This week I started my sixth semester at the Mandarin Training Center at National Taiwan Normal University [師大國語教學中心]. I originally planned for the previous semester to be my last semester because I was really getting burned out from going to class everyday. However, towards the conclusion of the previous semester I was approached by a few of my old classmates about forming a class with a teacher I had before. I decided to join the class because I didn’t think I would accomplish anything special except perhaps sleep an extra two hours everyday if I wasn’t taking classes.
For the last four semesters, the Mandarin Training Center at Shida has been administering standardized testing at the end of each semester in order to ensure proper placement of students each new semester.
On the plus side, they seem to be getting better at having tests that reflect what is actually taught in class.
The exam itself follows the following format (the one I took recently covered Book 2 chapters 5-12, other versions are similar):
Last week, I finished my first semester of learning Mandarin at Shida. The first six chapters were taught at an excruciatingly slow pace. I understand the need for everyone to have a good foundation for future learning, but we were going over things again and again that everyone obviously had mastered. Since we weren’t knocking out a chapter every five days for the first six chapters, we had to run a gauntlet to finish the first ten chapters in time for the end of semester placement exam. The teacher in an effort to not lose face even went so far as to start each class at 7:50 instead of 8:10 every morning so that we could finish the required material in time. Needless to say, I think I only retained about two-thirds of the characters from the second half of our semester. We were being tested every three to four days and going to class was really becoming a drag on everyone.
When I was going to school in Ypsilanti, MI, my roommate at the time had made an observation one time when I was taking a nap that I say some strange things in my sleep. When confronted about this after I woke up, I was quick to turn to the defensive, “What are you talking about? I don’t talk in my sleep!” My roommate went on to explain that he had walked by and heard me babbling in my sleep, that he kept listening to hear if I would say anything juicy, and that after a string of incoherent statements I had mumbled “…Sega Genesis upgrade…”
Starting in September, I will be studying Chinese at the Center for Chinese Language and Culture at National Taiwan Normal University (Shida 師大). At least I think I am, I am going tomorrow with all my registration materials and a handful of money. I’ve been thinking that there has got to be more to this teaching overseas stint than just well… teaching. I am joining the intro class because my recognition of characters is pretty pathetic, my ability to write is non-existent, and I think I make up tones for words as I go along.