Group classes vs one-to-one

Hi,

I have previously studied at TLI for about 4 months on a one-to-one basis. I’m planning on going back to TLI in March for another term and have been thinking about whether to take a group class this time, as some people have suggested I might get more out of a group situation now.

Does anyone have any recent experience of the (non-beginner) group classes at TLI?

I have a few questions:

  1. How do they decide what level class to put you in? Previously, I studied their first 3 books - New Practical Chinese books 1 and 2, and New Intermediate Chinese Dialogues book 1. I’m a bit concerned that I join a class that is at roughly the same level as I am.

  2. In my previous classes, I’ve always used Pinyin. Is it possible to use Pinyin in the group classes (I know TLI’s books now include Pinyin and Zhuyin, but what will be acceptable for use in class)?

  3. What is the usual format for group classes at non-beginner level? I assume they are a bit more ‘free-form’ than the beginner classes…?

  4. Would you agree that a group class is better for learning than one-to-one?

Any other views about taking group classes vs individual classes would be much appreciated!

Thanks for your help.

Regards,
Ben

I studied at TLI for 18 months and went through the books you mentioned, and then Picture Story and Taiwan Today.

In my opinion, the group classes are great at early levels, where you can benefit from lots of drilling, but not much free flowing conversation. As you get to the more advanced levels, you really need more speaking time in the class.

When I was studying the ICD book, there were 8 students in the class. This was a waste of time. A complete waste of time. There were a couple of very shy Japanese girls in the class who seemed to think that you can learn Chinese without ever speaking in the class. You might think Great! 2 less students looking for airtime, but it didn’t work like that. Then there was the young American girl who had studied for 2 years in the states. Her Chinese was obviously above this class, but she was lumped in our class because there were no classes at the next level at that time.

When I was studying Picture story and Taiwan Today it was great. Our class had 4 students. I’d say that this number is perfect. Plenty of speaking time. Cheap. At one point our class went down to 3 students. Fantastic! Until we met the new teacher, who was dreadful. Really, really bad. To be fair, this was the only teacher at TLI that I thought was bad. I’ve been taught by about 8 teachers there. 2 were excellent, 5 were ok, 1 was terrible.

My point is this:

It all depends on the teacher, and the make up of the class.

Same thing with 1 to 1 classes. I tried a few 1 to 1 classes, and you can definitely get allot out of them, but again, it all depends on the teacher. With my favorite teachers, we rarely looked at the book, spending a lot of time gossiping about all sorts of things. This was fun, but I’m sure that you can find friends for this instead of paying $450 an hour. At other times, I felt really bored in the 1 to 1 classes and missed having other students to bounce off. I also sometimes missed that bit of extra thinking time that you have in group classes. I think that this is valuable, especially at lower levels.

Anyway, overall, I’d say that TLI is a great school, with some great teachers and some excellent materials.

Good luck with your choice.

[quote=“ben_gb”]Hi,

I have previously studied at TLI for about 4 months on a one-to-one basis. I’m planning on going back to TLI in March for another term and have been thinking about whether to take a group class this time, as some people have suggested I might get more out of a group situation now.

Does anyone have any recent experience of the (non-beginner) group classes at TLI?

I have a few questions:

  1. How do they decide what level class to put you in? Previously, I studied their first 3 books - New Practical Chinese books 1 and 2, and New Intermediate Chinese Dialogues book 1. I’m a bit concerned that I join a class that is at roughly the same level as I am.

  2. In my previous classes, I’ve always used Pinyin. Is it possible to use Pinyin in the group classes (I know TLI’s books now include Pinyin and Zhuyin, but what will be acceptable for use in class)?

  3. What is the usual format for group classes at non-beginner level? I assume they are a bit more ‘free-form’ than the beginner classes…?

  4. Would you agree that a group class is better for learning than one-to-one?

Any other views about taking group classes vs individual classes would be much appreciated!

Thanks for your help.

Regards,
Ben[/quote]

I never went to TLI, but I have studied at a few other programs and can comment about how their group classes function vs 1 on 1.

Middlebury (level 1) - offered 4hrs group class with 15 mins of 1 on 1. The group classes had some 15 students each and had big group drills, while small classes had 5. These classes get smaller as level goes up apparently, level 5 only had 3 people in it. The 1 on 1 was mainly used to give you direction on how to go about studies half the time, and another half focused on individual needs. In all it was really too short to have a profound impact outside coaching learning strategies. Overall the main draw of Middlebury is the immersion environment available for L1/2 students and its convenient location.

Princeton in Beijing (level 3) - Big group classes had some 9 students, small group had 4, this lasted 4 hours. They had another 1-hour “individual talk” session. The individual session at L3 was pretty useful but got less so at the end. When they started, they used the individual session to super-correct out all of the mistakes I’d make in Mandarin so pretty much none were left standing by the time fossilization really kicked in. Afterwards it was a casual chat on various serious topics without much focus on specific terms, which worked well up until about week 7 or so, because a casual conversation was sure to involve integrating a lot of what we were learning. In the later period one could go through a casual chat like this without integrating any higher-level vocabulary so was left wanting, as by this point I could as well have found locals to discuss the same issues with and gotten the same deal.

ICLP (level 4) - ICLP group classes all range between 2-4 students, for 3 hours, with 1 hour of individual session. The individual sessions are much more focused than PiB, which more or less direct you to integrating higher-level vocabulary in the discussion (which also involves developing mastery over older expressions). Individual classes here I felt were significantly better than group classes, by virtue of being focused, and getting you to use more formal expressions.

As for group vs. 1 on 1, I have always heard that they work well in combination, that 1 on 1 is very useful up to a certain point.