Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Studying Chinese at NTNU's MTC: a guide

I've been studying Chinese at National Taiwan Normal University (師大)'s MTC (Mandarin Training Center/國語中心) for the past three months. It's far from the best Chinese program I've ever done, but it can be hacked for a decent learning experience. Here are some suggestions.

*Switch classes at the beginning until you find one you like - and one that challenges you. I sat in on at least 5 and probably more like 7 or 8 classes in total, since I had initially been placed in far too easy of a level. The MTC moves really slow in the middle levels so you should be able to skip through some of those.
*Consider your classmates. If they're Japanese your class will be better at reading, and you will be expected to keep up. If European, better at speaking. Koreans are good at everything.
*The MTC offers classes for heritage speakers. If your speaking is significantly better than your reading or writing, get in one of those classes.
*Sign up for a supplementary culture class if you have the money. I enjoyed the cooking class, and although we sped through the recipes too fast for me to actually learn them, I think I've got a better sense for the basics of Asian cooking.
*Intensive vs. regular: I ended up being happy with the regular class experience since I had time as well as pressure to attend the supplementary classes. My favorite of these was the Chinese movies shown on Mondays. The intermediate conversation class and the Chinese story class are also good.
*Get to know your fellow students. I didn't do this enough and I regret it.
*Do a language exchange. Check the bulletin board on the 7th floor.

You can find "language exchanges" of all sorts here
*Consider a different program, either a smaller one or a more intensive one. If I had to do it over again, I would go to the comparatively priced (i.e. incredibly cheap by American standards at $1000/semester) program NTU/台大, where my roommate takes classes, and which is far smaller than the gigantic MTC. Not because their pedagogy is necessarily better but because I much prefer the smaller academic environment. The NTU kids all go out drinking together on the weekends, which I'm jealous off.
*I wasn't looking for a super-intensive class because I did the Princeton in Beijing program this summer and found that three months of backbreaking daily studying was long enough. But if you've got the motivation, and the money, the ICLP, which is also at NTU but run separately, is widely regarded as the Chinese course par excellence.

1 comment:

  1. When studying in Taiwan back in the day, I took NTNU classes. We had always heard that NTU had the best Mandarin teaching in Taiwan. Some people even said best in the world at that time.

    I have taken Mandarin classes AND teaching Chinese as a Second Language (a.k.a. 对外汉语) at ECNU in China. The Chinese teacher training is supposed to be the best in the PRC (and very few places outside the PRC offer this kind of training); however, I found their 15 hours / week language classes to be all right but not super effective. There weren't enough advanced classes to pick and choose between Koreans and others. Also, I found that while some Koreans had very good skills, many had serious pronunciation issues from L1 interference.

    I have a feeling Princeton in Beijing rakes in the cash... they pay the Chinese teachers 13k RMB for the whole program (minimum education: graduate school) and they charge $5500 USD per student.