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zhouhaochen

Learning Chinese in Chengde: LTL Chengde reviews, discussions and information

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zhouhaochen

This thread is to share information, review and discuss Chinese language fulll immersion courses at LTL Mandarin School Chengde.

 

Chengde - the City

Chengde (not to be confused with Chengdu) is a two hour drive North East of Beijing. The City is located in the mountain range next to the Great Wall, has about half a million inhabitants and due to its high elevation it is is about 5 C cooler than Beijing, which especially during the summer makes it a lot more pleasant than other places in China. In the winter it has a skiing resort next to the city. To escape the hot Beijing summers, In 1703 the Kangxi emperor made Chengde his summer residence. He and several emperors after him built the Mountain Resort (避暑山庄; literally "avoiding the heat mountain villa") in Chengde, today a UNESCO world heritage side and over the years kept adding temples and expand the palace. Even though due to it's imperial legacy Chengde is a quite an important city in Chinese history during the Qing dynasty (The Xianglong emperor fled there during the 2nd Opium War where he also later died) and popular tourist destination, very few people outside of China seem have heard of it.

 

Mandarin in Chengde

The Mandarin spoken in Chengde is considered to be very good if not the best in all of China. Quite a few (including the city's tourism department) claim that the Chengde accent is the most standard in the whole country as due to it's imperial history most of it's inhabitants descendands of the former Qing dynasty aristocracy who spoke 宫话, the palace language on which modern Mandarin is based. Local authorities are currently building the "Museum of Putonghua" in Chengde's Luangping district.

While "the best" and "the most standard" are always debatable, it is certain that the Mandarin you will hear on the streets in Chengde is very close to what you learn in a textbook. In my personal experience even more so than cities like Beijing or Harbin.

 

Immersion

Chengde has no expat community. There are no expat bars, no expat jobs and except the odd foreign tourist or student there are virtually no foreigners. Even when studying a long-term Chinese course in Chengde, chances are that you will not see a single other foreigner during your whole stay. Almost nobody speaks any English. In Chengde you will have to speak Mandarin, like it or not.

 

LTL Mandarin courses in Chengde

LTL offers only full immersion courses in Chengde. That means 100% Mandarin all day. All students live with Chinese homestay families. To make sure foreign students do not meet each other and end up speaking English, we offer only 1-on-1 programs and each student studies at a different location.

Exception: The LTL teachers and support staff in Chengde are all native Chinese, but do speak English, however this is reserved for emergency situations.

 

post-34293-0-85801800-1396659394_thumb.jpgpost-34293-0-34144100-1396659384_thumb.jpgpost-34293-0-20215700-1396659375_thumb.jpgpost-34293-0-43030800-1396659406_thumb.jpgpost-34293-0-16631600-1396659428_thumb.jpg

Social Life

We found that to quickly get ahead with your Chinese, but also to enjoy the experience, it is essential to make local friends. In a place where locals have no experience in dealing with foreigners this can sometimes be tricky. For that reason we have a "Chengde social meeting" with each student before he/she goes there. There the student tells us what he/she enjoys doing (running, singing, football, food or whatever hobbies people have) and we then put that student in touch with local people in Chengde who have the same (similar) hobby, like a running group, choir, football team, etc. These events are not organized by LTL, but by local people who enjoy their hobby together. Once one of our students joined we will not put another student in touch with that group until the other one left to avoid having two English speakers in the group.

In general if you are outgoing and willing to speak to people it is also not that difficult to meet people. Most people in Chengde have never spoken to a foreigner before and are usually very curious to find out about life in other countries. It helps a lot to be pro-active though. Many locals will be very curious about you, where you are from and want to get to know you, but have no idea how. The homestay families are always a very good place to start meeting people and our students often end up spending quite a lot of time with their family and teachers. Like most of China, the city is also very safe.

 

Teachers

The Chengde teaching program is run by the former LTL Beijing Director of Studies who is from Chengde and moved back to be closer to her parents. LTL offers the same teaching quality, certified teachers and curriculum in Chengde as we do at our Beijing school. However to guarantee full language immersion, LTL only offers 1-on-1 and no group classes in Chengde.

 

Whom this program is good for

Students who want to rapidly improve their Mandarin and are willing to live in a 100% Chinese immersion environment.

 

Whom this program is not good for

If you are looking for great nightlife, international food, international friends or are looking for contacts in international companies this program is not for you (have a look at Beijing instead)..

 

Requirements

To start a program in Chengde directly is only possible for students with China experience and who studied Mandarin before. For students who have previously not lived in China, LTL requires them to start their course in Beijing and move to Chengde only after having settled into China. Have a look at the Chinese immersion programs, where the first half of the course is spent in Beijing and the second half in Chengde.

 

Information about Chengde

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/703

http://content.time.com/time/travel/article/0,31542,2079489,00.html#ixzz2ofLSTKlx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chengde

 

Information LTL in Chengde

Chenge Program page: http://www.livethelanguage.cn/learn-chinese-chengde/

Beijing/Chengde combination courses: http://www.livethelanguage.cn/chinese-immersion-program/

Contact: [email protected]

 

 

I am a big fan of this program, am happy to answer any questions and give information regarding LTL Chengde. Feel free to post any questions, experiences or feedback here or email me on [email protected]

Important: for full disclosure please note that I work for LTL Mandarin School.

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zhouhaochen

For anyone who wants to read a bit more about learning Chinese in Chengde:

Here an article in the British Telegraph newspaper about studying in Chengde http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/artsandculture/8752950/China-Language-lessons-in-Chengde.html

 

As there is very little on the English speaking internet about Chengde, here three reports from LTL students who studied there.

 

Luke (UK), complete beginner to HSK 5

Intensive program in Beijing and Chengde to reach fluency within a year

http://www.livethelanguage.cn/the-chinese-immersion-experience/

 

Gibson (UK), complete beginner to HSK 5

Intensive program in Beijing and Chengde to reach fluency within a year

http://www.livethelanguage.cn/the-chinese-immersion-experience/

 

Carolyn (New Zealand)

Learning Chinese as a family (mom, dad and two young teenage sons), two months program Beijing/Chengde

http://www.livethelanguage.cn/learning-chinese-as-a-family/

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zhouhaochen

In case you speak German, there is a pretty interesting article in DIE WELT about studying Chinese in Chengde http://www.welt.de/wirtschaft/karriere/article138182042/Wie-man-Chinesisch-in-nur-einer-Woche-lernt.html

 

If you dont, I have been told there will be an English version be published later. If that happens, I will post it here.

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Flickserve

Just a query. If Chengde is two hours drive from Beijing, why does the train take 5hours as mentioned by tysond?

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imron

The train needs to stop. If it's an older train (e.g. not a bullet train) it will also be travelling slower than a car.

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zhouhaochen

@Flickserve as imron already correctly explained, the train from Beijing to Chengde currently is one of the older variety, which means it is quite slow. They are building a new highspeed train line from Beijing to Chengde (the new train station in Chengde is almost finished) which will cut the travel time significantly. However, it currently it depends on the train, but travel time by train is usually between 3 to 5 hours.

 

At the same time though there is a very good and fast highway from Beijing to Chengde (京承高速路 - Jīng chéng gāosù lù), on which it takes about two hours to get to Chengde (depending on the driver and traffic).

 

For LTL students going to Chengde:

There are plenty of regular shared cars and buses going from Beijing to Chengde and back, however the drivers can sometimes be a bit unreliable with things like promised pick up times in Beijing, luggage space etc.

For us it is very important that everything goes well for our students at the beginning, so we as a standard organize for them to go to Chengde by train, which - even though a bit slower - are reliable and reliability is very important when you are for the first time traveling through the "real China" often with not such good language skills, to a city you have never been to in a country you are not familiar with and potentially a hangover from last Friday night.

 

On the way back we usually organize travel by shared car as it is faster and because after a total immersion course in Chengde most people are very well versed in how things are done in China and can communicate and deal with the particularities of traveling with a private car without problems.

 

We discuss the different transport options with students during their pre-Chengde meeting with our immersion specialist before they go there and if anyone has a specific preference for either transport method, we are happy to organize it that way (there is also the option of a private driver, which is very comfortable, but costs a bit more or public buses which leave quite frequently whenever they are full from Si Hui Long Distance Bus Station).

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zhouhaochen

This Saturday at 13:00 (Chinese time) CCTV 4 will broadcast a documentary about an LTL student's time in Chengde.

 

I asked if they would want me to proof read at least the English subtitles, but they weren't interested, so not sure what it will be like, but probably interesting. I will try to record it somehow and put on youtube later.

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zhouhaochen

A bit delayed, but here it is:

 

The CCTV 5 documentary following one of our students (Sean from Canada) for a week in Chengde is online.

 

If you are outside of China I recommend to watch it on our youtube channel on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfaPrUjHuNU as the CCTV streaming website does not always work that well in other countries. If you are inside China, you can go to the CCTV website and watch it on http://news.cntv.cn/2015/11/07/VIDE1446884039042430.shtml

 

Sean arrived as a complete beginner and studied for 8 weeks with us in Beijing (small group classes), living with a homestay family and then moved to Chengde for 8 weeks (one on one classes & Chinese homestay).

 

The documentary lasts 30 minutes. If you do not want to watch the whole thing, I find is a bit slow going when they are doing stuff in the Chengde Summer Palace, but it picks up after that, especially when they are visiting the "birthplace of Mandarin" (Luanping, a little village in Chengde Distict), which I find a very interesting story.

 

In any case, Chengde is quite an amazing city which surprisingly few people know about outside of China.

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imron

Nice.

 

The CCTV 5 documentary

The watermark says CCTV 4 :mrgreen:

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zhouhaochen

@imron Yes, CCTV 4 not 5 of course....was getting confused with all the different CCTV channels there :wall

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zhouhaochen

And here a short youtube video about Chengde as a city.

 

It is a very different kind of life there compared to Beijing or other larger cities in China - much slower, more relaxed, mountains and completely Chinese without any foreigners. However, keep in mind though this is not for everyone: you will not make international friends or find western food in the city and the nightlife in Beijing or Shanghai is much more exciting.

 

Pretty much the only foreigners in Chengde are the other LTL students and as we have on average only about two to three students there, all living in homestays in different parts of the city and studying 1on1 separately, you will most likely not even see a single foreigner during your stay there.

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zhouhaochen

A few updates from LTL Chengde:

 

1) We finalized all our 2017 prices for Chinese courses and accommodation in Chengde and the Beijing/Chengde combination immersion program

 

2) A very interesting student testimonial about studying in Chengde went online on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okpb63o4L5s

 

and we again had several students going from zero to HSK 6 level within a year with these programs in 2015/16. Just saying.... :mrgreen:

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zhouhaochen

We re-designed our website and have a new page for our Chinese programs in Chengde and our Chinese immersion program

This is much easier now to use on mobile and in general I think a lot prettier. Any thoughts or suggestions on the page or questions regarding the program are very welcome.

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zhouhaochen

We have a brand new web page section for our Complete Immersion Chinese courses in Chengde http://www.livethelanguage.cn/chinese-immersion-program

The holidays are all fully booked out, but during the summer there are still some places left at the moment though probably not for long. Outside peak season there is still availability for pretty much all of 2018.

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zander1

Hey,

 

I was at LTL Chengde for around 6 weeks (after 5 months in LTL BJ) last summer and thought I’d write about my experiences given no one else has. Overall I really enjoyed my experience, but can appreciate it might not be for everyone. 

 

Accommodation

 

I lived in a homestay (at the time this was the only option but I believe they have apartments now) which was located directly opposite the main train station in the main area of town. My family was a couple, their two young kids, and the mother’s mother. They were lovely, always very kind and I liked the eldest kid so much we would play games together pretty much everyday. Each evening the grandma would invite me out dancing but I was usually studying so didn’t go too often. The food was excellent (best I’ve had in china, honestly) and there was always too much. 

 

The negatives were that due to the location the apartment was often quite loud, particularly in the morning rush hour and that there was no air conditioning. Chengde is (noticeably) cooler than Beijing but it’s still quite hot and I often found it very sweaty and had to sleep with a fan. 

 

My mandarin is good so I never actually tried speaking English with any of my family but this might be more of a challenge if your mandarin is more basic. I wanted a full immersion environment so for me it was perfect. 

 

My family was definitely my favorite thing about Chengde and if I was to return I think I’d be very upset if I didn’t stay with them. I still miss the kids quite a lot, especially the elderly with whom I developed quite a bond. Me and the mum still wechat occasionally. 

 

Teaching 

 

I essentially went to Chengde to prepare for the HSK, and the majority of my lessons were structured around that. My teacher was professional and good, and we got on extremely well. I had one teacher for my entire time there. 

 

At first we had classes in my apartment (there is no ‘school’ as such in Chengde) but afterwards I found that a bit stifling and went to a local cafe as lots of other students do.   

 

Social / Other 

 

One of the most fun / almost bizarre things about Chengde is how rare foreigners are and how much of an oddity you are going to be. If you are willing to embrace that, you are going to have a good time. 

 

My teacher introduced me to all her friends and we could go out for dinner at least once a week. She also invited me to her friends’ wedding in a small town outside Chengde which was a real experience. I met some amazing people who I was really sad to leave when I left. I do appreciate however that this is can be a question of language ability, if you can’t understand what people are saying or hold longer conversations, this is obviously going to be less enjoyable. 

 

Chengde is a boring city, no debates there. If you are looking for clubs, nice restaurants or any other amenities that you might get in a larger city you will be severely disappointed. 

 

Personally, I think you get the most out of Chengde if you already have a reasonable level of Mandarin. It doesn’t have to be amazing but your experience will be improved if you do (and can!) get involved with the social side.

 

I enjoyed my 6 weeks, passed my HSK and would possibly go back again depending on my future plans.

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