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My rant: Problems with the Chinese Teaching System


self-taught-mba
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My rant: Problems with the Chinese Teaching System

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Note: The below passages were originally intended to be one of my first posts. However, it was written in Word over time and has become kind of a working document as it got longer and longer. Since I’ve last worked on this a couple months ago, many things have changed. But rather than rewrite, I will post this in its entirety as originally written (save for adding links), and provide additional updates separately.

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I finally got around to the saying this because I wanted to finish my introduction which I’ve been putting off forever first (which gives some background about my learning).

I am 90% self-taught but recently attended a couple months of BLCA here in Beijing. For more of my story click here http://www.chinese-forums.com/showpost.php?p=52905&postcount=179

then here http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/6549-the-story-of-my-learning-chinese

Many of the teachers at the BCLA (Beijing Chinese Language Academy) also taught at BLCU. I was less than satisfied with the quality.

Previously, I attended a class for a couple of weeks in the United States and realized I was better off learning on my own. In my MBA program, a program in which communication skills are very important, many of the Chinese students were unable to effectively communicate in English even after 10, 12, or 15 years of study. Many people blame this on the semantics of the language. However, I must disagree on this point because the people from Taiwan were able to communicate orally on a much better level.

After speaking with many of the Chinese students/friends I found that they also were very dissatisfied with the teaching system in China and particularly in regards to language training.

When I came here to Beijing, thinking I would make quick progress, I experienced that the Chinese try to teach language in the same ineffective ways to foreigners as how they do to the native Chinese.

Below I am outlining specific complaints that I have with the Chinese method of teaching Chinese:

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SPECIFIC COMPLAINTS

1) Focus on the written language:

Having known people who worked in China, they say it is not necessary to learn how to write by hand these days, especially if you are a professional because typing is enough. Some people may disagree, however my Chinese classmates in my graduate school were beginning to forget how to write many characters because they had been using computers for so long and thought it wasn’t necessary to write them by hand! However, Chinese teachers/schools still maintain that it is necessary to write them by hand. While this may help some people, it is a simple cost-benefit equation for me; I can learn to read 10 characters (with a proper flash card method) in the amount of time it takes me to learn to write one of them and I find most people are the same.

2) The lack of priorities in teaching:

Many Chinese learning materials and methods teach things in what appears to be a haphazard approach. Many useless words are taught to fill the subject matter of the chapter when students still don’t know important structure words. When I attended the Chinese school here in Beijing, I laughed at my classmates because they knew all the names for so many Chinese food dishes, could recognize the characters for them, and could even write them but had trouble finding the damn restaurant because of speaking/listening and structure skills.

3) Forcing culture down the throat of the student:

How many students have I met that have complained about having to learn about famous poets, songwriters and other such stuff. This also goes towards the priority of learning. As an example, we spent a whole week during the summer on a chapter dealing with hu tong (the famous old building style). While this is interesting it seems as though it is not necessary when we cannot communicate effectively enough yet. (The equivalent would be forcing the study of log-cabin related vocabulary on the learner of American English._

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4) Book / teacher / classroom approach

It seems the standard practice is to find a teacher pay them a set salary, give them a book with minimal preparation and a classroom.

I have problems with these things:

Books:

The majority of the books are only from a couple of sources: BCLU press in China, the Practical Chinese Reader in America. While these are good quality books in many respects they often are lacking in the prioritization department. Furthermore, as we all know PCR books are quite outdated although I know that new ones are coming out now. But books alone are not enough! If you go to any institution of higher learning in America professors often have an abundance of supplementary materials. However, this would require innovation and initiative something that is not as prevalent in China as in America and the compensation system does not reward this.

Teachers:

There is little effort to maintain quality among the teachers at many schools. Many teachers have been teaching the same way for many years and are totally inflexible Re: modernizing the system. “We have always done it this way” syndrome. In America, I often hear that they snatch any graduate student in the linguistics department who is Chinese and have them teach (at least for many lower levels). Here in China, we see the same with native English speakers: just grab anyone they can and think that they are somehow qualified to teach English.

Furthermore, in management we have this expression, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”. This means that appropriate metrics are needed to evaluate teachers, teaching methods, and materials.

Most teachers here have very similar compensations and are rarely, if ever, evaluated in terms of effectiveness. (In my graduate programs, all the students always evaluated the teachers and we saw some nonperforming and non-effective teachers removed). At BLCA and BLCU none of the teachers are evaluated. I hear from almost every other student from every other school that they neither evaluate their teacher nor their materials.

Consequently, teacher turnover is often a problem at many of the schools—all the salaries are very similar and there’s no reward for superior performance. The system does not rewarded risk-taking and innovation in terms of improving materials or methodologies and therefore there is a little incentive to go beyond strict adherence to the chapter outlines.

Classrooms:

Many of us who are self-learners employee a host of tools and resources. This is evidenced by the discussions on this board and others about this dictionary and that dictionary and which sites and software are good etc.

Obviously, there are materials beyond books and tapes which are of tremendous value. Where are these materials? Both in American classes I sat in on and here in China these resources are seldom employed. Sure, there are resources outside of the classroom at some schools but they are seldom if ever integrated into the curriculum and brought into the classroom. We have so many gadgets and assistive technologies, software, electronic dictionaries, tablet PC, Palm pilots, flash card programs etc—why aren’t the Chinese taking advantage of them? (because as I was told “you must learn to write Hanzi by hand, you must understand the culture (including ancient poets), and we have always done it this way”)

I have no problem with people maintaining an old system if it is effective. I conclude that it is not; many of my Chinese friends also conclude that it is not.

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5) Immersion:

As we all know Chinese has so many homophones. There are studies by professors of linguistics which say that pure immersion in Chinese is not very effective for the foreigner. Instead a modified immersion technique is better especially at the beginning levels. However, many programs tout their total immersion method as suitable/best.

6) Pronunciation

Many programs in their incessant focus on writing, leave foreigners with horrible accents and seldom correct their pronunciation. I’ve seen people in class who pronounced every pinyin “c” sound like a “ch” sound and never to be corrected by the teachers. It seems Chinese teachers are often reluctant to correct students. I understand the need to give people face, however so many foreigners in my classmates for the summer course here and when I sat in on a class in America had absolutely horrible pronunciation (my Chinese friends concur). I also think this has something to do with the compensation scheme because there’s no incentive to go above and beyond (although some teachers are nice people and do this).

7) Lack of outside learning

Again this goes towards the idea of priority and usefulness. When we were little, we often went on field trips did we not? How often do Chinese programs try to incorporate this?

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I know these are some major rantings and some major complaints, but I honestly felt cheated by the time that I spent here in Beijing in a classroom (and America). Fortunately, I knew enough to only pay Worldlink / BCLA the “tuition only” option, so I didn’t waste too much money because I found my own accommodations etc.

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WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PROBLEMS?

I have a couple of theories:

1) Love of money

I have been trained as an accountant, in addition to my business training, and know how to add up costs. It seems the schools here are after a lot of money and are unwilling to invest in appropriate learning materials and technologies. Furthermore, if they were to make their teachers accountable to performance standards they would have to provide a modified compensation system. It is simply easier to say: “here’s a teacher (who is never evaluated), here’s a book (outdated and do not focus on useful expressions), and here’s a classroom (with no assistive technologies)”.

2) Resistance to change

It is a natural human characteristic to be fearful and/or resistant to change. The teacher who has been teaching for 10, 20, or 30 years knows that making people write characters out worked in the past. What they don’t realize is that modern technologies have rendered handwriting obsolete for many professionals, and that enhanced technologies and software can cut down on the amount of time spent learning and make one’s time more productive. This is natural for all humans from everywhere, and I saw similar things as an operations manager before. So this is in no means is limited only towards China, but I think the Chinese traditional culture amplifies this affect. This is why industries and corporations often have "change agents" to help overcome these psychological/institutional barriers and implement better systems.

3) Cultural barriers

The Chinese can be protective of their language and view characters as an essential part of not only their language but their culture. How many people have been told and actually believe that it is impossible to learn to speak Chinese without knowing characters? How come a five-year-old can out-debate many foreigners but can’t read yet? In my situation, I learned to speak (up to the C level as they assessed me) without first learning characters. Along the way so many people told me that this was impossible, but when I arrived I was placed in classes with people that had been studying for three to four years in college and I had a larger vocabulary than they did. Yet I was told by the director as she was trying to force me to write by hand “Pinyin will never be Hanzi! Hanzi is Chinese—Pinyin is not! You are here to learn Chinese!”

And I replied (in my most polite Chinese of course):

“No, ma’am I am not here to learn “Chinese”; I’m here to learn how to communicate.”

I could go on and on. There are several more fundamental problems with the Chinese system.

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Please understand what I am NOT saying:

  • I am not saying that everything they do is incorrect.
  • I’m NOT saying that those that wish to write characters by hand, study calligraphy, study other than modern culture, etc are wasting their time.

If one wants to study those things, that is fine. It can be an enriching and enjoyable experience and I too hope one day that I will be able to have a beautiful handwriting style.

>>>>

However, what I am saying is that many students of Chinese are really trying to learn how to communicate and wish to place this need as a priority and that in this regard the Chinese way of teaching foreigners Chinese is not suitable for us.

However, what I am saying is that many students of Chinese are really trying to learn how to communicate and wish to place this need as a priority. In this regard the Chinese way of teaching foreigners Chinese is not suitable for us.

Many of the programs in America still to this day teach the traditional characters and then teach simplified characters starting in the second or third year. This is fine for linguistic majors. Schools in both places spend an inordinate amount of time teaching culture, non-useful words, foods etc. which may be fine for someone learning recreationally but not for the person focused on learning to communicate effectively.

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WHY I MADE THIS RANT

I did this because I was extremely displeased with the quality of the Chinese education system: both from my Chinese friends who felt disappointed in their own learning of the English language and from my own experiences.

Anyway, this has been a very long post but it has been a long time in the making (have been a longtime reader but only recently joined). I’ve been meaning to put up this list of problems for a long time because originally I did hope to attend an intermediate level Chinese course in America and found it not to be suitable (they could write but they couldn’t speak at all—a Chinese friend I brought to visit the class concurred). From that point on I have been very disappointed with the educational system and I thought things would be different here in China.

And I’m not just generalizing from my brief experiences: I have spoken with many other self learners and they said similar things as to why they preferred to learn on their own instead of learning in a classroom. I’ve spoken with the directors of the Chinese Department and the foreign language department at one of the largest universities in the US and they also acknowledged a serious problem. The Chinese students in America are themselves very critical of the way the languages are taught and wonder why the Taiwanese, generally speaking, can speak much better. And my mother is a teacher and I have many friends in the academic community who seem to agree. A good friend of mine is part of a group of Ph.D.’s in educational psychology that is doing a study of language acquisition. The study includes evaluating Chinese language acquisition. Their preliminary findings are already matching up with many of my theories (handwriting not necessary, antiquated methods etc.)

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Opening a School?

Finally, I’m doing this because for the past month or so I have been considering starting my own school. After the very disappointing experience here, I said to myself “I can do better”. Of course I won’t teach personally but I would find quality teachers and hold them accountable and add appropriate technologies. Furthermore, I have a passion for the Chinese language especially in regards to those that are in my similar situation and have experienced similar frustrations or are reluctant to learn Chinese because of the length of time involved. I came here to China to look for job, to do some research on Chinese companies, and to go to school. I am thinking that perhaps I have found an opportunity. This is not the opportunity I was looking for (a management position with an international company) but it seems to have landed in my lap because of my experiences here—Never underestimate the power of the dissatisfied customer!!

When I add up the costs and I see that the private schools are raking in the money but are not providing the best education possible I get quite upset. It is quite obvious in many cases that these endeavors were started by a businessperson who was not a learner of the Chinese language but saw an opportunity. In some cases, they own schools in multiple countries. Then, they just turn it over to a Chinese director who tries to employ the Chinese approach to teaching foreigners. I may not be a native speaker but I understand the mindset of the self learner.

Why are most of the schools only run by the Chinese? This makes no sense. Of course the teachers should be Chinese, but the methodologies should be tailored and adapted for the foreigner by those who understand the foreigner. (Of course some of the best Chinese professors in America are not Chinese at all because they can teach it in a way that is suitable for their audience).

There are those here who might disagree with me on this point. However, I would argue that this forum proves otherwise. We all find this forum valuable because we can help each other understand concepts which may have not been included or explained in a suitable manner to us by the Chinese teaching methods or materials. (How many of those out there have sat in class and your fellow classmates help each other explain different concepts “Oh I think this usage is similar to the English phrase or situation…”) My point is, obviously you need Chinese instructors but some of the learning could be better explained in conjunction with a foreigner.

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REQUEST FOR FEEDBACK

I would like to know everyone’s thoughts about my criticisms of the Chinese teaching process (please remember I mean this only for those of us who have a focus on communication not those of us who take on Chinese for interest and enjoyment etc. if you find the experience enjoyable the old way I am not here to criticize that).

I also would like to know what people think of me opening a school—I won’t lie, I want to earn some money doing it but that’s not my primary focus. I’ve been doing budgeting and I’ve planned to spend $800 plus in software/materials for each student, buy everyone a PalmPilot (with software), and invest in computer labs and computer-based learning to augment classroom training. I also have found a couple teachers willing to start with me but I have to pay them three times the average wage if I am to hold them accountable and evaluate them regularly and ensure no turnover (another problem I saw here—5 teachers in 2 months!!!). In short I plan on going all out if I do this.

Therefore, I know I can’t earn as much as some of the other schools, but I do care about the quality above anything else. I wonder if there’s enough interest out there for this kind of thing? Are there enough of us “I want to learn to communicate and quickly kind of people” out there? Is this just a pipe dream of a dissatisfied customer? I want to give others my idea of an ideal learning environment—but is my ideal the ideal for enough people out there? I know my learning situation is pretty unique, and that may give me a different perspective from the typical Chinese learner (you can read about my learning experience in my introduction here: XXXXX).

If you’ve read this far you deserve an award and I appreciate it and appreciate your comments.

Note: Here ends the original text updates will be posted below but I still would like to hear your thoughts

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I think if you want to open a school with different learning priorities from the school its fair game. I'm sure there's lots of foreigners that would like to learn typing before writing, for example. I have self-studied for a year now and lived in China and have a Bachelors in Canada so now I'm thinking about doing a masters in Chinese maybe a few years in the future. But to do this I need academic references and experience in the schools here, so I'm going to Fudan this Feb. One other thing you should think about for your school is whether the students there will be able to pass the high HSK's because this is what is recognized by industry, unless I'm wrong. But I wish you good luck with your school!

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““No, ma’am I am not here to learn “Chinese”; I’m here to learn how to communicate.”

And there you have summed up your entire post. You can’t get mad at an apple for not being an orange. And you shouldn’t get mad at a school that tasks itself to teach you about “Chinese language AND culture” for not spending all its time on teaching you conversational Chinese. An argument could be made that you are there to learn how to speak Chinese not how to communicate. Or at least that is the feeling your post gives off. Oftentimes communication will involve an understanding of the culture. An example when someone complements you on your Chinese and you say 哪里哪里, 我的语法不好。All you have said to them is “no, my grammar is not very good” but you have communicated your thanks for their complement and shown them they you have at least a basic understanding of the culture.

Having never studied at BLCA, but as a current student at BLCU, I felt compelled to comment and correct a few mistakes in your post. I’m not sure about short term students but I as a one year student we just finished an evaluation of our class last week We also were asked to gauge the pace of the class, what areas we considered most and least important and which areas we found the most difficult and easiest. Also I know teachers are evaluated in part at least on how their students do on exams if many of a teachers’ students fail it looks bad for them and since the school prepares all the exams a teacher doesn’t have the option of making the test easy so everyone passes.

It is important to note the purpose of the school is not just to teach you how to communicate in Chinese. You can find hundreds of tutors all around Beijing for less than $7 USD an hour (assuming you want someone with a degree in teaching Chinese as a foreign language) that will be happy to do just that. You enrolled to a school whose job is to teach you Chinese (this involves reading, writing, listening, and speaking) and the culture of china.. It is all but impossible to pick up and read most writings without coming across idioms and other cultures references. One can learn how to speak without paying attention to culture, but they will never be able to communicate.

Writing, yes it takes a long time to learn and is not easy to do. It does help students learn the difference between 宋體[宋体] and 行書[行书] yes flashcards are great for learning Song Style script but if you want to be able to learn to read Running script with any proficiency it will be quicker to learn to write it yourself than read and recognize all the variations of it. Of course you could just ignore行书 all together but many of Beijing’s signs and notices are posted it some form of it and it is immensely helpful to know. Pinyin is not an acceptable replacement for hanzi trying to read pinyin is enough to give someone a headache as often you have to read it out loud to figure out what they are trying to say. Imagine on a test a student writes “de” do they mean 的得or地

I’m confused a bit by your comments on books. The NPCR have been out for awhile but they are BLCU press books as well. The only commonly used American Chinese textbook I know of is Integrated Chinese. Although I do know a good number of Universities in the US make their own text. While the teachers may not give it to you there is an abundance of supplementary learning materials for many of the textbooks just walk into any of the school bookshops and you can’t miss them.

Again with regards to field trips I’m not sure about short term students but semester and year students do have field trips arranged by the school which are free to go on. And there are many that are set up to places around Beijing and China that are very cheep.

I feel the Chinese education system is far from perfect. But I also feel the problem most western students have with it is that the education system like the culture are very different than that of most western countries. Once one starts to understand the Chinese culture, then the education system starts to make sense and both of them no longer seem like obstacles to obtaining your goal level of Chinese proficiency whatever that maybe.

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I work with about 10 private Chinese language schools throughout China which were started for all the very reasons you mentioned. Yes, please go for it and start your own school for the more private Chinese Language Schools in China there are, the better.

Sharing your frustrations re. textbooks, I wrote a series called "Chinese Made Easier" which does exactly what you say you want: high on communication and low on writing Chinese characters. It is published in China. Look up my website ("Chinese Curriculum") for more details. www.chinesemadeeasier.com

Best of luck with your school.

Martin

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I have not yet been to China but I am looking forward to it... one thing I have noticed about your post is that its pretty ethno centric and seems to be railing against the very thing youre there to do... if you wanted to learn just to "communicate" then then surely you could do that at an adult ed class in a western country... it only does pinyin and may make you feel more comfortable... I have only just started to learn Mandarin at Uni level and our teachers are Chinese... they use characters more and more as our skills develop and it becomes very clear that pinyin cannot replace characters the further along we go... It seems to me that if you forgoe learning the culture and characters then you miss alot and wont progress very far... of course I could be wrong as I am pretty much a beginner...

I like Craigs post... sums it up well...

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I would just like to point one thing out - Hanzi are in themselves the solution to the primary chinese communication problem: Mutually unintelligible "dialects".

If you shun learning characters you severly limit the number of situations in which you can communicate with chinese persons.

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Thank you for taking the time to reply and to write in length. I appreciate your efforts. While reading your response, I felt that you didn’t quite understand some of my points. Perhaps I did not elaborate enough. It also somewhat that you followed some of my other posts here:

“And there you have summed up your entire post. You can’t get mad at an apple for not being an orange. And you shouldn’t get mad at a school that tasks itself to teach you about “Chinese language AND culture” for not spending all its time on teaching you conversational Chinese.”

But I can get mad at an apple for pretending to be an orange please see the post here:

http://www.chinese-forums.com/showpost.php?p=57071&postcount=40

Oftentimes communication will involve an understanding of the culture.

You are quite right. Your “Na li na li” example is a perfect example. What I’m referring to is what I would call non-important or non-priority culture. I understand that culture is a part of communication. Please go back and read my point.number three. Look at the examples I gave: spending an entire week on hu tong related items, ancient poet’s,

The example you gave is what I call “relevant culture”. This would also include not sticking your chopsticks straight up in the bowl of rice and such. I’m not saying that other culture is totally irrelevant. I’m saying that there is a priority to things. Or at least there should be. This is the entire outlook of my posts, which I believe you completely bypassed.

As I said we could teach Chinese in America about a log cabins and perhaps Beowulf. Technically speaking, they are a part of our history and culture as Americans, but what is the weight of this? Is this more important than teaching them to not spit out food on the table/saucer in a restaurant. (not judging here, just noting a difference)

There are entire courses at institutions of higher learning that are devoted towards nothing but culture without mixing language. Learning the language can be hard enough as it is without adding in unnecessary (at least one first learning) culture items. I’ve taken graduate-level courses on Chinese culture, that required absolutely no understanding of the language (or very little). They were quite enjoyable. Ask a student who is majoring in East Asian culture studies. It is completely possible to learn many parts of culture in depth outside of the language class.

But I digress . . .

I understand that my way of thinking is not for everyone.

In fact I said:

I’m NOT saying that those that wish to write characters by hand, study calligraphy, study other than modern culture, etc are wasting their time.
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You can find hundreds of tutors all around Beijing for less than $7

This is my point, if they were to hot to teach in the traditional way they aren’t really teaching me communication.

You enrolled to a school whose job is to teach you Chinese (this involves reading, writing, listening, and speaking) and the culture of china.. It is all but impossible to pick up and read most writings without coming across idioms and other cultures references. One can learn how to speak without paying attention to culture, but they will never be able to communicate.

I would proffer that the definition of Chinese, for many professionals now includes typing rather than writing.

I am not saying to ignore culture, but rather have some focus and priorities.

I believe there’s no better way to learn culture then to be able to learned firsthand through communication. Having students reach a competent level of communication first will allow them to quickly build culture later.

flashcards are great for learning Song Style script but if you want to be able to learn to read Running script with any proficiency it will be quicker to learn to write it yourself than read and recognize all the variations of it.

Again, it depends on how much value you derive out of this. I will not argue with your point. Of course writing a character will probably give you a deeper understanding. Is that deeper understanding worth the cost that you pay for it? For me and many other professionals the answer is no. And when I come here on a short-term course with a limited time frame, I have to prioritize.

Pinyin is not an acceptable replacement for hanzi trying to read pinyin is enough to give someone a headache as often you have to read it out loud to figure out what they are trying to say.

I never said this. I am referring to writing by hand. Knowing and recognizing characters is sufficient for typing. In fact I never said that one should not learn to recognize characters.

But either way:

  1. Go to zhongwen.com engage in the pinyin chat.
  2. Ask Chinese professionals in America about their opinion about typing versus handwriting. (from the other posts: my MBA classmates seldom if ever row by hand and many had begun to start forgetting how to)
  3. Speak with some people here who have worked in China but cannot write by hand: a few weeks ago I met with they lawyer who has been in China for 15 years and has a decent law practice, as well as a CPA firm. He is a CPA, MBA, lawyer, and Ph.D. He and many in his circle get by quite fine working in China simply by recognizing and typing characters. It is not that they are specifically avoiding learning these things, it is just not worth it to them after a quick cost / benefit analysis.

Mostly, I am referring to short-term programs. Of course, the longer one goes priorities become less strict. Of course, if you are here for one year you can afford to adjust priorities differently than if you are here for one month. In fact, if you are here for one day you might have different priorities altogether, as a simple phrase like where is the toilet becomes the number one priority.

But look at some of my examples from other posts. Placed with students who had been here for year, and students that had studied in the US from two to four years, they had horrible pronunciation. They could write almost every food item on the menu but can’t find the restaurant because their conversational skills.

Meanwhile, I get by just fine but can’t write a lick (and I’m very happy about that because I type instead)

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1) Your teachers are right to teach you how to write. You can only have a kind of hazy knowledge of Chinese if you don't know how to write the characters, but can kind of guess at some of them when presented to you. You are looking for an easy way to learn Chinese, a shortcut. I suggest you get your head down and learn the characters.

2) Yes, it is true that some odd words appear in some textbooks. But most courses will over a book or two show you the main structures of Chinese. I think if you are living in China, it is useful to learn the names of Chinese dishes! The teachers did well to teach them those things!

3) Culture: yes, it is true, your teachers are assuming they are dealing with intelligent, interested students. It makes it interesting to learn some Chinese culture and not just have some silly story as a text.

4) It is true that teachers are glued to the texts, but the point of textbooks is to make it easier for the teachers as well as the students. The Practical Chinese Reader books 1-4 would give you a good grounding in Chinese. It makes no difference that the textbook is dated, the PCR books will walk you through the Chinese language. Supplementary materials are not really required, especially if you are in China!!! The main thing is that you need to learn the characters as you progress through a course. Go down the market and buy some lamb kebabs - that is the supplementary material you need.

You are right that China assumes that any native speakers can teach English, but it is partly a case of having a large demand for native speakers and a finite supply, so beggars can't be choosers. I am aware myself of how poor the English of many native speakers is, and even how poor the English of native speakers graduating in English can be, but the Chinese make the logical assumption that graduates will have better English than non-graduates, and graduates in English will have better English than graduates in other subjects. It doesn't always hold true, but it is a reasonable assumption on their part.

Books and tapes are all that are needed to learn a language. The Chinese teachers don't need to introduce gadgetry. Simply put, hard graft is required and you are trying to shortcut through that. Apply yourself and learn something.

5) The value of immersion depends on the level already achieved. It is said that the IUP programme at Qinghua and other similar programmes are very good, but you need to know a certain amount of Chinese to begin with.

6) One of the few comments you make that are worthwhile relate to pronunciation. But I suspect the teachers feel that there is really little they can do about the fact that most students are going to get a really lousy pronunciation in Chinese. You would never learn anything if everyone was corrected each time he made a mistake. I think even intermediate and advanced classes should spend time every day on tones and tone combinations, but I suspect that those students would object to wasting too much time on that as they were already advanced students - albeit with lousy pronunciations.

7) Chinese programmes frequently incorporate field trips! But you said you didn't want any culture....Some people can't be helped.

Love of money: in the end the training of the teacher, the quality of the book etc is not as important as you are making out. It takes YOU to knuckle down and learn the characters. So the main work is done by YOU, OUTSIDE the class.

Resistance to change: much gagdetry is just a collection of gimmicks. You can't have a good grasp of the characters if you never write them. Your teachers are right. You need to improve your attitude or you will never learn.

Cultural barriers: you can learn a basic level of communication without characters, but as you progress further it is harder and harder to understand the words unless you can see what characters are being used. You explain how you "sassed" your Chinese teacher by saying that you are not here to learn Chinese but to learn how to communicate. You are simply a rude student. You are lucky your teachers are patient with you.

You are used to being spoonfed. Chinese is for self-starters, not those who need to be spoonfed. If you want a communication-led approach with no characters, I suggest Routledge's Colloquial Chinese by Kan Qian.

Personally, I think your business plan is OK if you are going to charge the same price as elsewhere. Otherwise it sucks. And your 9 posts are just an extended commercial advertisement. Just being in China, you can brush up your Chinese. As you travel on buses you see so many characters in shop windows, you can mentally write those characters and reinforce what you have learned. So you don't need a really expensive course to learn Chinese, with loads of nonsense gadgets. I think the reason why IUP and similar programmes work is that they give the learner hundreds of characters to learn, 5 hours of homework to write, and very tiny classes. Make the students put in the donkey work of learning characters and words, and give them tiny classes - that is all that is needed. Otherwise, you are just hoping to profiteer on the back of the dissatisfaction of the lazier students, and are unlikely to teach them any faster than existing methods. Too much meaningless gagdetry gets in the way. I use Wenlin a lot, but am beginning to feel worried that I cannot write many of the characters because I use computer programmes too much.

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The big point of my post is about priorities.

If there was enough time in the world of sure we would all like to study Chinese first long as it took to be proficient with everything. Some of us don’t have the 3, 5 or seven years to do so. If I was still not undergrad, and I wasn’t working at the time, I would love to devote a year or two over here. But that is not an option for me or for many others. We need to learn how to communicate. So we may disagree about what exactly communication is, so I’ll just say for those with a limited time certain PARTS of the communication learning are more important than others. It is about priorities.

And as indicated in my other posts, the way the Chinese mainlanders get results out of their teaching system versus the Taiwanese leads me to believe that there’s a systemic problem with priorities and methods. If their (mainlanders) goal was to learn complex English literature and Beowulf (which I’ve met many who actually studied that) then perhaps they have succeeded. But if it was to communicate enough to get them a good job in the US, then I would say they failed, or rather the system failed them. Their knowledge of classical literature may have been interesting but it certainly didn’t help them get a job.

It was sad to see good friends of mine go back home when company after company said they lacked necessary communication skills. The Taiwanese had increased success, I believe because they have a focus on a different part of communication. So I’m not here to gloat or to make digs at the system. And I take no joy in that because it was painful to watch good friends of mine (intelligent, hard-working, and well-qualified except for communication) have to leave the country after a year of searching, or take a job lower than what they should have. Nor did I enjoy hearing back from those I tried to help with references or the people I referred them to, that their communication skills were lacking.

The NPCR have been out for awhile but they are BLCU press books as well. The only commonly used American Chinese textbook I know of is Integrated Chinese

The original practical Chinese reader (as I opened up two different versions of which abroad from America) were published by the Commercial Press Co. Ltd. The PCR series is the most popular in America although Integrated Chinese has been gaining ground. I have friends in the publishing business, and if you don’t believe me look at the ubiquitous amount of information online concerning the PCR series versus the other ones.

Again with regards to field trips I’m not sure about short term students but semester and year students do have field trips arranged by the school which are free to go on.

Again, I am mostly focusing on short-term. But are these courses integrated into the curriculum?

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But I also feel the problem most western students have with it is that the education system like the culture are very different than that of most western countries. Once one starts to understand the Chinese culture, then the education system starts to make sense and both of them no longer seem like obstacles to obtaining your goal level of Chinese proficiency whatever that maybe.

This is the part that I actually took a little bit of offense to although I will always respect your opinion and appreciate your saying it. This is what I call the, “You are criticizing because you don’t understand,” attack (or defense of the traditional system). You know, doing some consulting work, I’ve heard that before. In fact, my friends in consulting say this is one of the biggest barriers to improving systems. If only they would just try harder to understand . . . if someone criticizes a process that must be that they don’t understand it.

What I’m saying is that there are people who do understand the process, appreciate it for what it is (or what used to be (the old way used to make more sense than now) because many things have changed with the advent of technologies), and still disagree with it.

But remember the section about what I was NOT saying. I was not trying to knock anyone that enjoys spending long periods of time, or learning lots of things about culture or learning to write different scripts by hand. I just don’t find it necessary to reach a level that I’m comfortable with. Nor do I think the associated costs equals the benefit.

I knew I would catch a hard time for some of things I said. I had a little bit of a hard time the last time I made a similar post. Whenever one criticizes, or tries to improve upon something there will be resistance to change. I find is particularly true with learners of Chinese as some people have a great affinity for the culture and find any criticism thereof to their disliking. I’ve seen this particularly on this board. (I member a gentleman remarking about the inefficiency of operations regarding labor. He was quickly blasted, regardless of the fact that he was applying typical management philosophy and measures of efficiency that are used throughout the world.) Perhaps, this is why I receive private messages from members indicating their support and a reluctance to state their opinions in public.

(this will be the topic of a future post that I am currently writing on a Word document)

I understand that you may be one of the people that is happy with the current system, and I’m not here to knock that. I’m happy that you are happy with BLCU. However, BCLA and the BCLU are not for everybody. (Future post: I have other faults with BLCU: class sizes getting too large, Koreans taking over [OK I better fix the statement before I address it later: I have nothing against the Koreans but as this board shows, sometimes it is easier to get explanations in one’s own native language and having mixed nationalities without a common language can create problems. And yes I do love Korea and yes I have lived there before but I figured I would get in trouble and someone will accuse me of not liking them] ) And neither will my school before everybody. (I am, little bit different and maybe more business minded / practicality based than some others. Although I do learning about other cultures just not so much at the same time)

Please don’t knock my opinions as a mere lack of understanding of the culture. But nonetheless, I honestly appreciate your feedback, and dissenting opinions are always important—from both sides.

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If you shun learning characters you severly limit the number of situations in which you can communicate with chinese persons.

I didn't do this. I'm talking specifically about handwriting characters, although I have known many professionals that can only speak and seem to get by.

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