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Mandarin Language Schools - Picking The Peach and Not a Lemon

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					I will preface this by saying that I actually work with sales for a Chinese Language
School in Beijing. Furthermore this description will in many ways fit Beijing
Gateway Academy. That said, this article will be a general guide aimed at conveying
three key points that I consider constitute a peach, as opposed to a lemon, when it
comes to Chinese language schools. Lastly before I do this, I will also say this: there
are many schools in China and just because I work Beijing Gateway Academy doesn
鈥檛 necessarily make it the best for your purposes, the school you will want to find
will however most likely match most of these criteria. The number one characteristic
of great classroom environment is without a doubt the class size. A large class size,
like those of a university, should not even exist in a private language academy. If you
desire a large class size, you should go for a university course. The tuition is higher at
private language schools because there are fewer students per teacher, this will
naturally drive up prices. What you are paying that extra fee for is, in essence, a lot
more face to face time with a teacher. When I say large class size, in the context of
domestic mainland Chinese language schools I mean anything above 10 students.
Even 10 is too large for a optimal learning experience. Personally I would seek
something more in line with 3 to 6 students. With for example 3 students, a typical
one-hour class will involve about 30 minutes of general instruction and 10 minutes of
teacher to student interaction. With 10 students this 10-minute scope for pronunciation
improvement, for instance, will shrink to 3 minutes. The reason that I mention this
pronunciation with regards to this crucial face-to-face time is that it is a major source
of initial frustration with Mandarin studies. Chinese pronunciation could almost not
be anymore different to Latin and Germanic languages and still be a language as
defined by linguistics. It is both tonal and involves other sounds than for instance
English does. This makes personal attention essential for rapid and sustainable
Mandarin language studies. The second defining characteristic of a peach is the
quality of the curriculum. When I speak of quality regarding Mandarin studies I mean
the extent to which the curriculum is customized for each student. This quality is
directly derived from a small class size and it is very rare that a school offers a real
program to personalize the content of classes. The reason: it is very expensive to tailor
make class material to student. Beijing Gateway Academy spends roughly 60% of its
academic budget only on preparation for each class as each class is tailored to each
student in it. That is not say that Beijing Gateway Academy is the only school that
does this. I know of at least two other schools that have, at least to an extent, similar
programs. The third characteristic, the social environment is also very important.
Though it is hard to assess this in the 鈥減 icking process 鈥?from abroad. What I
advice in order to asses a school for this criteria is looking for a way to contact past
students. Some of the better language schools in China have a directory on their
homepage of students that have attended, for alumni purposes. Firing of an email to
one or a few of these will give you a very good idea of what social life is like at the
school. I name this characteristic in the top 3 because you cannot overestimate the
extent which ones spare time influence the success of a student 鈥檚 academic
performance. If you enjoy your time in China, you will enjoy your studies and you
will do well in them. If you don 鈥檛, you will not. These three characteristics: small
class sizes, a personalized curriculum and a good social environment define a peach,
as opposed to a lemon. Be sure you find a school that suit you, these point will be
helpful as a general guide which you can use in your selection process, but you should
add your own points to this list in order to make a informed choice.