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Bradford

Absolute most cost/time effective way to learn Mandarin in China?

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Bradford

Hey all,

 

This is my first post, after many weeks of lurking. I'm currently an undergraduate in South Carolina, pursuing a degree in Finance. I'm more than halfway done, and I'm already looking for what to do after graduation. I intend to work in China in some fashion, I have some Chinese (Mandarin) ability in the sense that I can say basic phrases and conversation if I struggle. I got tones and basics down in that sense, but when it comes to real time speaking and listening I just can't stand up.
 

I have one more spare Summer left in my college career, and I'm juggling going to China to learn more Chinese, get an internship, or both if I manage to do some program that offers classes and helps with internship placements. What, in the honest opinion of this esteemed forum, would be my best bet?

 

I've been considering small group private Mandarin classes or university classes at Tsinghua or Ocean University in Qingdao, or maybe even Jiao Tong in Shanghai(but the price of living in Shanghai is a bit prohibitive). Which would be most beneficial to my time in terms of a gap summer? I intend to enroll for a year or two in a university after graduation, but for a Summer's worth of classes, what is the best way? University schedule or small private classes? 

 

I feel like I've already answered my question, but after reading many posts on this forum, I respect the opinion of the community and I would love to hear it.

 

Thanks,

Bradford

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stapler

I have never studied Chinese at a university. But from what I've gathered they don't seem particularly better at teaching the language than people are at teaching themselves. Their main function seems to be a disciplinary one (keeping you on track). I think a self-motivated learner with just as much free time can do just as well or better than someone attending university.

 

If you can hack it, this kind of approach to learning Chinese seems to be pretty effective and relative inexpensive.

 

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/43939-independent-chinese-study-review/

 

The question is whether or not you can be that disciplined and have that much spare time.

 

There is no easy way to learn Chinese, and the most expensive options probably arent any better than just getting out there and using Chinese all the time. It all boils down to much how time and effort you invest.

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imron

You will learn more with small private classes.  It will be cheaper if you enroll in a university.

 

If you have the budget, go with small private classes.

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Silent

 

 

University schedule or small private classes? 

A lot will depend on the group and the pace. In general however smaller is better as you'll get more attention and there are better opportunities to tailor lessons to your needs. In private classes this is probably even easier then in equal sized university classes as a university tends to have a fixed curriculum.

 

Their is a danger in adaptability too. If the level and pace are adapted to the level/motivation of the group that may result in a level/pace unsuitable for you. Specially if you don't fit the group well.

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abcdefg

Cost effective and time effective don't always go hand in hand. In fact, they often are at different ends of a spectrum.

 

Imron summed it up in #3, but I would additionally suggest thinking about at least some 1-to-1 classes as well.

 

Regardless of what kind of formal teaching you chose, the single most important factor, in my opinion, is how you use your spare time. If you get engaged in lots of activities with local native Chinese, you will progress faster. It's as simple as that. If you hang out with foreign friends or hole up in your room and watch movies from home, you won't get a good return on investment.

 

Immersion means doing things with all the native speakers that you possibly can, even though at times it will tax your brain. Ask your teacher about the real-life things you encounter on your own. He or she can give you helpful explanations. Carry a small notebook at all times.

 

Of course, do your lessons and use your textbook and do flashcards, etc., etc. -- but the real divider will be how many fun activities you find with new Chinese friends. Seek out Chinese who aren't bilingual.

 

That's what makes the big difference between those who learn fast and those who learn slow, ability and talent aside. Work out some way to eat with new friends, do sports with new friends, go places with new friends. Pretend you don't know any English.

 

Try calligraphy, try Chinese cooking, try Chinese art, music, try Chinese anything. The vocabulary will be easier to acquire if you actually need it in daily life. You must put yourself in the position to need that vocabulary, to hurt for it, to be lost without it. You must leave your comfort zone; you must be bold: you must be fearless.

 

Get an informal language exchange partner or two. Doesn't matter if they are young kids or old folks. It will give you a sampling of different ways of speech, different approaches to life. Fill all your time. Don't depend on your teachers to be brilliant and spoon feed you. The magic doesn't happen that way.

 

OK, that's my 2 Mao. Welcome to the forum.

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Chris Two Times

Pretend you don't know any English.

 

This one sentence can be the key to everything. I award points to abcdefg for writing this. Actually, abcdefg's entire posting above is solid gold.

 

Helping Chinese with their English is nice, but I eventually figured out that if I am always "helping" people with their English, when do I get the chance to use my Chinese?

 

Haha! How many times have I told people that I am from 冰岛 and I only speak 冰岛语 and Chinese? "I don't understand English."

 

I decided to be from Iceland because I was running into Chinese who speak French, German, and Spanish and they could shoot through my lie.

 

Warm regards,

Chris Two Times

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DachZanz

Yeah, you can learn a lot by yourself, but I definitely recommend getting a private tutor or finding a language center (I do both and enjoy both.)

 

Everyone here has given good advice already.  I would recommend getting a good Anki deck started for free, and using somethign like Skritter too.  

 

For me, the thing that catapulted my self-Chinese learning a lot was when I started reading the hackingchinese.com blog.  So I recommend spending some time learning HOW to learn Chinese first, if you feel like your base isn't so strong, or you don't know how to continue from where you are now.

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abcdefg

Please come back, @Bradford.

 

We realize this was your first post, and I for one didn't mean to scare you off by being too brash or intense with my answer. Everyone here has plenty more to say on the subject and we can all help you a lot.

 

Virtually all of us have asked a similar question, either silently or out loud: How to best tackle the project of learning Chinese? We have all had to work around various constraints and co-existing obligations. Time, money, and geography are always valid concerns, as is one's individual personality.

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Flickserve

abcdefg's first post was solid advice as the original question used the word 'absolute'.

The problems occur when we, as learners, have expectations that our minds or bodies can't achieve. I have experienced my fair share of issues and frustrations in the past year but now becoming more comfortable. I didn't think it would take a year to start having simple conversations. Then again, my idea of simple conversations might be different from some other people. I don't know what happened this year as I slowed down on lessons. And then strangely enough, I was able to use more the occasions I have been needing to use Mandarin even with having fewer lessons. Perhaps I was getting stressed with trying to continually learn new vocab whilst not giving time enjoying and using the vocab that I knew.

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