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Good Online Programs for Upper Intermediate Learners?


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I live in the US and work full time - studying Chinese is just a hobby.  I started about 3 years ago, and have learned through a combination of iTalki online teachers and self teaching.  To be honest, most of my learning is self-directed, and I mostly use iTalki teachers to practice conversations for an hour on a topic.


I am curious to try out more structured learning.  However, I can't attend classes during work hours,  and the local community colleges only seem to have beginner classes.  All of the Confucius Institutes around this area have been closed (I'm in the San Francisco area).


I guess I have 2 questions:


1) At the upper intermediate level (I've read 2 native books and have occasional outings with native speaker friends, where probably 90% of the conversations are in Chinese), would formal classes be useful?

2) If so, are there any online classes that are any good at this level?  Would prefer personal experience anecdotes, if anyone has them.


Thanks for your time!

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I suggest you contact a professional Chinese teacher on italki and have him/her assess your Chinese. The teacher may be able to identify areas you should work on the most. I think this woudl be more effective than joining a class. You could also ask a tutor to go through an upper intermediate textbook with you. Again, doing this 1:1 would be much more effective IMO.

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My study is largely self-guided, but I do have a tutor who I meet with 1-2 times per week, and regardless of level I think it is definitely valuable to keep up with tutoring, preferably someone that can guide you toward and help you with native materials you may be interested in. You can go the free route (language partners on tandem, hellotalk, etc.) but I have never found one that has lasted more than a few sessions, plus you will generally spend an equal amount of time teaching them English... which, if you work full time like I do, you know that severely cuts into your own time to study. 


I think at this point it is best to supplement any kind of formal learning you do by assessing what your goals are and working on that thing. I think you need to continue some more formal learning, something that brings greater breadth to the types of conversations in Chinese you may encounter (you can look to ChinesePod, Learning Chinese Through Stories, or a tutor who uses some kind of program for this), but the bulk of your learning from intermediate to advance will likely be determined by how much time you can commit to actively engaging in native content yourself.

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You're in SF... should be very easy to go to go to the local Chinese restaurant or Chinatown thrift shop and find an 阿姨. Be friendly and spark up small conversations while shopping. Repeat for a few weeks and build contacts/relationships with the store owners, employees etc. 


From here, you can tap into their network of friends and family. They will have some who are here and struggle to make friends, struggle with English, struggle with culture shock etc. Now you step in and offer a helping hand. If your goal is Chinese, tell them you'll take the ones who just came over around town or something

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  • 5 weeks later...

I am self-taught as well (studying for 7 years, also work, also is a hobby), but hooked into some schools in China (found on the internet by googling) where I can go for a few weeks a year for private lessons, one on one (should be there now for the next 3 weeks but had to cancel, of course).  Then I continue the one on one lessons at home with a 2 hour a week class to keep me on track (cheaper than the italki professional teacher).  I started with New Practical Chinese reader on my own and did two books of the 6.  The school I went to was using the HSK books (interesting that they have different vocabulary lists- never a shortage of words to learn!).  I'm now about half way through the HSK 5 series with my teacher.  Having a teacher is important to me, because they'll take the time to fix my mistakes, and not let me get lazy with my grammar and word order and patterns.  As I'm at the level where I hope to be able to understand 80% of a Chinese movie or TV show in the next year or two, it's important to understand the 5 meanings of a word, rather than just the one you might have encountered in a conversation.   Since Channel 8/26 in the Bay Area has Chinese shows and movies you can check your progress of understanding spoken Chinese by tuning in once in awhile.


I have had trouble getting below the superficial acquaintance level of Chinese when I run into people so ended up using my profession to meet fellow professionals in China, and I have made Chinese friends that way.  I'm in the SF Bay Area as well, and haven't had much luck making Chinese friends.  I have had iTalki language partners, have had an informal italki tutor to help me with medical Chinese, but depend on my weekly online classes from China to keep me "honest" on my weaknesses and how to progress to an Advanced level. I can say pretty much whatever I want to say on any topic, but understanding spoken Chinese or any given topic is a lot harder as you don't control the narrative or vocabulary.   Keep at it, sounds like you're doing great!

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guided courses are usually very general.  It sounds like you are at a level where you should pick a few a focus of what exactly you want to learn about.  ex: business, health, food and cooking, automobiles


If you prioritize what content you want to learn, then you are bound to learn it. As opposed to taking a course and hoping it applies to your daily life. 


I'm a huge fan of italki, and I'd suggest you continue to use it.  If you wish to continue taking classes from professional teachers, make sure they are very knowledgeable in what you want to learn - not just the basics. 


You could also find people who primarily do what youre interested in learning.  Ex: if you want to learn about cars, find a mechanic or salesman and see if they'd want to do a language exchange for free. 


keep it up

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