Chinese language programs in China
May 22, 2007 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Help me find college-level Chinese language programs in China.

I've been engaged to help find a semester-long Mandarin Chinese course in mainland China. I have lived in China and visited a few universities, but I am not familiar with the quality of language programs geared toward foreigners.

I know that Peking University is generally considered the "Harvard of China", and Tsinghua the "MIT of China". Does that necessarily mean that their language programs for foreign students are the best? I had the occasion to visit Beijing Language and Culture University, and they seemed much more friendly (towards me, a foreigner) than P.U.

This student has asked me about the relative merits of Shanghai versus Beijing, but I could only speak in general terms (I'm partial to Shanghai as a city, but I know nothing about its educational opportunities). Any comments or anecdotes would be appreciated.

Special bonus question: is the HSK Chinese test widely respected and used? Do employers consider it in screening?
posted by mjklin to Education (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I know some people that went to Tsinghua and were very pleased.
posted by k8t at 8:29 AM on May 22, 2007

Check out Chinese-forums. You'll find plenty of advice from current students.
posted by Abiezer at 9:18 AM on May 22, 2007

Should have linked to their universities and schools sub-forum.
posted by Abiezer at 9:19 AM on May 22, 2007

I've only got experience with Shanghai, don't know anything about Beijing, except like you said, that BeiDa is number one. Fudan University is the top school in Shanghai, and Jiao Tong University is a close second. East China Normal University is also popular.

From my experience at Fudan, the language classes are specifically geared towards the HSK, moving through the booklets in sequence to prepare for the test.
posted by Trekoni at 9:47 AM on May 22, 2007

Definitely check out the Chinese-forums site. What I hear is that the best programs are foreign run, or in Taiwan.

I live in Shanghai and hear that Jiaotong is better than Fudan. I think Fudan pushes their students very hard and teaches more to the style of Japanese and Korean learners. Jiaotong is more laid back, but still not great. ECNU I don't know much about.
posted by msittig at 10:25 AM on May 22, 2007

Nthing Chinese forums, I'm a regular poster over there. In my experience the programs at Chinese universities are all fairly similar in quality. Most of the instructors work at more than one university doing Chinese classes. Pick a smaller, less-known university if you'd like less contact with foreigners(or BLCU if you want to hang around with foreigners). I went to University of International Relations in Beijing and thought their program was fine.

In terms of Shanghai and Beijing, I would lean towards Beijing because I don't like the way the Shanghai accent sounds and I don't understand Shanghainese. It's good to be surrounded with fairly standard Mandarin even if in the beginning stages it sounds like everyone is just garbling a bunch of r's. There's also a lot more historical stuff to see in Beijing.
posted by pravit at 1:34 PM on May 22, 2007

Chinese Forums is, yes, really the place to look. My own experience at Beida wasn't all that outstanding -- I went in at the top of their language program and found that it didn't offer much for me, so halfway through the year I transferred into their undergraduate Chinese department, which was much more fun. I don't know how they are at the beginner level, but what I've heard about their intermediate-level programs is generally good.

I've got no first-hand experience with BLCU, but I knew a few guys a couple of years ago who went in there with minimal Chinese and came out much better after a year. Don't know how it is now that it's being flooded with junior-year-abroad types.
posted by bokane at 5:56 AM on May 24, 2007

Oh, as for the HSK: it's certainly standard, but I've never taken it, nor have I been asked for my score, and I make a living as a freelance translator. (If you can call it a living.) It certainly can't hurt to have, though.

Another thing to think about, if money isn't an issue, is a foreign-managed program like CET or the Nanjing University/Johns Hopkins program. The tuition is what you'd pay for a Western school, but everybody I know who's ever gone through either one of those programs raved about it.
posted by bokane at 5:59 AM on May 24, 2007

I definitely recommend Beijing. My only experience with college-level Chinese language study there has been summer programs offered by US universities, but it's worth looking at other foreign-managed programs as well, such as CET (mentioned above).
posted by Lady Li at 2:42 PM on June 5, 2007

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