months) of the intensive course is equivalent to a year in an American university course. So yes, it does advance quite quickly, and there is a reason that most of the students in the intensive program as far as I can tell are Japanese or prospective grad students like myself.

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@ everyone that responded to my posts: I AM SO FLIPPING TIRED. biking around that mountain and generally being in time, finding out i'm not allowed to squeeze into the perfect class cause it's full and so now i have more errands of finding teachers, and trying to still get residence permit junk done all while the weather randomly dropped to like, 55 degrees F and raining just ate any energy i might have had to post about my 综合 + 听力 class. which were 本科2年级 instead of 中级。 which i found much better. but 综合 gave me 39 words to learn just now. ;-;. 听力 had another 20 that i didn't even write down (oops?). cause 2nd year is full. and the 听力 teacher actually teaches, not just plays windows media player. and my effort to the bookstore was worthless. it's sold out of books at the bookstore for my desired (and full) class level until Friday.)$(*@)#$(*#@)$(*#@)$(*#@)$(*$)#@($. goodnight. will reply tomorrow when i should be memorizing characters instead.

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