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OneEye

Mandarin Training Center, National Taiwan Normal University

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etm001

Hi,

Missing a few days of class isn't going to be an issue. Missing a week's worth of class should be manageable, as long as you plan in advance and self-study the material you are going to miss. AFAIK, it is not possible to schedule one-on-ones, and there are no make-up quizzes or tests (at least, I've never had one). MTC does have an "extended leave of absence form". I've never had to fill it out, but you might want to take a look at it just in case (it's available in the 6th floor main office).

Also, if you have a student visa: according to the MTC student handbook (my copy is from fall 2012), you cannot extend your visa if you miss more than 11 scheduled hours of class within a given month. I'm not sure how, if at all, this applies to someone coming 90 days visa free.

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nessac96

Hi I have a question about the mandarin training center in ntnu. I am a junior in high school that is planning to go back to taiwan for university. But before I go into university I want to improve my reading and writing skills. My parents are taiwanese so I can understand and speak it fluently. but I only know how to read and write very little. I was wondering if this program will help me. Hoping for a reply. thank you :)

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etm001

Hi,

Yes, I believe MTC offers classes specifically for ABCs who can speak Mandarin but who do not have strong reading/writing skills. Contact the MTC office for more details. (Actually, feel free to post back to this thread and let us know what they tell you).

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OneEye

At the lower levels at the MTC, there are classes intended specifically for 華僑 who grew up speaking but not reading Chinese. The books they use are very good.

Still, I'd get in touch with the MTC office. I think Jenny still works there (an ABC and former MTC student herself), she'd probably be the best to talk to. Please report back here, this is one area of information about the MTC that's still very lacking.

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etm001

Hi all,

Today is the last day of the summer term, but class was cancelled due to a typhoon. What better time to write an update? So without further adieu...

It's Been a Year. It's Been a Year?!?

Yep, it's been one year since I started at MTC, and it went by very quickly. As I sit here today I'm happy to say that my Chinese light years beyond what it was 12 months ago, when I first arrived in Taiwan. So it you are debating whether it's worth the sacrifice to move abroad to study Chinese, all I can say is, do it!

MTC: Where I'm At Now

I won't bore you with stats like "total new vocabulary words learned to date" (as I did in previous postings). In brief:

  • I've continued taking regular (non-intensive) classes, which still feels like the right decision for me.
  • My teacher this past quarter was good. She had a clear, well-developed teaching style, and over all I found it to be effective.
  • I've studied through PAVC Book 4, Chapter 11.

Next quarter I'll continue taking the regular class, finishing PAVC Book 4, then onwards to Far East Everyday Chinese Book III.

MTC's Chinese Culture Classes

This summer I signed up for two cultural classes, Chinese Calligraphy and Chinese Cooking. Each class cost $4,500, and both have an associated materials fee ($500 for calligraphy, and $1,500 for the cooking class). Each class meets once a week for two hours.

  • Chinese Calligraphy

Although the instructor was a nice guy, he wasn't much of a teacher (in fairness to him, he's not a teacher by profession). The structure of a typical class was: A) watch the instructor write a sample of calligraphy, B) spend two hours in near silence practicing. There was very little verbal instruction, and when the instructor spoke it was quite hard to follow him, as he spoke softly and mumbled a bit. There were ~7 students in the class.

After ~5 classes I stopped attending. Spending two hours practicing the same calligraphy example over and over - which could have had a Zen-like quality to it, in theory - was interminable for me. In the end, I didn't feel like I was really learning anything, and I felt my time could have been better spent self-studying. I think the class would have been more informative and enjoyable if my Chinese was advanced, so that I could really engaged with the teacher and ask questions about techniques, historical information, etc.
  • Chinese Cooking

This class was lead by an older woman, who either still is, or was, an instructor at MTC (I say this because she was able to reference specific PAVC chapters from memory, which only a teacher can do). Unlike the calligraphy class, the instructor spoke quite a lot, and reasonably clearly. The structure of a typical class was: A) brief introduction by the teacher of the recipe and ingredients, B) watch the teacher prepare an example dish, C) practice cooking the dish yourself.

This is a wok-based cooking class (obviously, given the central role a wok plays in the traditional Chinese kitchen). Accordingly, most dishes that we cooked were some variation of a stir-fry, although we did deep fry when making 餛飩 (húntún, (or pronounced húndùn in Taiwan)), steam when making fish, and boil (water) when making 水餃 (shuǐjiǎo). All ingredients were prepped beforehand by the teacher, and each cooking station was shared by ~3 students. A complete ingredient list and step-by-step recipe was provided with each class.

I regularly attended this class, but again I can't say that I learned much, mostly because A) I've been cooking my whole life, including experience with wok-based cooking, and B) basic stir-fry cooking, which is the focus of this class, isn't that hard.

Oh, and don't forget: this is a cooking class, so you have to wash the dishes and clean the kitchen at the end of each class!

In the end these two classes weren't worth the time and money, but that's just my personal experience.

Final Thoughts

In my last post I mentioned that I felt like I was in a slump in regards to my Chinese learning. I'm happy to say I don't feel that way anymore. Starting about 2 months ago (i.e., after ~10 months of continuously study), things really started to click for me. My listening comprehension improved noticeably, and I found that I didn't always have to focus quite so intensively when listening to a Chinese speaker. The easy and fluidity of my speaking improved, and speaking Chinese for extended periods of time didn't feel quite as laborious as it sometimes did before. Lastly, the most personally meaningful indicator that my Chinese has really started to improve happened a few weeks ago: one of my language exchange partners invited me out to dinner and drinks with her friends, all of whom were Taiwanese and who spoke no English, and all of whom I had never met before. Not too long ago the prospect of this kind of social interaction would have been very nerve wracking; I ended up speaking Chinese the entire night, engaging well with everyone and having a blast. It definitely was a huge confidence booster.

That's it for now. 加油!

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etm001
Still, I'd get in touch with the MTC office. I think Jenny still works there (an ABC and former MTC student herself), she'd probably be the best to talk to.

Jenny still works in there, I just (randomly) had a beer with her last week (she's friends with my roommate's sister).

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OneEye

Ah yes, the 書法 teacher. Really hard to understand. I personally enjoyed the class because it was 2 hours of quiet every week (that was a very busy semester for me), but I get how it could be frustrating.

I regret not having taken more culture classes while I was there. I hear the tea class is quite good.

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roddy

Thanks for the write-ups and continued advice to newcomers!

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roddy

Fabs, did you make it to the MTC? How's it working out? 

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etm001

Hi,

 

It's that time again, let's get started.

 

Far East Everyday Chinese, Book III (Revised Edition)

 

Far East Everyday Chinese, Book III (hereafter FEC3) / 遠東生活華語 is typically used after completing PAVC Book IV. FEC3 was recently revised and differs from the prior version as follows: 

  • Refreshed page design and layout.
  • Expanded from 12 to 16 chapters.
  • Content updated to reflect contemporary events (e.g., financial/housing crisis, etc.)
  • No English explanations of grammar (only Chinese explanations are provided).

FEC3 is the same as PAVC in that each chapter has a dialogue, vocabulary list, and 6-9 grammar points. Moreover, there is a fair amount of overlap between FEC3's vocabulary/grammar and PAVC, and many topics in latter half of FEC3 are identical to those in PAVC IV. That said, FEC3 does present material not in PAVC (or not emphasized in PAVC), especially as related to doing business, finance, stocks/investments, and consumer issues, and well as some 成語 towards the latter parts of the book.

 

In the end, despite the overlap with PAVC, FEC3 does present enough new information that its use doesn't feel like a waste of time/effort. And to be honest, it didn't hurt to (quickly) review previously learned PAVC vocabulary/grammar.

 

Getting the Most Out of FEC (and Your Time and Money)

 

Officially, MTC will tell you that you that the non-intensive class will cover eight chapters of FEC3 in one quarter. Which, given the overlap with PAVC, is not an effective use of time and money. My teacher agreed, and we moved along at a slightly faster pace, completing FEC3 chapter 10 with about two weeks left in the quarter. (I think the intensive class made it as far as chapter 12; my class could have done the same, but my teacher is a bit chatty). Thereafter, we've been spending ~2 days reviewing each of the remaining chapters in the book. 

 

It's worth noting that MTC does not want teachers advancing through the material faster than the prescribed pace (especially for non-intensive classes, as they want you to pay for intensive classes if you want to learn faster), but they really have no leg to stand on when it comes to FEC3 - the overlap with PAVC is too noticeable. Additionally, once you complete PAVC IV:

  • You no longer have to take a quarter-end placement test, which means the teacher no longer has to reach a specific ending point in the textbook (or put differently, no longer has to stop at a specific chapter).
  • At least for FEC3, you will not continue studying the textbook in the following quarter.  Edit: it turns out MTC does offer FEC3 starting from chapter 9. Regardless, my other comments/recommendations in this post still stand.

So, having said all that, it all boils down to this:

  • When you start FEC3, see if your teacher is willing to accelerate the pace of learning, so you can cover more than the first eight chapters of the book (again, which is not a stretch due to the overlap with PAVC).

After FEC3 (Level 5+)

 

At level 5+, for the first time, you have a choice as to what class you want to take next quarter. Most students probably take PAVC V or Mini Radio Plays (MRP). I'm taking MRP, as I want to focus more on my listening and speaking (I actually selected a different class to take, but it's not going to be offered next quarter).

 

Saving In-class Time

 

At the start of this quarter, I was due to resume class at PAVC IV, Chapter 11. But I decided - and after a year of study, could credibly assert - that I could review the remaining 4 chapters on my own without the need for classroom instruction, so I switched to FEC3 and saved myself ~1 month of class time.

 

Another way I was able to advance: towards the latter half of this quarter, I started self-studying Mini Radio Plays, and also reviewed the material with a (thankfully free) tutor. This worked out unexpectedly well, because MRP is being offered next quarter starting at chapter 1 or chapter 6, so I was able to register for the chapter 6 class, saving myself ~5 weeks of class time.

 

In short, if you can manage it, try to study ahead slightly, so that if the opportunity presents itself, you can bump yourself up a bit and save some in-class time. (Although I think this is more realistic, and MTC will be more willing to accept it, when you are closer to the end of the PAVC series).

 

Supplemental Reading

 

I can't stress enough how important it is to supplement your class work with your own reading materials. This is not necessarily easy or practical  to do at the early levels of learning, as your vocabulary and grammar are really limited. But after 12-15 months of study, both your vocabulary and grammar will have expanded tremendously, and reading can now be really enjoyable (not just something you have to do for class), and it's a great way to reinforce the 1000s of words and 100s of grammar points that you have learned (and many that you have forgotten). Having said that:

  • It will be most enjoyable, and more helpful in the long-run, to find books where you understand about 90% of the text. Even if you don't understand 10% of the text, context will often allow you to derive the meaning of many words without having to resort to a dictionary.
  • If you are in Taiwan, it's worth learning bopomofo (Zhuyin), as many books geared towards child/adolescent readers (you will be truly exceptional if you are reading at a high school or adult level after only 12-15 months of study) will have bopomofo alongside the Chinese text, which is very helpful.

I'd also say that after 12-15 months of study, you definitely can focus on learning some 成語. Here's what I'd look for in a 成語 book:

  • A short definition/explanation of the 成語.
  • An example sentence using the 成語.
  • Synonyms and antonyms.
  • A short story that explains the origin of the 成語.

For what it's worth, I found a decent book called 「小學生成語故事」that provides all of the above, ISBN 978-957-11-5055-0, and which is, depending on the 成語, sometimes just slightly above my current comfortable reading level.

 

Miscellaneous

  • MTC offers a traditional Chinese instruments cultural class. I attended a concert last week given by the class, and I have to say, they did a really respectable job. (Most of the students had been learning their instrument for 2 quarters). So this might be a cultural class that's worth the money, one where you can make measurable progress and learn a tangible skill.
  • For the curious: currently, non-intensive two hour classes cost $25,200NT, or $855USD at current exchange rates. This past autumn quarter had 57 class days, which works out to $442NT/$15USD per class, or $221NT/$7.50USD per hour. If that's not a bargain, I don't know what is. For comparison, one of the local, private language schools near MTC was offering one-on-one classes for $320NT (if you bought at least 3 classes). Or you can go to Middlebury's intensive summer program, which I heard was in the neighborhood of $10,000USD+. (I'm not knocking the program, I head it was pretty good).
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Meng Lelan

Yeah, that's about how much a summer at Middlebury costs, I didn't think the phony Chinese language environment was worth it. Everyone studied so much that I rarely got to converse with anyone except for the English speaking locals in the Middlebury village so my Chinese actually regressed when I was there.

Better still to put your money into a real Chinese language environment like MTC and just for living the language, literally.

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mitchrawr

Hello!

 

I'm applying for the Spring 2014 term from March-May.  

 

I was wondering if there was anyone else applying as well?  And would be interested in maybe rooming together?  

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woodsam

Might be interested in rooming with you, Mitch. Still planning on being there in a month?

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mitchrawr

Yep. I just got my acceptance letter emailed to me.  I have no idea how to private message you on this.  But maybe we can get in contact individual and try to get to know each other?

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OneEye

Good stuff, man. I enjoyed MRP too, as cheesy as it was, and felt it helped me a lot. I think 即時新聞 or 話週刊 would be good choices for you. I took the former (I've probably told you that before), and it was a really enjoyable class. The teacher drove me crazy on occasion when we'd argue about language/linguistics, but overall she's great, a real sweetheart. She's also the only teacher I know of at the MTC that doesn't attempt to put on the fake "標準" accent.

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Yadang

Hey thanks, OneEye and Etm001! All of this is really helpful!!! Thanks for spending all the time giving such detailed reports - I really appreciate it! I'd definitely love to hear anything else you guys have to say! (Not meaning you haven't said enough already - just letting you know that people are still reading these things! Or at least, I am...)

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Yadang

What level were you, OneEye, when you entered?

 

Also, I have seen on other forums (not sure what specific post), that OneEye suggested if attending ICLP, you would suggest doing it after one was already an intermediate, to take full advantage of the program - you mentioned that if one doesn't do this, they improve a lot of course, but by the time they go home, they've only glimpsed how far they have to go...

Do you OneEye and etm001 have any perspective on this? Would it be better to go at a certain time/after having reached a certain level in one's language studies?

 

Also, another thought - would it be useful to cram vocabulary and characters before going, so that you already were a little familiar with a lot of what you would be studying, and just use class time and homework time to know when and how to use certain words and the contexts that they should be used in and things?

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etm001

 

 

Do you OneEye and etm001 have any perspective on this? Would it be better to go at a certain time/after having reached a certain level in one's language studies?

 

I briefly considered ICLP when first starting my studies in Taiwan, but set it aside due the cost. It's far, far more expensive than MTC. That said, it's also a much more intensive program. I won't speak for OneEye, but I believe he would council that it's possible to replicate an ICLP pace of learning by supplementing MTC coursework with your own self-study. But whether going to ICLP or replicating the ICLP pace yourself, you need to be highly motivated and very disciplined. In the end, you should consider the following when deciding whether or not to go to ICLP:

  • Are you disciplined? Can you handle the pace? Are you OK with spending most/all your time studying Chinese?
  • Do you really, absolutely, positively need to cram as much Chinese into your head in the least amount of time possible? If so, why?
  • What is the opportunity cost of your time?

On a related note, ICLP might be the best choice for advanced-intermediate to advanced classroom instruction, as MTC doesn't offer many classes beyond level 7/8 (the course listing has many classes listed, but in the 1.5 years I've been at MTC, they were rarely offered).

 

 

 

Also, another thought - would it be useful to cram vocabulary and characters before going, so that you already were a little familiar with a lot of what you would be studying, and just use class time and homework time to know when and how to use certain words and the contexts that they should be used in and things?

 

I think I mentioned most of the below somewhere earlier in this thread. If I had to do it all over again:

  • If you have an existing vocabulary using simplified characters, re-learn it with traditional characters. I could have placed slightly higher in the MTC placement exam if I hadn't been so flummoxed by seeing traditional characters for the first time. That said, the transition from simplified to traditional is not that painful, and it'll feel natural soon enough.
  • Take the time to learn 注音 (bopomofo). This doesn't have to be your first priority, but it's not hard to learn and it ended up being very useful when reading a wide range of materials. I think you can find several decent flashcard sets on Memrise to help you learn.
  • The minute you step off the plane in Taiwan you'll want to eat something. So having a decent vocabulary related to cooking, ordering, buying, and eating food is supremely helpful. A lot of this vocabulary you just have to pick up by reading menus and order forms (don't be afraid to take a blank order form home with you for later study).

As related to the last point: if you want to get up to speed on helpful, daily vocabulary, check out the "Illustrated Chinese-English Dictionary", ISBN 978-986-6051-10-4 (I believe it's also sold abroad as the "McGraw Hill Illustrated C-E Dictionary"). It's chock full of vocabulary that you can put to immediate use outside of school. Unfortunately I've never found a flashcard set online for this book (I'm making one now, but it's not a top priority for me at the moment).

 

Hope that helps, good luck! 

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OneEye

When I first started at the MTC, they placed me in PAVC 2, lesson 4. That's exactly the level a zero-level beginner would be after one semester in the intensive program, and indeed, some of my classmates had literally just begun studying Chinese 3 months prior. My level was slightly higher than everyone else's in some ways, but not as good in others. In other words, it was probably exactly where I needed to be.

 

etm001 pretty much summed everything up otherwise. The only thing I'd add is that you shouldn't "cram" anything before going, as it won't help you. You should learn/master what you can before you go, but trying to cram a bunch of stuff in instead of really learning it won't be helpful.

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