How do I pick a good Mandarin course in China?
November 9, 2006 5:51 AM   Subscribe

How do I pick a good university and course to learn Mandarin in China?

I'm thinking of going to China to learn Mandarin Chinese - not through an overseas university, but directly arranged with a chinese uni (eg beijing language and culture university). There are many, many places offering courses of various different types - how do I pick a good one? Ideally I'm looking for feedback from people who have attended courses.

further info: I'm thinking of doing a single semester or a single years' course, have been taking a class 4 hours/week for a few months so have the basics. I'd like to avoid polluted megacities if at all possible. If all goes well I'd be aiming to land a job in the environment field in China afterwards.
posted by spiff101 to Education (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You could just show up, with a list and take a week or so to choose. I had a friend who didn't sign up till after classes had already started, so you needn't worry about that.

I'd definitely recommend visiting first, unless you're going to one of the big name universities, you really can't be sure the classes will be any good. And the problem with those big name universities, besides their expense, is that there are so many other foreigners around, it might detract from your studies.

Another alternative that I have taken myself, find a place you like to live, and put out an add for private tutors. You can get private tutors for 1 on 1 classes, 15 hours a week for less than you'd pay in tuition. Something to think about. This is what I did, cause I didn't really like the teaching style or campus of the university near me (I'm in the south and didn't have the variety or quality that you'll have to choose from)
posted by bluejayk at 6:37 AM on November 9, 2006

Best answer: In Guangjou

In China generally

In Beijing

Or you could register on that Lonely Planet site and ask for yourself.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:43 AM on November 9, 2006

Why would you want to go to China when you can learn Mandarin at practically any liberal arts college in the US? Why not do some classes (Cal-Berkeley has loads, for example) and then enroll at Beijing Normal Teachers College, or another school without the bureaucracy of the University of the Nationalities or the other big schools out there.
posted by parmanparman at 7:28 AM on November 9, 2006

Best answer: CET in Beijing, they also have programs in Harbin and I think one or two other cities, but it is a western run program that has been teaching foreigners since the early 80's. They are by far one of the best programs in China by any standard, and their instructors are absolutely fantastic. I am an alumnus of it so I am biased, but I went from having a vocabulary of roughly one or two words when I got off the place to being conversant and semi literate after 3 months, with a year I could have been fluent.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:30 AM on November 9, 2006

Why would you want to go to China when you can learn Mandarin at practically any liberal arts college in the US?

Because immersion in a language you can’t speak—and the concurrent feeling like an idiot because your effective IQ dropped 30 points—is a powerful, powerful motivating factor.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 9:08 AM on November 9, 2006

Beijing Normal is a great school with a great program. If it's Mandarin you want it's Beijing Mandarin you are going to want to learn (though Shanghai or Northern cities would not be bad). BJ Chinese, though it's dialectic and accented just like everywhere, is the standard as as ugly as it may be (like Parisian French).

Guangzhou is going to be pretty heavily dialect laden. Some folks will speak Mandarin as a second or third language. Up North it will mostly be the first and primary language.

Private tutors abound in BJ. For men I suggest getting a male or older woman tutor as there are some young women that advertize as tutors(not all obviously) that offer to laowai men lessons in more than just language skills. Until you get settled in it just may make your life easier to spot the real tutors from the ones seeking white boyfriends (though I believe some of the men and older women may be too).
posted by Pollomacho at 6:04 PM on November 9, 2006

Response by poster: thanks for the responses. The point about learning Beijing 'standard' Mandarin is a good one - but I'm just not sure about living in Beijing, specifically. I usually like small cities of the less industrial, polluted variety. (I know, China's a bad choice then). Are there any other cities you could go to and learn fairly non-regionally specific putonghua?
posted by spiff101 at 4:58 AM on November 17, 2006

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