Update on some chinese language schools

So I visited 5 language schools yesterday and thought I would post an update to give back to the community. Most of the information I found about these schools were a few years old in some of the posts.

Pioneer- they no longer have classes. They only provide private lessons (one on one), or if you have friends, they can do group rates. She mentioned this was because it was hard to get enough students for classes these days, citing changes in the political climate.

TLI- still offers classes and private lessons. They still use their own books.

Shi Da- no updates. I tried to get into their class after the application deadline had already passed. No luck.

Mandarin Daily News- still does not teach pinyin. That was a deal breaker for me.

Mandarin Learning Center at the Chinese Culture University- I found this one through a friend, not on forumosa, but it is mentioned here. They teach using the Shi Da books as well. It’s not clear on their website, but you can pay for 132 hours, 110 hours, or 40 hours at the start of the course. You must drop out of the course after the length of time you’ve paid for. You must decide up front which package you want. For example, you can’t pay for 40 hours and then pay for another 40 hours to continue the course.

I’m starting to take beginner classes next week at TLI because of all the good things I’ve heard on this forum. If you’re interested in forming a group let me know. Also, if you’re starting out at a beginner level and are looking for a study partner, send me a pm. My conversation skills are much better than beginner level, but I can’t read or write.

Much thanks to everyone who posted information about the schools over the years.

Thanks! I’m curious to hear your impressions of TLI once you’ve been there for a while. Are you going to the Roosevelt one?

I’ll be there in August & have been hoping to find some up-to-date info about facilities, classes, materials, teaching style, atmosphere, etc. Read the threads here back to 2002ish, but wondered how things might be different lately.

Looking forward to whatever other new info you might have to share!

I recently registered at Chinese Cultural University on Heping. The learning environment seems very good which will be motivating so I am looking forward to class. I’m in an 11 week class, Jun-Aug. It works out to about $150NT/hour. As far as I can tell, I can continue into the next class with no problem.

Took private classes at TLI a few months ago. I had good teachers and I’ve heard that not all are as good. The facility is a bit run down (subject to interpretation0 and I was not motivated to go sit in the old yellow wall spaces with bright florescent light for private classes.

Personal preference. Given the right teacher, setting may not be as important to all students.

Mandarin Daily News- still does not teach Pinyin. That was a deal breaker for me.

If they don’t teach Pinyin do they at least start you out with bopomofo and you build up from there into full blown characters? or is it a jump head first into characters and you find out if you sink or can swim? or is it something else that they teach to beginners?

i want to start studying mandarin and am considering MDN… but still in the information gathering stage about where to go.

look forward to your posts about this topic!

I was told they start you out with bopomofo. But I didn’t stick around much longer to get more details after they told me no Pinyin.

After 2 1/2 weeks at TLI, I’m very happy with the class that I’m taking. There is a morning class with around 6 people. The afternoon class that I’m in only has 3 so we’re moving at a quick pace. The morning class is about half as fast because they’ve had people coming and leaving often. The class is 3 hours, 5 days a week. Each hour we a get a different teacher. At first I didn’t like switching teachers all the time, but after a while I got to appreciate their different teaching styles. The class focuses more on the speaking and listening, less so on reading and writing characters (but you do write in pinyin).

I thought Pinyin would be a huge help in getting jump started, and after two weeks I’m glad I have the Pinyin. There was much less to memorize and I got going very quickly. Also, the TLI books slowly wean you off pinyin after a few lessons with the most common characters, so this forces you to start learning the characters.

I am on my second week at Chinese Cultural University on Jianguo and love it and the teacher.

It is night and day different from TLI. Environment is dramatically better and the teacher is dramatically better. Modern setting. And the teacher uses the most effective tools to improve the students skills and interest. I may never stop.

Feeling so inspired at CCU. Was never inspired at TLI.

[quote=“tigerlily”]Mandarin Daily News- still does not teach Pinyin. That was a deal breaker for me.

If they don’t teach Pinyin do they at least start you out with bopomofo and you build up from there into full blown characters? or is it a jump head first into characters and you find out if you sink or can swim? or is it something else that they teach to beginners?

I want to start studying Mandarin and am considering MDN… but still in the information gathering stage about where to go.

look forward to your posts about this topic![/quote]

The problem with Zhuyin Fuhao (bopomofo) is that only Taiwan uses it. From what I’ve been told, it’s the most phonetically accurate “Romanization” (but is it really Romanization if it doesn’t use a western alphabet?). Unfortunately, no one else in the world uses it. If you were to go study in the mainland, or need to read Hanyu Pinyin in a cross-cultural text, you’re going to have to learn a new system of Romanization.

Hanyu Pinyin sucks (I think Yale Pinyin is the most English-centric Romanization), but it’s what everyone in the world uses and because of that, it gives you the most academic flexibility. For example, all electronic English/Chinese dictionaries have Hanyu Pinyin. If you learn Zhuyin Fuhao, you have to buy a Taiwanese electronic dictionary and that dictionary already assumes you are fluent in Chinese to use. Zhuyin Fuhao was designed for Taiwanese to learn Chinese, with all the cultural and academic support geared for people who are growing up speaking Chinese already. Hanyu Pinyin (and moreso Yale Pinyin) was designed for foreigners speaking a foreign language to learn Chinese. It’s a huge difference.

I also prefer classes that start out in Hanyu Pinyin without characters because it gets your vocabulary up to conversational speed much more quickly than being held back by memorizing characters. I’ve been trying to study Chinese on-and-off for years (between work meaning I basically have to start over every time) and I’ve made the most progress with Hanyu Pinyin focused curriculums. Learning characters for me means maxing out at about 100 words per month. Focusing on Hanyu Pinyin and then adding characters slowly as an afterwards means my vocab increases at about 300 words per month. Over 3 months, that’s the difference between being absolutely clueless and being able to speak simple day-to-day needs with someone. At the 2000 word vocabulary stage (where I’m at now) I’m finding out I really, really need to learn the characters because Romanization no longer differentiates clearly enough between words. But I got up to a basic conversational level much quicker by focusing on Hanypin rather than being slowed down by trying to memorize characters.

I had a ABC-Taiwanese friend go to MDN and she loved it and learned a lot. But I won’t consider it because it’s only in Zhuyin Fuhao.

I agree with your basic premise that you should go with the most commonly used system (i.e. pinyin). However…

  1. Whoever told you zhuyin is more phonetically “accurate” has no idea what he or she is talking about. There’s a one-to-one correlation between zhuyin and pinyin syllables. On the syllable level, both systems are completely workable. When looking at sounds individual symbols make, both are systems are inconsistent. For example, in pinyin the “u” in “ju” is pronounced differently from that in “mu”. And in zhuyin, ㄓㄨㄥ is pronounced as “zhong”, rather than “zhi-wu-eng”. Both systems are imperfect, but completely functional.

  2. Pinyin was not designed for foreigners speaking a foreign language to learn Chinese, and it has nothing to do with English. It was designed by a PRC national, and adopted by the 1st National People’s Congress during the 50’s as a way to teach standard mandarin pronunciation across the whole country and improve the literacy rates. Even today, the overwhelming majority of pinyin users are Chinese elementary school students.

  3. Zhuyin wasn’t designed specifically for the Taiwanese. It was created in China in the early 20th century.

Whether that’s a problem or not depends on how you plan on using it. If it’s a temporary phonetic crutch on your way to learning characters, during which period you plan on being in Taiwan and using Taiwanese materials, and after which you don’t plan on using a phonetic crutch, then it’s not really a problem. But if you want to be able to buy and easily use good reference materials like the DeFrancis ABC Comprehensive CED, or are likely to continue using a phonetic crutch later when you leave Taiwan, then certainly an internationally used system like Hanyu Pinyin is better.

Anyway, like Xiaoma points out, neither system is more accurate. They are both fully functional and accurate once you learn how to use them, including their irregularities.

Finished my first semester at Wen Hua Da Xue on Jian Guo. Quite like it and the teachers so far are fantastic. I have yet to find anything unlikeable about the school or class. Starting next semester on Monday.