Friday, May 24, 2013

Learning Chinese in Taiwain at Shida(師大): Teachers, Course & Faclities

Shida offers various courses, but the two main ones are regular and intensive. The only difference being them is that the intensive is 3 hours a day and not 2. Both courses last 3 months and your visa can be extended if you want to continue for another 3 months.
There are classes all day and you can you choose the time which you want to attend, which is very convenient, especially if you're working or a lazy person.
The course itself is textbook based, and all materials come from there. The books are reasonably priced and well put together. The teachers set tests at their discretion but there is a final exam at the end which decides if you go up or stay at the same level.

Beginners' Course

The foundation of the course is writing, and the focus of the course is writing. Everything came from the textbook and the teacher prepared no extra material except for some photocopied handouts that seemed to come from another textbook. Every day we repeated words, wrote sentences and eventually read dialogues from the book. We practised new words and forms extremely little and did a dictation every two days. Dictations involve the teacher telling the students to memorise sentences which you then write out in Chinese characters. If you study for it, its extremely easy, and all it teaches is the writing of characters.
The book's explanations were in English and were relatively clear but used a lot of grammatical terminology. The teacher also explained things in English, again using complex words and mediocre English. Luckily the grammar was so basic, it wasn't difficult to grasp.


I was unfortunate with my teacher. She was a very old lady who was clearly exhausted by the end of the lessons and whose only interest was speaking English, not teaching Chinese. When she did actually teach, she used English to explain everything. This meant that non English speakers in the class couldn’t understand anything she was saying – and basically made the whole reason for going to Taiwan redundant – why go to Taiwan and speak English, when I could have stayed at home and spoken English?
Inconsiderate and lazy, my teacher simply went through the motions, and the students just mindlessly repeated phrases and words from the textbook. If at the end of the lesson no one understood anything (as was often the case) we would move on anyway – the teacher obviously just didn’t care.
From speaking to other students I was clearly very unlucky. They had teachers who were younger, so had more energy and didn’t use English in the classroom.


The strength of any textbook is its structure, and the book we used was extremely well organised. Materials and tasks were well set out, and the vocabulary was built on the previous lesson. There were even some hilarious videos from the 90s. The weakness of this book, like all textbooks was its focus on reading and writing and we had very little actual production – basically we repeated dialogues and copied characters every day of the week.
The best thing about the book was the character writing supplement that really helped me to get to grips with the basics of Chinese writing, something which to this day I am still grateful for.

Facilities & extra learning oppotunities

Lectures which were once or twice a week were in general a waste of time. The teacher would just talk for ages, give students handouts and then tell us the answers which you fill in. The only difference between classes was that occasionally we would be given free practise to use what we had been taught.
Trips and ActivitiesThe centre offers cultural activities including cooking and writing calligraphy. There are also trips to various tourist sites and events ogranised for festivals. Because of the price tag on these activities it feels that they are more about earning the centre extra money than actually giving their students a new experience.

Click here for the conclusion

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