(This is from my blog. It's not specifically about Chinese Learning, but I just thought some poddies might be interested.)
I started a 4 month course at 上海外国语大学 today. Before you point out that Chinese isn't a foreign language in China, I have to say that yes, I know, and that every student in the Chinese department at Shang Wai (short for Shanghai Foreign Language University) has had that pointed out to him/her at some time.
I was put into 高二, the highest level that they offer at Shang Wai, and was a bit apprehensive at this. Most of the textbook I could follow but couldn't really understand well. That's probably ideal, but it still meant that I had a few butterflies in my stomach on the first day.
The first two classes were ok; In the first class, understood 99% of the teacher's explanations, and by the end I could almost struggle through the text, which was a letter from a father to his son. In the second, 听力 (listening skills) I went ok too; we went through some quizzes in class which were actually quite interesting. They were almost brain teasers. In the first part, you heard a spoken passage, and then had to pick the most suitable sentence out of four. But 'suitable sentence' was a bit ambiguous, as 老师 (teacher) explained. In some cases, the suitable sentence was an explanation of a certain passage in what was said, in some cases it was the next sentence that would have been said... basically it was quite difficult, but like many logic puzzles, when you get the answer and it is explained to you you get a mental "oh, I get it!". A little like those cryptic crosswords you get in newspapers. The second part of a 听力 test isn't so complicated. You just hear a short passage and must answer multiple choice questions. This isn't easy either though; there are no 'dud' answers. - Every multiple choice answer is a correct statement about the passage, but only one of these answers is the correct answer to the question asked.
Almost half of my classmates are Korean. Half of the remainder are Japanese. This is good for me, as I'm also learning both these languages. I haven't learned much Korean though, so I kept stumbling over things. The difficult part about practicing Korean/Japanese is that when Korean, a Japanese and an Australian Chinese learners get together, they naturally revert to Chinese. It's always hard to get multilingual people to speak the language you want, so I didn't get much of a chance to speak any other languages. But in the scheme of things, I don't think that's such a big deal. If that is my only complaint about the whole situation, I think it's a good thing!
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