Mandarin Programs in China
February 9, 2008 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend some good Mandarin programs in China?

I've recently quit my job in Washington, DC and moved to Taipei, Taiwan to study Mandarin Chinese. I'm taking classes at National Taiwan Normal University's (Shi-Da) Mandarin Training Center but am considering hopping over to China this summer to continue with my studies there. Can anyone recommend some solid Mandarin programs on the Mainland? I'm planning to come back to the U.S. for graduate school in mid-2009 and want to make the most of my language training.

posted by Dr.James.Orin.Incandenza to Education (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
don't have any programs to recommend, but I do want to say that you should explore the country/city as much as possible. I'm sure you already know this but immersion does wonders for learning languages. Practice with native speakers (markets, restaurants, etc) as much as possible.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 9:50 AM on February 9, 2008

Best answer: Hey Dr. James!

I've been to China a couple times to study Mandarin. From my experiences at different schools (and hearing from others) it seems that Mandarin language programs at Chinese universities are remarkably uniform across the country. Most of them have classes that go from 8 to 12, with extra class time in the afternoon for "intensive" learners. They usually use the same textbooks and have different classes to cover reading, speaking, listening, etc.

I would suggest you pick a region of China you'd like to spend some time in, then look for universities with Chinese language programs - pretty much all of the major ones have it. You might also want to pick a region where they speak more-or-less standard Chinese. They speak the best (most standard) Mandarin in the Northeast, around Dalian, Shenyang, or Harbin, and of course Beijing is always a good choice (though it has some local flavor). They also speak good Mandarin in the north-central provinces (think Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Shandong). From a language-learning point of view I would try to avoid the southern provinces, although they have nice food.

Schools I have personal experience with are Beijing University of International Relations and Xi'an Jiaotong University. They were both good. I've never been to BLCU's classes, but in my opinion there are too many foreigners there, and from what I've heard, they end up socializing with each other instead of with locals. I've heard BLCU class sizes are really big as well.

As silkygreen said, you learn the most when you actually get out there and try to use the language. Try to make friends with Chinese - I've seen many Westerners who go out to China, hang around with other Westerners, and don't learn a thing.

Good luck and feel free to post back here with any questions!
posted by pravit at 10:56 AM on February 9, 2008

I was at BLCU in Beijing for a year, studying at the upper-intermediate level. Beginner classes are about 30+ people but if you can enter the upper levels (which having studied at Shi-Da you should be able to), the classes are slightly smaller, under 20 people. Definitely invest in a personal tutor if you want 1-1 conversation practice. There are a lot of foreigners at BLCU (not just Western but also Koreans and Japanese) which can be a downside but the price is right and they offer programs of varying durations.

Stay outside the bigger cities if you really want to maximize your immersion opportunities. I visited Xi'an and really liked it there - enough of a 'city' feel but not overwhelming like Beijing and teeming with foreigners.

If money is no object, the Berkeley Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies at Tsinghua University is the best. Tiny classes and highly intensive environment.

Also if your background is studying in Taiwan, keep in mind you will be studying Simplified characters and Beijing standard accent in Mainland China.

There's also lots of information about language programs and language learning in China at
posted by kitkatcathy at 2:05 PM on February 9, 2008

This question comes up frequently on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum. You might want to search their archives.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:34 PM on February 9, 2008

Response by poster: thanks everyone!
posted by Dr.James.Orin.Incandenza at 4:31 AM on February 11, 2008

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