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UT Austin Chinese Program: Thoughts and & Opinions


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ablindwatchmaker

I just want to know if anyone on here has ever been to or knows anything about this program. I was recently accepted into UT's Asian Cultures and Languages (Chinese specialization) program and am really looking forward to it. From what I've read, they offer quite a few Chinese languages classes and have excellent study abroad options. Obviously, I know I will need to go to China to become professionally fluent, but I'm wondering what you guys think of this program and programs like this. By the way, it is an Asian studies degree and I'm complementing it with a mathematically robust econ program. Thoughts?

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abcdefg
By the way, it is an Asian studies degree and I'm complementing it with a mathematically robust econ program.

Smart move. Hope it works out well.

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Meng Lelan

I went to UT Austin myself but didn't major in Chinese although I may be coming back to do the master's in Chinese literature (or something like that) there sometime in the next decade. The program is quite good although I remember being concerned about the textbooks there not being very up to date, but that was in 2005 and maybe that has changed for the better.

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ablindwatchmaker

@abcdefg

Thank you, I'm hoping it does!

@MengLelan

Yeah, I noticed that their intermediate books are from the old Princeton series. The intermediate books at my current college, "David and Helen in China," are vastly superior--I think they are the best intermediate books out there, equaled or surpassed only by the Defrancis Intermediate reader. After having completed the David and Helen series, the princeton intermediate readers seem like a piece of cake (I own them). The vocabulary seems solid, but the sentence patterns and syntax are really basic. By the way, I checked out your website and noticed that your level of Chinese is WAY beyond mine. I'm curious to know where it is and how far along you think I could be after 4 more semesters of intermediate/advanced Chinese courses. I'm also planning on at least a semester abroad, maybe a year. I'm asking becauseI haven't seen much on this forum that discusses Chinese degree programs in the states. Thanks!

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Meng Lelan

Is that what they are using now? When I looked over their textbooks back in 2005 or so they were using the old NPCR set even when the new NPCR was coming out. As for my Chinese level I've been at this stuff for way over two decades given that I started out with the DeFrancis readers in college. So hard for me to say how your level is going to turn out after intermediate/advanced courses. This forum is kind of light on discussion of Chinese degree programs in the US, hopefully we can change that for the better. Anyway the UT Austin program has a good reputation, you should know that Jeannette Faurot taught there for a long time. She passed away the very week I moved to Austin and her funeral was only three blocks away from my new Austin home. A number of Chinese professors now teaching in colleges and universities in Texas graduated from UT Austin's grad program. They have a good Taiwan studies program. Some of their offerings look quite entertaining, one time there was a course called "Everyone's Kungfu Fighting" (about martial arts films in Asia) and "Why Chinese Doesn't have an Alphabet", etc etc. oh I wish I were there now getting a doctorate in Chinese but right now I am not able to do that, maybe in a few years. What study abroad programs do they have that you are looking at?

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ablindwatchmaker

They use both NPCR (1 &2) and Integrated Chinese (level 1) for their first year; I assume that it is up to the professors to decide which text they want to use. I have noticed that they tend to use the NPCR for the accelerated first year and Integrated Chinese for the standard. I think NPCR 3 and 4 look pretty good (I own them but haven't used them yet), but I'm not sure I would prefer them to the Princeton books--the Princeton books have really interesting stories. As for DeFrancis...It is shocking that nothing since then has even come close in terms of effectiveness. I started using the beginning reader early into my Chin 4 semester, and my teacher was pretty impressed at how well I began to perform. My reading speed has probably tripled, and I think it has even improved my speaking ability, strangely enough. It's just easier to find words and use sentence patterns more fluidly, and I'm hoping that I experience a similar jump after starting the intermediate books.

Wow. I had no idea UT's Chinese program was so solid. Now I'm really excited to start studying Chinese there! Yeah, they offer different topics courses every semester. For instance, some semesters they offer 魯迅 (awesome), and some semesters consist of selections from Classical Chinese poetry (for me, not so awesome, lol). The martial arts class would have been amazing...

Literally hundreds. I can even use scholarship money and federal student aid to attend study abroad prgrams at Chinese universities, all for the same price I will pay to attend UT as a Texas resident. I hear Harbin CET is the real deal, but I've heard that there are a ton of others as well. Ultimately, I'm not under any illusions though... I will get what I put into it, no matter where I am in China. If there is one thing I've learned about this language, it is that there are no shortcuts. Whatever happens, I want to live in China for a while after I graduate--I might even attend college there. I just don't know at this point...

Do you still live in the Austin area or have you gone out into the jungle where Rick Perry is the undisputed King of Texas?

Hook'em ; )

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OneEye

Don't write off the classical Chinese courses, especially if David Sena is still teaching them. He knows his stuff, and did his PhD work under one of the best philologists in the world. A good grounding in classical Chinese is essential if you ever want to become fully literate in modern Chinese, so you should absorb everything you can while you have a teacher who knows what they're doing.

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ablindwatchmaker

I'm happy to inform you that he is still alive and kicking, according to UT's website. He is actually teaching an intro to classical Chinese course this semester. I'll definitely take your advice and enroll in his class if I am able to once the time comes.

I'm pretty happy to see that both of you are supporters of this program. Thanks for the tips everyone!

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Meng Lelan
魯迅 (awesome),

Wow, who is teaching that one?!?

I am not really living in Austin itself anymore but my work is based out of San Antonio and travel often within the triangle of San Antonio, Austin, and Houston. May be doing a summer internship in Austin in 2014.

The DeFrancis, yes, I know what you mean. No one will ever be able to improve on the DeFrancis, ever, And yes I have the DeFrancis here still in my bookshelf.

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ablindwatchmaker

David Sena, apparently. I'm getting more excited about this program everyday! Yeah, 魯迅 is the kind of material I'm really looking forward to being able to read. Eventually, I'd like to be able to dive into subjects pertaining to politics and economics, but I'm sure I still have several years to wait before I'm that proficient. If you do come to Austin, you are always welcome to come tutor me lol.

I just don't understand why there aren't materials available that more closely resemble the DeFrancis model. It is clearly superior to everything else out there. Even David & Helen, which is amazing, doesn't approach DF. By the way, my Chinese professor thinks that the Advanced DF reader is more of a middle/upper intermediate text and not quite at the advanced level. That being said, she loves it and plans to incorporate some of the narratives into her future chin 3 and 4 classes. She always tells me that it is more sophisticated and traditional than much of what is seen today.

Of course you still have the DF on your shelf. How would you sleep without it?!

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Meng Lelan

What university is your Chinese professor at, is she the one who recommended that you apply to UT Austin?

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ablindwatchmaker

This is actually my last semester at ACC. I chose UT because it is cheap and is the only university in Texas, aside from Trinity and Rice, with a solid Chinese program--It also happens to be on a bus route next to my apartment.

She didn't specifically recommend UT over any other institutions, but she has certainly encouraged my study of Chinese in a general sense. I think she did her undergrad in 香港 and received her masters from UW Madison? She is the only person who teaches and does so on the side. I believe she translates financial documents for a hedge fund during the day, but I'm not entirely sure. She is pretty cool and I'll be sad to finish this semester with her :( I'm hoping my professors at UT are half as good lol.

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Meng Lelan

I strongly recommend you stay in touch with the ACC teacher even as you go on to UT. She will be a good resource for you in the future when you have questions and concerns in your Chinese studies after you leave ACC. Isn't that Austin Community College? I was wondering too how ACC is because I have been really frustrated with the San Antonio community college system here. It seems the ACC has a strong foreign language program.

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ablindwatchmaker

I certainly plan to stay in touch with her as long as I'm in Austin. I'm even considering sitting in on her next round of intermediate classes in order to reinforce the material I've already learned. Of course, that will depend on the rigor of UT's classes.

Yep, Austin Community College. It all depends on your professor. I think the overall quality is pretty solid. I went to one of UT's websites where they host some of their audio material and thought it was joke relative to what I've already completed at the same level :/

What is wrong with SA's program?

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Meng Lelan

Well let me ask you what does ACC use for first year Chinese? Those Yale textbooks are really solid material, but San Antonio community colleges are using the same Hanban published and issued textbook series that was rolled out in my Chinese school a year or two ago, and I refused to teach from it after we all struggled and straggled through it for a couple of semesters.

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ablindwatchmaker

The first year students are using Chinese link (level 1) with heavy supplemental material. Aproximately five classroom hours a week. I'm not a big fan, but the audio material and exercises are of excellent quality. I personally think NPCR is a little better, on tbe strength of the vocabulary, but the instructor has integrated the material very well with her supplemental material and make up the difference. The only complaint really is that it doesn't cover as much vocabulary as it could. Otherwise, it's excellent. My instructor refuses to use NPCR though because she thinks it is full of propaganda and too nationalistic. That being said, Chinese link works very well for students planning on using David and helen later.

On another note: david and helen is no joke. I've read people on here take it very lightly, people who think they are breezing through it without an instructor, and i can promise that they are missing a huge amount of the material. Contrary to what is advertised, this book is easily the most challenging second year book I've seen.

Back to the point! The transition between the two series is nearly seamless, and I'm inclined to believe that she uses Chinese link or this very reason! You teach Chinese?! That's extremely impressive. So what's wrong with hanban? I've never used it :/

Sorry, my sentences are choppy and a little muddled. I'm typing from iPhone lol.

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Meng Lelan

I can see why she said that about NPCR. All it talks about is mainland nothing much else. The Hanban textbooks were of course totally focused on the mainland, also it would spoonfeed itty bitty portions at a time. No real life photos or pictures, just mawkish cartoonlike characters as accompanying illustrations with the useless dialogues. I could see the Hanban text being a dealbreaker to beginners coming in expecting a lot more than that.

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ablindwatchmaker

Chinese Link contains many high quality photos and supplementary exercises based on visual contexts. The production quality is top of the line. I just wish it covered more vocab and featured more reading passages. It sounds like Hanban sucks lol.

On another note, I think that anyone who ever accomplishes anything in this language goes far beyond what's available in the classroom. The people who are passionate enough to ever learn it will find alternative routes. That being said, if the material is that atrocious from the outset, it might be that people are being lost to attrition before they have had the chance to get an honest exposure to the material. I didn't entertain the idea of real fluency or pursuing Chinese in the long-term until I was in Chinese 3. Thank the Blindwatchmaker I had a solid instructor and solid material lol.

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