APEC Chinese Language Checklist

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This Chinese language consumer checklist, which was developed under the APEC Strategic Plan for Languages, can be used to evaluate Chinese language programs to make the best choices for Chinese language study.  There are two distinct characteristics of the Checklist:

  • Panoramic Overview of various kinds of Chinese Language Programs, both face-to-face and online learning, accompanied by a brief introduction to them.
  • Program Overview outlines how a program runs, what are the steps for starting a program, etc.

Another section of this wiki explores the factors affecting the time required to learn a language.

Learning Chinese for General Conversation

Nowadays, most universities in China can offer Chinese language training programs to those who want to learn Chinese for general purposes. Before choosing a university to start learning Chinese, it is essential to know information related to the universities, such as the courses available, class size and classroom facilities, teaching methods, materials, tests to take, certificates offered, as well as campus life. 

Important questions to ask

1) Universities

a. How many universities are relatively well-known and experienced?
b. What are the locations of these universities?
Some universities are located in large cities like Beijing and Shanghai while others are located in relatively smaller cities.
c. Who is in charge of the universities?
The Chinese Ministry of Education runs these universities.

2) Courses

a. Which courses are available in these universities?
A variety of courses are available in these universities. According to the duration, there are 4 weeks, 5 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 weeks,12 weeks, one semester, one year, two years and 4 years language training programs available in these universities. As to the hours when courses are held, there are standard courses (four hours per day and five hours per day), and intensive courses (6 hours per day), from four weeks to one semester; depending on one’s proficiency level, there are courses from beginning level to advanced levels.
b. What are the language teaching goals of the program?
The teaching goals and hours are different regarding different courses; students are grouped according to their Chinese level test results. 
c. Which subjects will be covered in these courses?
Basically, the subjects include an integrated course, a speaking course, a listening course, and a reading or movie class for advanced learners. In addition, some programs also provide optional courses, such as Chinese Character Writing, Taiji, Phonetics, Business Chinese, etc. The College of Intensive Chinese Studies in BLCU involves a Language Practice Course as an important part of its Program. Every week, students have the chance to visit places such as the Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven, or do investigations at places like the post office. This enables the learners to practice Chinese in context and have a closer look at Chinese culture. 

3) Students and Class Sizes

a. Where are the students from and how old are they?
The students come from different countries including Korea, Japan, Thailand, European countries, America, Canada, etc. Most students are between 20 and 40 years old.
b. How large are the classes?
Classes range from 10 to 20 students. The College of Intensive Chinese also provides special one-to-one classes to meet different needs of the learners.

4) Teachers

a. What are the credentials of the teachers?
More than 90% of teachers have a certificate for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language.All teachers have a rich teaching experience; 90% of the teachers have been teaching for more than 5 years, and some of them for more than 20 years.
b. Are teachers native Chinese speakers with standard Mandarin?
All teachers are native speakers with standard Mandarin.
c. Are teachers bilingual?

5) Teaching Methods

a. What teaching technology is applied in everyday class instruction and in what way will it help improve students’ learning performance?
Computers, TV, video, and recorders are usually used in class. These instruments can help enhance learning efficiency, and improve students’ listening and lecture abilities in a shorter time.

6) Teaching Materials

a. What are the language learning materials used?
There are various kinds of learning materials used in these universities, such as textbooks, tapes, DVDs, course wares, exercise materials, test papers and so on. Textbooks are the most important learning materials used in class and teachers use them to teach students as well as design examinations. Tapes and DVDs can help learners enhance their listening and lecture abilities. Course wares can enhance the learning efficiency and students’ interest. Exercise materials can help students learn by themselves and review what they have learned. Test papers are used in examinations to check mastery of the material.

7) Exam Preparation

a. What type of exams should I prepare for?
Besides the placement test at the very beginning, there are also a mid-term and a final test. The universities will organize students to take the proficiency tests.
b. How many hours should I spend to prepare for the achievement tests?
Generally, 20 hours are required for test preparation.

8) Certificate

a. Which certificate can I get after the course?
You could get a formal certificate after completing the course. 

9) Other Considerations 

a. Where do students live?
Typical housing arrangements for students from ages 18 to 60 include home stays, shared apartments, hotels, or college dormitories.
b. Can foreign students use public transportation?
c. What type of visa do I need?
A student visa is needed for language studying in China. Students can get the form from universities or schools where they want to study.
d. How long do I need to make progress?
Students need more than 200 hours to achieve a basic level; 200 hours are required to achieve higher levels.

Training Courses for Foreign Teachers of Chinese Language

Types of Teacher Training
There are two types of training courses offered in China for foreign teachers of Chinese language:
a. Short term training courses aim at teaching theories and teaching skills training. The training period is about 1-6 months long.
b. The Master of Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages (MTCSOL) aims at training high level, compound, and professional Chinese teachers who are experts in teaching Chinese as a Second Language. The course qualifies them to do multi-task teaching and helps improve their cross-culture communication abilities. The training course is about 2-3 years long.

Important questions to ask

1)What are the requirements for becoming a competent foreign teacher of Chinese

To be a competent Chinese language teacher, you should meet the following requirements:
a) Pass the TCFL tests which covers Chinese modern linguistics, ancient Chinese linguistics, Chinese culture, teaching Chinese as a second language theory.
b) Pass Mandarin test at least at level three.
c) A certification proving your English proficiency, at least equal to CET4.

2) Schools and Programs

a. How many schools can offer teacher training programs?
The Teachers’ Extensive Education Institute of Beijing Language and Culture University is the first professional training centre for foreign teachers of the Chinese language. It is under the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. The institute has organized over 200 classes and trained over 6000 foreign teachers of Chinese language from 50 countries and areas in the last 20 years.

c. What kinds of Training Programs for Visiting Teachers are available?
The Office of the Chinese Language Council International has set up this program to provide overseas TCFL teachers the chance to advance their research and study.

d. How many schools can offer the program of Master of Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages (MTCSOL)
This program is planned for graduate students who are willing to teach Chinese as a second language and contribute to Chinese language development. Overseas foreign teachers of Chinese languages and graduate students are also accepted. This program is under the direction of the MTCSOL Direction Committee with its office situated in the Office of Chinese Language Council International.

The Confucius Institute

Confucius Institute is a non-profit public institute with a mission of promoting Chinese language and culture and supporting local Chinese teaching. It abides by the local laws and regulations and is subject to supervision and inspection from the local educational administrative authorities. There are 277 Confucius Institutes in the world now. This program provides training courses for overseas Chinese language teachers and holds tests for the Certification of Chinese Language Teachers.

3) Teachers and Courses

a. What courses do they provide?
There are two different types of courses, one is a theory course which includes vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, educational psychology, and Chinese culture; the other is a practicing course which includes teaching technology of different courses and teaching designs.

b. What are the qualifications of the teachers giving the courses?
The teachers who give the courses are experienced professors. They are leaders of TCFL in their research field.

4) Exams

a. What type of tests will be taken at the end of the term?
A written test, an oral test, a report of investigation, and a speech test can be employed for the final test for non-degree programs. Teachers will inform students of the test type in the course. Students of degree programs have to achieve certain scores for each course he/she studies, and needs to write a research report in his/her field. He/she will be granted the degree only if he/she gains all the scores and passes the thesis debate process.

b. What certification or proof can I get in the end of the term?
If you are a non-degree program student, usually you will receive a certificate of study after finishing all the courses and passing all the tests. If you are a degree program student, you will receive a degree certification.

c. Does the school provide training courses for HSK, BCT, YCT and TCFL?
Universities provide test training courses according to its training programs.

5. Scholarships for Foreign Students

There are 2 different types of scholarships that Chinese language students can apply for: Chinese Government Scholarships and Hanban Scholarships.

Chinese Government Scholarships

Chinese government has set up a series of scholarship projects to sponsor international students and scholars to undertake studies and research in Chinese institutions of higher education in the fields of education, science, culture, economy and trade between China and other countries. Scholarships include:

  1. Chinese Government Scholarship Program
  2. Study in Asia Scholarship Program
  3. Chinese Government Scholarship Program
  4. Chinese Culture Research Fellowship Program

Hanban Scholarships

Hanban (China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language which is known as The Office of Chinese Language Council International) was established in 1987. The leading group of the office is composed of the leaders of 11 State Council departments. Hanban sponsors two types of Hanban Scholarships for winners of the Chinese language competition:

  1. The Chinese Bridge Scholarship
  2. Chinese Language Test Scholarship

6) Visa

a. Chinese Government Scholarships
Students in Chinese government scholarship programs should apply for visas to study in China at the Chinese embassy or consulate-generals with the original documents and one set of photocopies of the Admission Notice, Visa Application for Study in China (JW201) and Foreigner Physical Examination Form and a valid ordinary passport. Those whose study period in China is over 6 months needs to apply for an “X” visa, and those less than 6 months (including 6 months) should apply for an “F” visa. 

b. Hanban Scholarships
The Chinese Bridge Scholarship winners should go to their corresponding Chinese embassies or Chinese consulates with a letter of notice for enrollment, JW202 form, and the record of their health check for foreigners or corresponding copy and their valid passport to apply for a visa to China.

Short-term Chinese Programs Offered by Foreign Universities in China

1) Programs

Foreign universities or other schools associated with Chinese universities offer various programs in China, such as:
a. Harvard in Beijing - HBA (Harvard University & Beijing Language and Culture University)
b. Princeton in Beijing - PIB (Princeton University & Beijing Normal University)
c. Columbia in Beijing – CIB (Columbia University & The Central University for Nationalities)

2) Duration

The HBA, PIB, and CIB are about 9 weeks long.

3) Advantages

Programs like HBA, PIB, and CIB are intensive Chinese training programs. All the students have to sign a language pledge to promise to speak Chinese during the training period. The program also offers a Chinese home stay to help students experience real Chinese life and organizes various social activities and performances to help students know China better.

 Online Chinese Courses

1) What are the advantages and disadvantages of online Chinese courses?

Advantages: Students can take the courses based on their schedules, choose the courses they are interested in, do not need to apply through a university, or do not even need to come to China. These courses are very flexible in terms of time and course type.
Disadvantages: Students do not receive face-to-face correction on pronunciation or grammar mistakes, are not involved in a Chinese speaking language environment, and may not have enough motivation to keep up with the pace of the course.

2) What kinds of online Chinese courses are available?

The available online courses include degree oriented courses and non-degree oriented courses. Here are some links of popular online course:

It is a department of Beijing Language and Culture University. It was recognized as one of the top ten internet-based institutes in 2007. It is an online institute that offers degree and non-degree courses, and it is the only online institute that can award degrees in China.
b. Chinese Online
These courses are sponsored by the Office of Chinese Language Council International and East China Normal University. They help students learn Chinese through E-classes, web casts, E-magazines, entertainment news and culture introduction.
c. Master Chinese
This program provides a new interactive method of learning Mandarin Chinese. The method offers professional Chinese language and culture training through online real-time interactive classes. Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) is the strategic partner. BLCU provides instructors, learning resources, and diplomas.
d. Confucius Institute Online
The website is designed for people to learn Chinese and experience Chinese culture. It provides professional products for teaching and learning Chinese at various levels. Users can study Chinese and communicate with each other through the website and through interactive communities.
e. Chengo Chinese
It is a joint project of E-language Learning System (ELLS) originated from a bilateral MOU of E-Language Learning System (ELLS), signed by the American Department of Education and the Chinese Ministry of Education in Washington, D.C., in October, 2002. Chengo Chinese integrates multiple functions with advanced speech recognition and handwriting recognition technology, as well as intelligent feedback system. It provides flexible methods of study and varied modes of practice, which are helpful for enhancing the learner’s proficiency.
f. Chinesepod
This is a very popular commercial online Chinese learning website. They had over 200,000 registered users by October, 2008.
To learn more about the program for learning Chinese online, please visit Learning Chinese Online’s website.

3) What fields do Chinese online courses cover?

The degree online courses oriented to Chinese language students and teachers cover all the appropriate courses, such as vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, educational psychology, Chinese culture, etc.
The non-degree courses cover business Chinese, tourism Chinese, youth Chinese, Chinese culture, Chinese characters, Chinese pronunciation and training courses for the Chinese language test.

4) Are there any inter-active sections in the online Chinese courses?

There are inter-active sections in online courses including forums (where students can communicate with other students and teachers) and online classrooms (an appointed online teacher will be there answering questions and checking homework).

5) What technologies are applied in the online Chinese courses?

There are various modern technologies applied in Chinese online course including teaching audios, videos, Flash, E-magazines, slide shows, and online classrooms.

6) How can I find out the right courses for my level?

First, you need to read the detailed description of the online course and the level divisions. Then you can take a pre-test. After you find out your level, you can register for the proper course.

7) How can I test my learning results?

There are online tests for a certain periods of study. You can take the online test after you finish certain classes. You might need to submit a research report for the degree.

8) Can I get any proof or certification after finishing the online course?

You can get an online education certificate from the online courses institute after passing all the tests on the degree online course. No certificate is awarded for non-degree online course.

9) What are the qualifications of online teachers?

The courses offered by the Internet-based education institutes are made up by experts in their field at the university or research center. Some successful commercial online courses (like Chinesepod) also have support from professional teachers of the coordinating institutes (like Hanban), which have a background in the Teaching of Chinese as a foreign language.