Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

Jan Finster

How good are people after 4 semesters of Mandarin in college?

Recommended Posts

Jan Finster

I wonder what level the average student and the really good students reach after 4 semesters of US/UK/European college Chinese classes. (assuming they do not go to China on their own on top of that)

  • Good question! 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

somethingfunny

Like most degree courses, this really depends on the individual, and your point of reference.  I didn't study Chinese at university, so I can't relay my own experience.  However, I have met many people who were studying, or did study Chinese at university and their levels were vastly different.  Here are a few examples:

 

1. Experience: Four year degree at a tiny US liberal arts college majoring in Chinese, including a semester in Beijing.

This guy basically maxed out his school's Chinese courses and, on his own account, was known on campus for his Chinese on his return from Beijing.  Two years of full-time living in China later, and he readily admitted his graduation-level Chinese had been "pretty crappy".

 

2. Experience: Two years of Chinese study at SOAS in London, with a couple of brief visits to China, not including any study visits.

This guy's Chinese was very impressive.  He clearly worked very hard, was very intelligent, and absolutely loved learning Chinese.  However, he was top of his class, and would frequently bemoan his classmate's Chinese level.

 

3. Experience: Two years of Chinese study at Oxford.

I wasn't too impressed with this person's level of Chinese.  It was certainly passable, but being at Oxford I would have expected much better.  They didn't seem to have the 'flair' for the language that the other two did, and it had a big affect on their fluency.

 

I've also met people who have minored in Chinese, and their Chinese has, in general, been fairly poor.  I've even met people who minored in Chinese, including a semester of study in China, and they could barely string a sentence together.  On the other hand, I can imagine there are people with a minor in Chinese who speak it very well.

 

So, in conclusion, it could be any level.  If you're top of the Chinese language class at Harvard, then it's likely to be awesome.  If you're bottom of the Chinese language class at Harvard then you'd probably struggle on the street in Beijing.  And whoever you are, as soon as people veer away from 最标准的普通话 you're screwed.  And going back to my initial point - I studied science at university and there were people in my class who pretty much never got anything wrong, and there were other people who really struggled to stay on the course.  Same for Chinese.

  • Like 3
  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

To quote the great linguist Indiana Jones, it ain’t the years, honey, it’s the mileage. Work out the hours and see where you get to - I think there are “hours studied” guidelines for the HSK exams, and the FSI reckons 2,200 hours for... not sure what, I’ve lost that browser tab. 
 

Also, I think pretty much any language degree in the UK would involve a year in-country, which makes the maths much harder. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
abcdefg

I have met quite a few English-speaking foreigners in Kunming who had studied Chinese at University back home. They often had trouble with street-level tasks of daily living on arrival and shortly thereafter. But since they usually had a good foundation, they made progress quite a bit faster than a novice. After an initial period of frustration, they soon became conversational. Some became fluent. Seemed to depend a lot on motivation, on how much they cared. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BanjoSlice

It depends! If you're studying everything in Mandarin, you may get a good enough proficiency level. If you're studying in any other language and only using Mandarin in class, your proficiency will be limited.

 

It also depends on how much time you're willing to put in. I've met some people who were good after a year(2 semesters) but they had spent all their time on Mandarin and nothing else. This choice will also depend on your long term goals, do you see yourself using Mandarin in ten years? If the answer is no, you may not invest much time in it.

 

Bottom line, it's not the time but the desire and "how bad you want it" that counts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PerpetualChange

I minored in Chinese at a small public university. Prior to my arrival the program had just started and I may have been one of the first people to minor in it. Over the course of my minor, I studied 2 years of Integrated Chinese so at that time (2nd Edition) it was the first three books. After that I think I probably had a decent vocabulary (guessing around 1000 words?) but also had gotten stuck in some common pitfalls. After 2 years I:

  • could express myself clumsily on various topics of varying applicability to regular life,
  • could read/write many characters (but didn't realize I probably knew enough to start watching TV dramas and such)
  • had barely ever actually used the textbook's listening component, which was locked away in a dingy language "listening lab", and 
  • had probably had less than a dozen conversations with actual Chinese people 

 

Overall, I think my progress was pretty good, considering that I was doing Chinese as a minor on top of my major, another minor, a campus job (actually, two...), student government, a girlfriend, etc.... Funnily enough, I was still probably the best student in the class of >10, so much so that my Professor was able to help me get a connection to continue my studies in Hong Kong. Not an ideal place to learn Chinese, but when I went to HK my daily encountering of actual Mandarin conversations went from like 0 per day to however many I wanted.

 

What I discovered when I got to HK was that just the way things were being told to me threw me off so much. The speed of people speaking, as well as the native-like sentence patterns they were using. I don't think I learned anything wrong with Integrated Chinese, but my flaw was simply not moving on from it and doing more outside of class. I don't begrudge any year 1 students for just sticking to the textbook and assignments (everyone has to start somewhere, and it's easily to get overwhelmed especially if life calls you to do more than just study Chinese hours and hours per day), but by year 2 I really should have made more of an effort to talk to people and engage with native materials outside of class. I should have pushed myself to do more, and I didn't. Then again, some people in my class knew almost nothing the basics, and got by because the teacher was generous and there was a substantial grading curve. 

 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lu
On 3/1/2020 at 5:39 PM, abcdefg said:

They often had trouble with street-level tasks of daily living on arrival and shortly thereafter.

This was me, after two years of Mandarin. I was a pretty diligent student (I did go to the language lab and listened to the tapes), but when I arrived in China after two years I would not have been able to make my way from the campus gate through registration to my dorm room unaided. Fortunately I had a classmate with much better Chinese who could steer our whole group through it. I would have put my level at the time at about A2 to B1: a good foundation.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
杰.克

The honest truth, if we are saying 4 semesters is 2 years -  still not very good. An average international student, with average studying discipline by the point will be able to meet a Chinese friend and speak only in Chinese , but only if the conversation topic stays on very narrow topics. They would be able to go to a shop, and solve most simple problems. But they would be nowhere near watching tv, having a wide conversation on topics other than their hobbies, they would frequently make mistakes.

 

Many, many, many of the students that i meet that have done a 4 year degree in Mandarin from the UK, 3 years uk 1 in China, have still what i would call very basic Chinese. Theres no shame in this, because it's a tough language, and the click bait nature of fluent in 30 days youtube videos and  courses warps peoples timeframes.

 

This is for the average person, which most of us are. There will of course be outliers, people who are capable of fitting many many more hours of study in. But these are rare

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...