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My rant: Problems with the Chinese Teaching System


self-taught-mba
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The real scam is the so-called Chinese language training that all the universities in China dole out.
胡说. I'm sure this needs rephrasing!
I would pay $1 million if someone could get me to native-level fluency in short amount of time.
How short is short? (Also, besides the $1 million, one also needs brains, dedication & a positive attitude. Make sure that you've got them all! :mrgreen: )
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What does learning the four tones have to do with communicating? Actually, I would say the primary reason students speak poorly is because they are drilled the four tones. Think about that.

I dont wish to appear uncharitable but you must be the comic relief right...??? Are you seriously suggesting that the 4 tones that comprise a major part of the language are unnecessary for communication in Mandarin...???!!! It might be of some courses that too much time is spent on drilling them but to dismiss them is frivolous to say the least...

I'd pay $10,000 a week if it really worked. Heck, I would pay $1 million if someone could get me to native-level fluency in short amount of time.

I don't know if this is a scam or not, but it doesn't seem that way to me. The real scam is the so-called Chinese language training that all the universities in China dole out. If this guy can do it better, then he deserves to make money.

You should spend more time studying yourself than expecting miracles from others... not only would it save you money but it would help you more... I dont think this is a scam but it certainly appears a gimmick.. for someone who wishes to tackle conversational chinese only its tremendously expensive... and while some unis (not just in China) are quite woeful in their method of teaching it can be said more students are more woeful in their method of learning...

MBA guy... I dont think this hostility is aimed at you personally and if the other language schools went to the public for feedback they would probably get the same, in fact I have read fairly scathing reviews of the likes of world link and so forth regarding cost as well..

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Gotta go to bed (come back to this in between my work) but had to say this:

are quite woeful in their method of teaching it can be said more students are more woeful in their method of learning...

&

ne also needs brains, dedication & a positive attitude. Make sure that you've got them all!

I completely agree. That's why I also care about the morale at the place. It is gonna be hard work, no doubt. I think some people think I am trying to remove the hard work part--I am not. I am just trying to get more results for a given amount of hard work.

In this regard there is no shortcut. The best methods in the world will do NOTHING with an unwilling or lazy (or close-minded maybe) student. And this applies to all learning, everywhere and even if somehow the Chinese learning system was changed tomorrow to my ideal, it would still require effort. I just want to maximize results for input.

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Yeah, I've had other language schools (well, a language school. Who will remain nameless. Maybe.) refuse to buy advertising on here as I refused to give them editorial control over posts referring to them.

A scam would be deliberately fraudulent, and it isn't the right word to use here. It's a fairly ambitious scheme which will succeed if it finds people to pay for it and achieves the results it aims to, or fail otherwise. I don't suspect for a minute there's a deliberate attempt to dishonestly seperate people from their money, otherwise this thread would have been gone long ago. If it offers value for money is another matter, but if it is an attempt to 'fleece' people, then a lot more trouble than necessary has been gone to.

Roddy

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Ok couldn't sleep, to much on my mind. anyway Green Pea

What does learning the four tones have to do with communicating? Actually, I would say the primary reason students speak poorly is because they are drilled the four tones. Think about that.

Initially, I would disagree, (but thanks for all the other support:) ). But perhaps I don't understand, can you explain what you mean?

I'd pay $10,000 a week if it really worked. Heck, I would pay $1 million if someone could get me to native-level fluency in short amount of time.

Sorry, buddy you're too advanced already, and I never said "fluency" (is that even possible for us mortals? :mrgreen: ) but for 1 million dollars maybe I can come up with something. (in about 20 years after brain-transplants are doable and Da Shan has kicked the bucket) :mrgreen:

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You're site looks great MBA putting aside our differences in educational theory a few questions that came to mind when reading your site.

1. If a student already has a PDA would there be a discount in the price? or would you want them to buy yours as well as I’m assuming someone with the school will be able to troubleshoot problems with the particular PDA you buy. Same questions with other software ie if they have wenlin already will they need to buy another license? (say a student who tried to self study like yourself only they got frustrated and decide to enroll in a school instead).

2. Has your teaching method been tried before with students? If so testimonials of the method (even if it isn't your school) would be a nice addition somewhere on the site showing that your method is proven and not just a theory.

3. How did you arrive at 8 hours a day of instruction? Well slightly less than 8 after breaks and such I’m sure but you know what I mean. Did you factor in laws of diminishing returns into your schedule by the 8th hour on Friday afternoon I imagine even the most enthusiastic student will be tired? I have a few 6 hour days (last two with a tutor) and find them very tiring with the last hour my retention very low. Also how long outside of class will students be expected to study (i.e. the IUP website says for each classroom hour students are expected to study one hour independently). Surly it will be less than this but even if it is half that means 12 hours of work a day, if someone isn’t used to studying like that they may burn out before 4 weeks is up.

4. What will the tutors work with students on? Will they primarily work on areas students have problems? or will they help with their homework or both. If tutor sessions are independently tailored to students needs saying so would be a nice addition. Are your tutors independent contractors? Or will they be full time again if so stressing there close association with your school is another area which would help set you apart from other private language schools. As Chinese tutors go for 20-30USD back home personally I would like to see that section stressed much more on the site but at least section in the FAQ dealing with them would be nice.

I think you market your site very well it looks clean and information is each to find. Some concerns I had.

1. a one year college course on average teachers around 800-1000 words with no class on Sunday that means each student will have 33-38 new words to learn every night. What would happen if a student were to fall behind?

2. What if a client has difficulty with technology? Will someone be able to teach them the ins and outs of their PDA and software?

I applaud you for posting your ideas on here and dealing with the criticism you receive I agree when it was said that any private school that came here would receive the same so don’t feel singled out. Rest assured if you are able to convince people here that your costs are justified you will be able to convince most people. Whereas even if they don’t study with you they will understand you’re pricing.

ps i too was driven crazy by the sound.. right clicking and stopping it worked also if you use firefox you can disable the flash on the site.

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I dont wish to appear uncharitable but you must be the comic relief right...??? Are you seriously suggesting that the 4 tones that comprise a major part of the language are unnecessary for communication in Mandarin...???!!! It might be of some courses that too much time is spent on drilling them but to dismiss them is frivolous to say the least...

Do notes make music? Can you sing a song without knowing the notes?

Why do Chinese people have a hard time knowing what the correct "tone" is? What body of research says learning "tones" leads to fluency? How come I can speak with the wrong tones and be understood, whereas I can also speak with the correct tones and not be understood?

You should spend more time studying yourself than expecting miracles from others... not only would it save you money but it would help you more... I dont think this is a scam but it certainly appears a gimmick.. for someone who wishes to tackle conversational chinese only its tremendously expensive... and while some unis (not just in China) are quite woeful in their method of teaching it can be said more students are more woeful in their method of learning...

No one is suggesting an easy way or miracles. However, I am looking for low hanging fruit, rather than just digging up the roots. I think many of the basic assumptions that go into learning Chinese should be challenged. Why do we study "The Four Tones"? Why do we "Write by Hand"? Just because that's the why it always been done, right? Where did this from learning strategy mindset come from? Who invented it? What if it's wrong or inefficient? What if there is a better way? I think a little creativity and imagination is needed rather than such unquestioning loyalty to orthodoxy. At least this guy is trying. But he will have a hard time because his teachers and students will probably have been so indoctrinated into one way of teaching/learning.

Sorry, buddy you're too advanced already, and I never said "fluency" (is that even possible for us mortals? ) but for 1 million dollars maybe I can come up with something. (in about 20 years after brain-transplants are doable and Da Shan has kicked the bucket)

That's the attitude! You probably will.

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I'l just say one thing, tones are an indespensible part of the chinese language, they were not invented to piss foreigners off, they have a specific purpose. If you dont study the tones your prononciation will be off and you'll (obviously) never obtain flencey..,

If you are not speaking with tones, you are not speaking chinese.

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Why do Chinese people have a hard time knowing what the correct "tone" is?
You are confusing the written form with the spoken. Native Mandarin speakers do know how to pronounce most words with the correct tones, though they may not how to write it down in pinyin, just like most native English speakers know the correct pronunciation of most words, though they may not know how to spell some of them. Following this analogy, one might think of learning Chinese without learning the tones as like learning English without learning the spelling of words. In either case, a non-native learner would have serious trouble after getting past the beginner stage.
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I'l just say one thing, tones are an indespensible part of the chinese language, they were not invented to piss foreigners off, they have a specific purpose. If you dont study the tones your prononciation will be off and you'll (obviously) never obtain flencey..,

If you are not speaking with tones, you are not speaking chinese.

Following this analogy, one might think of learning Chinese without learning the tones as like learning English without learning the spelling of words.

Both of you are confusing a learning process and the results. Where did I say not to speak Chinese correctly or without "tones"? You can speak Chinese perfectly without studying the "tones". It's called pronunciation. I know it may sound counter-intuitive, though. I contend the conscious effort to speak with tones usually inhibits proper pronunciation for the student because there is a lot more to speaking Chinese than just the tones. However, teachers, students, and books obsess over "The Four Tones" at the expense of solid pronunciation and natural speech patterns. Speak Chinese, not the "tones". I'll leave it at that. This thread is now way off topic.

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This thread is now way off topic.

It would be less off topic if you said what you thought rather than inviting us to 'think about that' and asking a bunch of questions you obviously believe you know the answer to. I'll assume you were trying to build up some suspense.

I agree that teaching tones in isolation is of limited use. They are often taught almost as separate even from pronunciation, and there's a disastrous tendency to cover them intensely at the very start, then abandon all teaching of tones on the basis that we will either 'pick them up as we go along', or 'will never get them right anyway', rather than come back to them at regular intervals to make use of the increased exposure and practice students have had. It's another example of where new methodology is badly needed.

Roddy

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I honestly don't know a single person who is already in business and is now trying to learn Chinese in order to enter the Chinese market.

Trevelyan, just for the record :), that's exactly why I'm planning on going to China. I'm a software consultant (since 1981), and I feel this is a good direction for me to expand.

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Do notes make music? Can you sing a song without knowing the notes?

Yes they do and no you cant... at least not well... if you know the notes then your singing is a hell of a lot better... you may try to imitate the song but you wont be singing it correctly... if the notes are explained to you you have a better chance at doing it properly...

Why do Chinese people have a hard time knowing what the correct "tone" is? What body of research says learning "tones" leads to fluency? How come I can speak with the wrong tones and be understood, whereas I can also speak with the correct tones and not be understood?

This has been covered but the last part about correct and wrong being not understood and understood sounds fishy...

No one is suggesting an easy way or miracles. However, I am looking for low hanging fruit, rather than just digging up the roots. I think many of the basic assumptions that go into learning Chinese should be challenged. Why do we study "The Four Tones"? Why do we "Write by Hand"? Just because that's the why it always been done, right? Where did this from learning strategy mindset come from? Who invented it? What if it's wrong or inefficient? What if there is a better way? I think a little creativity and imagination is needed rather than such unquestioning loyalty to orthodoxy. At least this guy is trying. But he will have a hard time because his teachers and students will probably have been so indoctrinated into one way of teaching/learning.

If you want the fruit isnt it better to cultivate the whole tree... take care of the roots and tree with flourish... I do agree that for some priorities and focus need to be taken into account and perhaps also the way in which it may be taught... but I also see far too many complain due to a little hard work... they do NO study and then wonder why they dont get it and complain that the teaching is all wrong... I guess thats why I am a bit suspicious here... TBH I would group the tones and pronounciation in one basket... they seem to go hand in hand... Write by hand (as was pointed out to me by a "computer geek" (his term not mine) this morning) is because it helps with the learning process and character recognition. He has set up a program to help with this but finds that physically writing out the characters does far more for character recognition and understanding... Why dont you give us your ideas and opinions if its all so wrong and answer the questions you provide... Just because something has always been done does not mean it is the wrong way either...

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I've always thought there was a gap in the market for a 1 week survival course for business men going to China.

Doing business in China has always been straight forward enough, translators are cheap, and terms like "letter of credit" "bill of lading" "free on board" etc are pretty much universally understood.

Its the activities outside the business negotiations that colleagues have always asked me about.

e.g.

How do you can you tell a good driver from a bad driver when hiring a driver.

Do you invite the driver you've hired into the banquet?

If you're in a private room in a restaurant with your Chinese guests, can you ask for the TV to be switched to an English language channel during the meal.

If I'm doing business with company X, why do I need to go to a banquet with the Mayor and his cronies?

How to deal with late night phone calls to your room from ladies of a dubious nature when you're a lone business man.

Why are there bowls of fruit in conference rooms, and would it be rude if I peel an orange during negotiations.

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Shadowdh & geraldc,

The content you mentioned may be referred to as "Cultural Orientation/ Briefing" and I think many universities with a Chinese/ Japanese/ Korean departments have been doing that on request. Geraldc (as you're in London), if you try giving SOAS a ring about it, I'm sure they will have one made to your requirements without too much waiting. (I know they can also throw in the language component, if this is also required.)

It's worth mentioning that this kind cultural/business orientation courses are best set up outside China, since the clients normally want to be properly briefed before their China trips, rather than after they've got to China.

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Oh, I don't have a problem with it, I'm British born Chinese so I grew up with that sort of thing :mrgreen: When we used to visit relatives, I was always surprised how long people could take for lunch, and how we got to go sight seeing using company owned cars etc.

In the UK only the top boss could get away with that sort of thing...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wow, this thread needs serious surgery. A suggestion would be to cut it into two threads, (or more perhaps) one about Problems with the teaching system, and one about MBA's new school. Don't know if that's possible, but it would add to clarity.

Anyhow, to respond to the initial thread, I think many of the complaints could have been quelled by changing the title to "My problems..." or "Problems with.. system for Foreigners, or people who desire different methods", etc.

I agree with many of the points raised on the challenges of the Chinese language educational system. Much of it relies on rote learning which does not appeal to many foreign minds. I myself am a "quitter" in the fact that I came here with BLCU and barely lasted a few months, finally trying Diqiucun and then rapidly realizing that I was far better off with a dictionary, motivation, and occasional meetings with a qualified tutor.

For me, the frustration was the same as so many others.. mixed classes with people who could communicate both far better and far worse than myself, texts that mixed categories of vocabulary with useless filler words, classmates that could read/write characters without issue, but could not speak at all, too much emphasis on rote learning and memorization of texts without dynamic understanding, and listening classes that didn't care if you understood or not, as long as they gave you 1 or 2 turns to listen. The last straw for me was when I came to the vocabulary list in one of the lessons and saw the word 'playground.' I'm 26 years old, I have no kids, and I'm trying to learn to communicate quickly and effectively in Chinese. I've been here a year now and I still haven't ever used that word in conversation, even with parents whose kids were on the playground playing at the time. To be even more descriptive, we learned the word 'playground' before even learning the word 'play' or 'fun'. So I'll agree 100% about the necessity for structural priority.

So, I quit BLCU, transferred to Diqiucun (to keep the visa) and never set foot in a class again. I have my own method of study that works for me. I've yet to find a book that fits what I want to learn, so I do it all myself. I build my own word lists, I structure my own schedule, and I am entirely self sufficient in regards to my Chinese education. I talk to people on the streets or my Chinese friends to clarify questions, always taking care to range my questions to many people so as to get the best answer. I have a tutor that I occasionally will meet with if I want to clarify more intellectual issues like the differences between certain verbs or on how to use certain structures. (I usually can iron these out in conversation, but sometimes you just get shrugs and those are the times when paid help is required).

I haven't considered opening up my own school, but I have considered authoring some texts on learning Chinese, so I can appreciate your desire to offer a different method to learning. I wish you luck with your endeavor.

(As a side note, many of the students I enrolled with last year are just finishing their year of study and are preparing to return home. Some can do alright, but most are nowhere near my level of function or comprehension, and I'm even short of my friend because he put in more work than I did. When it comes down to it, the only people who are going to learn here in China are the people who have the desire to do so, and really motivate themselves to get out there and speak. Whether you attend class or sit and self-study like the crazy lunatic I consider myself, it all comes down to reaping what you sow.)

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Wow, this thread needs serious surgery. A suggestion would be to cut it into two threads, (or more perhaps) one about Problems with the teaching system, and one about MBA's new school. Don't know if that's possible, but it would add to clarity

I agree. Don't worry Roddy I don't want editorial control I wouldn't wish that on anybody especially myself (says with an evil grin) [btw I laughed hard at "I recommend you spend large amounts of advertising dollars with websites run by people whose names begin with R". I only wish I had an advertising budget!! After 2 master's degrees back to back with little income I was pretty broke to begin with. Already sold off most of my belongings to start this as it is. As it is, this may be a lost cause:cry: as I've done nothing but spend/lose money so far. My idea was to try to be very targeted and rely on word of mouth after I got started, but I obviously (based on feedback) haven't done a good enough job selling the value proposition and I am reevaluating my service offering]

It is my fault though because I was intending originally to start two threads. But I had to provide disclosure about my school (would be just a little bit pretentious to say "hey look at all these problems!" and then say much later "btw I am starting the school" They aren't related in that I have been writing the "rant" since before I even joined the forum (my blog) but related in that upon reflecting upon what I had written I said "enough!" and it was the impetus for action). But I should have created the other thread right away--it was just such a hot topic the instant I got done posting this the responses came in a flurry.

This thread is now way off topic.

Not really, this thread should be about the problems in the system and I really have always wanted a discussion about it as such. I know it has morphed into two subjects but I don't want the 2nd one to preclude the 1st (although it is also appreciated).

As always . . . "I will write more later . . ." Really sick as of late so my voice recognition hates my voice right now and too much typing will drive my wrist batty. On the other hand I hope you have enjoyed a post that (for once) doesn't include crazy pseudo homonyms inserted randomly or places where you have to guess what the hell I was trying to say:mrgreen:

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