I’m curious as to what you all who have experience or know about the Mandarin Training Center (NTNU) think about this:
I am an American born Chinese currently in university. I’m a Mandarin speaker and am going to study at MTC for 2 months (not fluent, but pretty proficient; can speak/listen pretty well and get around Taiwan alone) . I can read at a borderline intermediate-beginner level (I know pinyin and zhuyin), and my handwriting skills are pretty basic. So, I’m not really looking to focus on speaking/listening, but mostly reading and writing. Pretty specific, but the plan is to study Chinese there, which I’m wondering if it’ll be tough since I’m in a weird position where I’m at 3 different levels in all aspects of the language.
I was wondering if anyone on this forum has been in my footsteps before or know anyone who has taken MTC classes as someone who already can speak Chinese and benefitted from it, or have any comments on how the experience was overall (difficult /easy course material?,etc.) .
Thanks forumosans, in advance !
Biggest question: do you need the visa?
If you’re going to be on a tourist visa or don’t need one for some other reason, I don’t know that I’d go to the MTC. First of all, it’s one of the most expensive centers out there – and basically they all do the same thing, the same way. I might check out one of the smaller, newer schools that are popping up. You may want to think about putting the money out for a 1-on-1 class so that you get precisely what you’re looking for. If you don’t want to splash out that much, it’ll be the luck of the draw and most likely most of the other students will be more or less even in their skills unless they too are ABC or similar. (Not definitely 100% so but it’s pretty common for people who learned, instead of growing up with, their Mandarin.) In that case, you can just be patient during the bits that don’t interest you, and/or think about hiring a university student or someone to just tutor you. Assign you a reading, have you read it, explain what you don’t get, etc. Most of them would have enough English to make that work, and if you were reading out of a textbook there would be materials available for you anyway.
Anyway just some thoughts. It all depends on how patient you are, your visa status, and your finances.
Speaking for MTC, they have 2 programs you can pick from:
In your case, they’ll probably match you in the Reading/Writing classes where most of the students can already speak and listen. Don’t worry too much about this, on the day you register they will give you a small test to see your level. And once the classes start, you have about a week or two to keep changing classes.
As for the difficulty, it’s up to you. Some students were there for the visa while others were very diligent. Enjoy your time there.
An add on to what @ironlady said, you don’t need to go to MTC at NTU for what you are looking for. Programs at NTNU are just as good!
Don’t worry about your level of reading/writing/speaking/listening. They will have you take a placement exam before placing you into certain courses. A lot of my friends who were in the same shoes as you and had good experiences at NTNU.
One thing I will mention is that make sure you are arriving in Taiwan with enough time to sign up and take the placement exams. A few friends (and myself included) wanted to take courses, but arrived too late to sign up and take classes because registration was full!
Actually, the intensive one at NTU is the good one. The one at NTNU is riding the coattails of its fame long gone. Most people go for visa, which means that they choose a lower level and take it easy. The groups are large, the instructors busy and administration is hostile. If the objective is truly learning, then NTU special program ICPL would make more sense, or private lessons at any otehr institute but NTNU’s MTC.
I was in your shoes just a few months ago, and called or visited almost all the main university language centers in Taipei with this question. I am currently enrolled at NTNU’s MTC.
Most centers told me that there was no “reading and writing” specific course because there were not enough ABT students to offer it. The only two centers that can cater to ABTs are NTU’s ICLP and NTNU’s MTC.
ICLP is very intensive and will place you into separate classes for reading, speaking, writing, etc. For example, if your spoken Chinese is stronger, you may be placed immediately into Business Chinese, while your writing class will be something closer to a beginning level. The main drawback with this program is that it’s about three times as expensive as NTNU’s and requires an extensive application. It’s also geared towards electives (such as business Chinese, classical Chinese literature etc) which were not what I was looking for.
MTC is the only “standard” program to offer reading/writing courses because it is large enough to have enough ABT students. That being said, you are still limited by the number of students. For example, I tested into somewhere towards the end of the first book of Practical Chinese Reading & Writing but they did not have enough students to open the class. Then I hoped to go into the intensive course starting from lesson 1, but they were full (max 9 students for an intensive course). I ended up in the regular level starting from lesson 1 which is far too easy and slow for me. If you are at a strange level, I would recommend coming in the summer when there are more students and thus classes open for you to find the right fit. You can also take a look at the book beforehand to see what level you’re likely to be in.
Of course your other option is to find a 1-1 course. Most language centers will have this, including NTNU, but it’s pretty expensive so you might want to just find a tutor on your own.
It’s hardly true that those are the only centers that cater to special student groups. Most of the smaller language schools will go out of their way to make up a special class for you or offer one-on-one classes (at a higher rate, of course) where you basically dictate the content. The universities are not the only game in town (a fact which they haven’t figured out yet, by and large).
I agree that for a 1-on-1, if being enrolled for a visa isn’t a consideration, it’s far cheaper (and just as effective, most likely) to just get a tutor or grab a college student.
I’ve taken classes at both MTC and ICLP, but that was 9-10 years ago. I don’t think much has changed so I’ll add my observations.
When I first arrived, I enrolled in MTC’s “intensive” (3-hour) class focused on beginner level reading and writing. This ended up being a good choice for me. My conversational ability was near fluent but my reading ability was less than functional at that time. After a couple people dropped out, there were only four of us in that class - 3 ABCs and 1 JBC - and a 28 year old gay teacher who was really awesome in keeping things interesting and forcing us to memorize those characters. I picked up a bunch of vocabulary quickly and pretty much became functionally literate within those three months.
But the teaching quality at MTC varies greatly. I enrolled in two more quarters in the 2-hour classes. I didn’t learn much afterwards because the class size was huge and the intensity level was low. The last quarter was taught by an old man who was so bad (he just made everyone read the passages in the textbook out loud) that I gave up halfway through, stopped attending classes, and applied for ICLP.
In contrast to MTC, which teaches by memorization and repetition (maybe a good thing for an ABC who can speak but not read a bunch of words), ICLP was more focused on enhancing sentence structure and conversational ability on advanced topics. The classes there for me were 3:1, 2:1, 1:1 and the pace much faster than at MTC. The tuition was also three times as much. The administration there seems to do a lot of quality control, with senior teachers regularly auditing and reviewing more junior teachers, so you pay a lot but don’t waste your time. Teachers get paid a lot more, and seem to be under a lot more stress, so you won’t find the dinosaur instructors you find at MTC. But at the same time, I think it’s a waste of money at the beginner level for someone who already has the pronunciation down and just needs to sit down and memorize some stuff.
Beware of 1-on-1 classes if you lack self discipline. It’s easier to get lazy if you don’t have classmates.
I took classes at NTNU’s MTC about 2 years ago and highly recommend it. That being said, I agree with everything that it is expensive and it might not be your #1 choice. However, I’m still very glad that I spent a year studying at this school. My Chinese got exponentially better as a result.
If you do decide to go forward with NTNU’s MTC, get enrolled into the intensive classes. It’s tough… but if you already know the basics, the general classes are a waste of time because they move so slow.
I took four semesters’ worth of courses at MTC and two of them had outstanding teachers. They forced us to take exams with essay-response questions… I started out being able to speak but couldn’t hardly write to save my life. Having to write essays in class was really hard and my brain often turned into spaghetti, but I learned so much as a result. The other two teachers I had weren’t bad… but they didn’t push me to excel. I did learn from their courses… but I wasn’t pushed to my limits.
So, if you only have two months to study Chinese, I do recommend MTC… but be aware that you have a 50/50 chance of getting an excellent teacher. Even if you get a just-ok teacher, you’ll have a pretty good experience. But yes, it is expensive.
Thank you all for your detailed input! It’s been very helpful. Visa is not an issue for me, but I decided to go with MTC Intensive class for unit transfer purposes with my college Fingers crossed that I don’t get a bad teacher…
Any one in this similar situation who ended up taking the NTNU Intensive course? How was the experience? Is it a fit for someone whose language abilities are a mix? I can understand and speak average Mandarin, but I’m not fluent in vocab, reading and writing. I can recognize characters in context, but I’d have a hard time writing them on the fly. I’d love to be able to read menus at restaurants and feel more confident going around Taipei or when I look for work. Did the Intensive course help give a boost? Anything else that you found helpful? Thanks.
I was in a similar situation. Able to hold a conversation in Mandarin, but couldn’t read or even write a simple email.
I went to Shida and found out they have courses specifically for people with this disparity between language skills.
It was not an intensive course, rather a regular one and most of the students were sons/daughters of Taiwanese born and raised abroad. In fact, I remember they telling me I was the second or third “foreigner” to attend to this course. I guess they meant Westerner.
Anyway, I found it quite helpful and was able to improve my reading and writing skills almost to the same level of my listening/speaking abilities.
I don’t really know the name of the program. I’ll see if I can find it somewhere.
Regardless, when you go to apply at NTNU, you have to take a leveling test. That’s how I got placed.
Maybe try to pay them a visit (if you are in Taiwan, of course).
I took two terms of MTC’s intensive course to become functionally literate and improve my vocabulary. It was very effective, but I was also lucky to be placed with an excellent instructor. Some of them are not so great, and you are randomly placed, so it’s a bit of a crapshoot.
It’ll be okay either way if you’re good at self-study, though. Their textbooks are great.