Visiting the Intensive Beginner Mandarin Class

2014 July 28
by Haley Albin

Visiting the Intensive Beginner Chinese Mandarin Course                      

Dajiahao! Ever want to start learning Mandarin? I was fortunate enough to be able to hop into an Intensive Mandarin class at Hills Learning that is typically offered every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Today’s class I observed was Intensive Beginner Mandarin taught by Yutong Chen. The class was very small – only two students! Because of the tiny class size, the atmosphere of the classroom is very quiet. Not only is it quiet, but also very relaxed like most of our classes here at Hills Learning. For course material(s), Ms. Chen uses the Integrated Chinese series. Ms. Chen hands out copies of the textbook/workbook, so buying the material(s) is not necessary.

Coincidentally, I have studied Mandarin during my last year of high school and for two semesters at college. I also studied the same series Ms. Chen uses. Therefore, observing this class did not feel foreign to me at all. In fact, being able to observe this class made me remember the fun times I had when I first started this language. Since I have had previous experience in studying Mandarin Chinese, I decided to be more of a fly on the wall during my observation.

During today’s lesson, the topics I saw being discussed were in the following order: Dates, Chinese zodiac, family, and cuisine. When the students already know how to have a conversation in a certain topic, the teacher will ask the student in Chinese, and the student replies back in the target language. On the other hand, when a new topic is taught, Ms. Chen shows how certain phrases/questions based on the topic are said in Mandarin, and the students will repeat it. In addition, Ms. Chen used visual examples when teaching about family in Mandarin Chinese by using a family portrait. Personally, I believe visual examples such as this are great tools for language learning, especially for those who are good at visual learning.

Since the class size is small, the teacher encouraged student participation during most of the class. For example, when the family portrait was shown, the teacher would tell the students to have a conversation in Chinese about who is in the picture. During my observation, I noticed speaking, intonation, and listening were the most used methods in the SWIRL method during class. Intonation is probably the most important method out of these three because Mandarin Chinese has four tones (plus a neutral one!). So be careful using tones when you say a Chinese phrase  – each tone can change the meaning of the word completely!

All in all, Intensive Beginner Chinese taught by Ms. Chen is a lovely course! Ms. Chen is very patient and nice when teaching her students, so there is no need to feel pressure in this class just because this is more of an “advanced” beginner level of Chinese. I also believe the small class size lets the students learn Chinese at a slow and steady pace. So if you are interested in taking this class, give it a shot!

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS