Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Chinese 101

I know some of you are probably curious about how I can understand my teachers and actually learn the lesson when it is in a language that is foreign to me (haha, get's a pun). So I thought I'd tell you a bit about my average day, specifically how our classes work. (Yes I'm procrastinating, my excuse is that I haven't written a post in a while.)

So there are a little over 60 kids in total here at CET, all of whom have different backgrounds, learning styles, and skill levels. So on the first day here, in order to accurately place all of us in the correct class, we took an entrance exam, and boy was it hard. We all took the same test (unless you came in as a complete beginner) so there were inevitably parts where I had no idea what they were saying. Then, several days after the exam you were notified as to which level you were placed in. CET has 7 levels ranging from complete and absolute beginner, meaning the only word you know in Chinese is 你好, to pretty darn close to being fluent.
                                             100 - complete, absolute beginner
                                             150 - understand basic phrases 
                                             200 - more complex listening and sentence structure
                                             400 - pretty damn smart
I am in 150, so at the beginning of this summer I knew 你好,谢谢,对不起 and so on, I could very basic things fairly well, but my speaking and listening skills were basically none existent.
As for distribution among the levels, 100 has a solid nine or ten students (very brave souls who decided that one doesn't always need to walk before learning to run). 150, my level, is the smallest with a grand total of four students. 200 is by far the largest, with the majority of students being in that level. The rest of the levels have a fairly even number of students.

For all levels the typical structure of the class day is to have a big class where you learn grammar and vocabulary and then have a smaller class for drill. So for example the students in the 200 level are split in to classes of about 8-10 for their first class. Then for their second class they have about 4 or 5 students. My class differs from this in that it is just us four all day because we are so small. After lunch everybody has a one-on-one session with a teacher to practice grammar and ask questions. The whole day goes from 8:30am to about 2/3pm so it's not too bad. Plus, we have the added bonus of having our class in the same building as our dorm so you don't need to worry about any sort of commuting time. 

Now for the nitty gritty. As I said earlier, in our first class we review the grammar and vocabulary of the lesson. So you may be asking yourself, how do I learn something when I don't understand the language that the teacher is speaking in. Well, here comes the genius of the whole system. With an efficient use of the white board and printed out grammar structures the teacher can use only the words we know and still teach us everything we need to know. Amazing, I know! Well, not only that, we are also expected to spend several hours the previous night reviewing the grammar ourselves with the book. So it's basically one big package. Reviewing the day's lesson (usually entails a butt load of workbook exercises) + Previewing the next lesson (which entails studying vocabulary and grammar) + being proactive in class = Chinese success! 
           好好学习, 天天向上!
So as you can imagine everyday involves a lot of work. I spend most of my day either in class or doing homework and preparing for class. So I'm pretty much tired all the time. (每天很难,每天很累 - or in other words, everyday is really hard and every day we're really tired.)
My teacher snapped this pic of me taking a
quick nap during one of our breaks.

But, if all this work and time and lack of sleep takes me closer to my goal for fluency then it's totally worth it.

So before I go I just wanted to introduce you to my classmates and my two amazing teachers. 

My classmates are super cool and very fun to learn with. Mario (on the far right) is always ready with a smile and a song. Eric (on my right in the green) has become one of my good friends. And Hayden (in the back) is super cool and has been brought blueberries to class the past couple days so we, of course, all like him.
We are lucky in having two amazing and completely wonderful teachers. 王(wang)老师 (in the middle behind me) is not only a very good teacher but also quickly becoming a good friend. She is always very encouraging and patient and understands just how to help me improve my chinese conversation skills. Then 滦(luan)老师 is pretty much the strict but always kind mother of the group. She always keeps us in line and manages to explain some pretty complex concepts in ways we can perfectly understand, not to mention she is always ready to answer any questions we may have.
So that's my little 中文 family. We're small and a little crazy at times, (it's not uncommon to walk into our class and find someone dancing, singing, or with a book on his/her head, we even have nicknames for each other based on the food we like the most. I'm 饺子王 or Dumpling King) but we have also learned a great deal in a very short time and I can't wait to see how we keep going as the summer progresses.

That's all for now! Hope to have another post up soon about the fun stuff I did last weekend.

Until then, be safe, be happy, and remember 

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