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Planning for Learning Chinese in China
Language school or university? Planning for learning Chinese in China
Dec, 2016



The growing importance and influence of China's economy globally and increased interest in China from those outside has led to a corresponding interest in learning Chinese (Standard Mandarin). Chinese language programs have thus been blooming both home and abroad since 2000.

There are plenty of Chinese language programs in China. Normally there are no admission requirements besides age. The right one for you mainly depends upon your personal goals. If you are studying Chinese for academic purpose, such as to further study in a Chinese university (Chinese proficiency is often the prerequisite to enroll in degree programs in universities in China), Chinese programs with university seem to be the better choice. Many universities in China offer such programs. These programs are generally long term oriented (semester, year) and academically or exam focused (as its main purpose is to have students acquire sufficient skills to score well on exams and reach required level to further study degree/diploma programs). The class size varies from universities to universities and destinations to destinations. In some popular universities such as Beijing Language and Culture University and Shanghai Jiaotong University (mostly famous universities in major cities), the typical class size ranges from 15 to 25 with a mixture of student body of different nationalities. In some less chosen universities, the class size could be significantly smaller (sometimes only private instruction is possible). The main benefits of university programs are larger student network and real campus experience. Many long term programs allow credit transfer to your home university. They might also do wonders for you on your resume. What some see as a serious drawback to university programs is the focus on reading and writing with scant attention to listening and speaking in an interactive way. To search and apply for universities programs, visit cucas.edu.cn

If you plan to study Chinese in China to improve language proficiency (especially on listening and speaking), or for interest or experience, Chinese language schools definitely suite you better. They are quite a bit more accommodating and focused on meeting the needs of individual students. The school scale and class size are much smaller of course. In addition to a more learner-centered, personal and interactive environment, their programs offer flexibility in scheduling. Most schools allow you to attend a short term course such as 1 or 2 weeks (technically, some universities allow you to attend short term courses in the middle of a semester or year program, but your progress might be limited as they seldom have the suitable class for your level when you arrive, and the course itself is long term oriented). Most schools offer group course and individual course as well as combination of both. The number of lessons chosen again mainly depends on your goals. Is it mainly interest or achievement you are striving for? In our perspective we recommend, especially for long duration, booking rather more lessons (without over doing it) if you aim to achieve linguistic maximum because you will find plenty of time for leisure and enjoying yourself at the weekends and school holidays.

Some language schools or educational institutions organize special immersion programs combining language learning with recreation and trips for students of certain age, for example, teenagers or senior learners. These could be good opportunities for them to learn the language, explore the country and its culture. For kids, the group arrangement may also allow them to take healthy risks in a safe and nurturing environment.

Be noted as some programs might only target certain group of students, for example, overseas Chinese or Asian students, which means their teaching methods might be effective, but not suitable for Westerners. In some programs, English is used as the intermediary language in teaching. If you sign up for a wrong program, you will perhaps feel like the class idiot because all the other students are perhaps Japanese or Korean and you will be the only one who cannot read Chinese characters or you are the only one who cannot follow the class due to lack of English skills. So, before joining the program, always ask to see who else are joining.

Points to consider when selecting schools/programs
Type of course:
General course? Course to pursue university study? Course on business Chinese? Short term course? Individual lessons?
Chinese language proficiency level:
Are the classes divided accordingly to cater for students with varied levels of Chinese proficiency?
Total hours of classes:
Which is preferable to you? A half day course or a full day course?
Accommodation:
Any accommodation provided? Does it have its own accommodation or introduce apartments to rent? Is it convenient to commute to school?
School facilities:
How large is the school? Does the school provide adequate facilities?
Student ratio
Where are students from? How old are they?
Locality and environment:
Is the school in a quiet environment conducive for studies? Is it in the city or countryside?
School fees and other fees:
How much? Is the fee appropriate to the course, teachers, facilities?

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