Language School/Summer Program in China
May 2, 2005 11:04 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in going to China next summer (summer 2006), and have been looking for language school/summer programs.

I'm interested in going to China next summer (summer 2006), and have been looking for programs. I want to be in a major city, get really immersed in the culture, not be hanging out with a lot of Americans, and learn some Mandarin. If possible, i'd like it to be fairly low cost. (i want to be abroad too - this cuts out programs like Middlebury or Cornell's summer programs)

I'd like to go to Shanghai or Beijing or another huge city, somewhere where I couldnt get by with English. Searching the internet, I've found a bewildering number of options, ranging from really expensive tour programs, to teaching english and actually getting paid to be there while also learning Chinese. Programs for foreigners directly through Chinese universities seem to be a lot cheaper than programs based out of America. Does anyone have ideas on how to evaluate different programs? A lot of books seem to not really have much, other than listing options, and program options seem to change all the time.

Second: I speak no Chinese, apart from a few Cantonese words waaaay back from my youth. I'm going to try to build up the basics over this summer and over next year. I can't take my university's intro chinese (it's 11 hours a week and 6 credits), because I transferred here and i dont have enough credit space. I'm going to try to use a combo of books, Pimseler, and finding a language partner to work with. Any other suggestions for picking it up? Books, methods, etc?
posted by jare2003 to Travel & Transportation around China (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You may check into Middlebury College's language programs [note: forms are for last summer]. We were there a summer or two ago on a campus tour and they said they had full-immersion language programs over the summer. I don't know what kind of prereq's they have, but they bragged about having CIA/FBI types in attendance.
posted by Doohickie at 11:29 AM on May 2, 2005

You'd be very surprised at how much English is spoken in China. Many schoolchildren take English from a very early age. It was very difficult for us to find somewhere in China where no one spoke English.

We experienced the most immersion away from the tourist crowds in the Guizhou province, Hunan province and Hubei province. (We took trains from Guilin to Beijing.) Lots of folks spoke English in Yangshao, Guilin, Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou.

In the Guizhou and Hunan provinces, we would go for days at a time being the only non-Asians. It was a great learning experience. We went in November, so I don't know what the tourist season in the summer is like.

You might want to contact Jen Wu or her sister Louisa. They are guides from the city of Kaili and Jen teaches English to Chinese students. They might be able to hook you up in a situation where you would be really immersed.

I loved, loved, loved, loved China. I hope you will too.
posted by jeanmari at 3:24 PM on May 2, 2005

I know you want to go abroad, but just in case (and for anyone who looks up this thread with similar interests):

I went to Middlebury last summer for German, and it was simply phenomenal. Beginning with absolutely no German, I learned 2-3 years worth of college-level German in those 7 weeks. Chinese is a 9-week program and would probably provide proportionately more.

As jeanmari said, much of China speaks English. The magic of Middlebury is that no one is allowed to speak anything but their language, making it (in my opinion) a better learning experience in terms of language study than an abroad program. Of course, living in another country provides an additional sort of valuable education that a program in Vermont can't provide.

Good luck!
posted by sirion at 5:05 PM on May 2, 2005

Response by poster: Good thoughts, but I really do want to go to China and learn it -- and i imagine there has to be something affordable (Middlebury's is over $5000(!) there that would have the double benefit of total immersion.

What other thoughts do people have?
posted by jare2003 at 7:02 PM on May 2, 2005

Summer programs are hard to find. Schools like Tsinghua and Beida will offer cheap language instruction for foreigners during the year, but usually not summer programs. Check Beijing Foreign Studies University and the Beijing Language and Culture University, they seemed like they'd be more friendly to such an idea, though I don't actually know if they offer what you're looking for.

If you can swing it, I'd really suggest going for a full year or so - you won't learn too much in a summer anyway.

Cheap programs will be aimed at foreigners already living in country, so they won't be well publicized. (Anything easily found on the internet is probably aimed at fleecing rich Americans). You'll have to call the uni's directly and ask them - try to find a Chinese interpreter before calling, but failing that, just yammer in English until you find someone there who speaks your language. You'll have to be very persistant to get the information you're looking for.

Or better yet, call up the closest major state University. Ask for the Center for Chinese Studies (or whatever your equivalent is called), and nose around until you find someone who is willing to help. Odds are that they send students over there every year, and they've got contacts at the universities. Tell them you're not looking to pay for an American program, you just want to work with the Chinese university directly. Maybe you'll turn something up, you never know.

But, like I said, going cheap in the summer will be very hard. The only people who go in the summer are rich Western students, and so the prices are going to be bad. If you want cheap, you need to get the deals that the in-country ex-pats are getting.

Good luck.
posted by gd779 at 10:06 AM on May 3, 2005

I was in Beijing last summer (at Tsinghua's art school) and had a hard time finding many people who spoke more than the most rudimentary English. For instance, a fellow grad got lost - no one could speak English well enough to give comprehensible directions. I definitely was constantly frustrated by how difficult it was to communicate, so you will be motivated to learn Mandarin.

One caution about Beijing, especially in the summer - the air pollution is quite bad and we were warned that we may experience bad sand storms. If you have allergies it may be difficult.

I did quite enjoy my trip!
posted by Slothrop at 7:26 PM on May 4, 2005

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