Thursday, February 5, 2009

Welcome to MTC

If you're a current or prospective student at the Mandarin Training Center at Shida then you shall find this guide fairly helpful. This site was created because before coming to MTC I had no idea of what to expect and had a lot of questions about everything there. The main MTC website gives general information for those wishing to study Chinese there, however you will not find a detail description of everything.

This site will give you a more in depth understanding of the topics you will not find off the MTC site.

Please note, this is a student made site. If you have any questions regarding any of the following..

-fees & tuition
-academic calendar

Please refer to the main website for MTC because it will have the general information you need as well as contact information.

This site is still under construction so please be patient. It will be updated from time to time when there is a change or anything new. 

Review and Experience

I have been at MTC for one quarter now and about to go on my second. I have spoken to several people who have been there for a couple terms as well as students in other classes. Learning a lot and getting your money's worth at MTC mostly comes down to the teacher you and the classmates. Everything else is on your own time, how much you study, and/or the extra effort you put into improving your Chinese skills.


Most of the students in the reading/writing classes have told me some of the same things regarding what their teachers have told them. Many of the teachers at Shida prefer to teach foreigners who have little or no speaking background at all, meaning those in the audio textbook classes. They are less inclined to teach the reading/writing classes because they are filled with a lot of ABC's, and/or "hua qiao 華僑 " (overseas Chinese). If you don't know what an ABC is, it stands for American Born Chinese. Overseas Chinese are people with a Chinese background, but raised in a non Chinese speaking country. The reason man teachers prefer not to teach this class is because some of those students were forced to come learn Chinese from their parents. Some are either jobless back in their home country, and came to Taiwan to learn Chinese because they had nothing to do, some haven't figured out what they want to do. Overall, if they are not here because they want to be, they lack the motivation to work hard and pay attention. 

When I heard this I asked my teacher about it and she even admitted this was true, that if students aren't willing to learn, they can't really teach. However, my teacher lucked out, because she has gotten 3 quarters of hard working students who have a strong interest to learn. She also teaches another class for the non speakers in the audio books and says indeed she has never had difficulty teaching them. 

One friend in another class, is very passionate about furthering her Chinese education, but the rest of her classmates slack off and sometimes don't even show up to class, or are even late. They even text/SMS on their phones right in front of the teacher. Her teacher is very relaxed and doesn't know how to handle it, thus she doesn't teach very much and teaches at a slower pace. All of my classmates are so motivated to learn that our teacher sometimes gets overwhelmed.


Another friend in a reading/writing class has said her classmates are all okay, but her teacher doesn't teach as much and only sticks to the book and doesn't teach any new vocab outside of it. My teacher on the other hand, teaches a lot of vocab that is not covered in the book, but that she feels is of practical use to us. She would take parts of word, like the radicals, and put them with other parts to create a new word for us. 

Also, every teacher has a different method and style for teaching. My teacher gives daily listening/writing quizzes and makes her own chapter tests and handouts. My friend's teacher doesn't do this and also uses their workbook as their chapter test. As you can see, there is no set curriculum for what the teacher needs to do other than cover what is in the book. How he/she decides to go about teaching the students, and how much he/she wants to invest in them varies. Every class moves at a different pace, while supposedly you are supposed to cover a lesson per week.

Also, one girl has mentioned to me she tried switching into 3 different classes before finally settling on one. One of the reasons was her class was full of people who didn't care much to learn, due to the fact that they had a very easy/relaxed teacher the term before. Another reason, was that she didn't like the teacher's style.

Now for the audio classes, the challenge in getting a bad teacher here is that some of the teachers don't know English very well. 2 friends of mine are in the same class together, one of English background, the other of French. Both of them say, when they're class doesn't understand the meaning of something, their teacher is unable to translate it to them. Sometimes the teacher can't even understand their question or what they are trying to ask. It should be a requirement that all MTC teachers have a certain level of English proficiency. Especially, those teaching foreigners with basic Chinese speaking.

Visa and ARC

This will cover the materials you will need to bring with you in order to extend your visa or apply for a ARC.

Textbooks and Levels

This was the most confusing part that is not mentioned at all on the MTC site. There are basically 2 groups with textbooks that apply specifically to each group; Speaking and Reading & Writing.

None/little Speaking Ability:

After you pay you tuition and fees you will go to a room to have an interview with someone. If you have no speaking abilities, you just tell them and a oral interview will not be conducted. They will put you in the beginning class which uses the Audio Visual 1 textbook. If you have some prior speaking experience, they will ask you some simple questions and from there decide which level they think is more appropriate for you to go into. The Audio Textbook is divided into 5 books, with Audio Book 5 being the highest. 

Good/Great Speaking Ability:

If you grew up in a Mandarin speaking environment or have had previous schooling in Mandarin, you will be given the reading/writing test after your oral interview. Unless, you tell them you have absolute no experience in reading or writing, such as never attending Chinese School. You will then be placed in the Beginning Reading/Writing class. If not you are given 1 hour to complete the reading/writing test to see what level best fits you. One of the teachers helping out will grade it and decide what book you should start on, as well as what lesson from that book. 

Both these routes will start you off as a new student. As a person with little or no speaking background you may find yourself working off the Audio Book and going up to the 5th book if you should choose to do so. Also, at the end of each term you are tested in your proficiency of what you learned to see if you are suitable enough to move on. However, if you are in the Reading/Writing textbooks, then you get to choose what book/material you want to cover the following term. This of course, is also up to the consent of your current teacher and what they recommend is best for you. It is not wise to jump to a very high level if you are at a lower level.

Please refer to the picture below for an outline of all the different levels. I am not positive on what every book focuses on more, but below marked in red and blue are the more commonly used books I have seen students with. 

Red = Audio/Listening textbooks to improve on listening/speaking ability.
Blue= Reading Writing books for those who can speak but barely read and write.

A common route for the red: Audio Visual I -> Audio Visual 2 -> Audio Visual 3 -> Audio Visual 4 or Practical Business Conversations -> etc
A common route for the blue: Beginning level readings -> Intermediate level readings -> Business readings or Newspapers Readings I -> Newspaper Readings II -> Newspaper Readings III -> etc

Note: You do not have to follow a path like this, as there are many choices after you complete a level. Always consult with your teacher to see what they recommend you take. 

Also, if you are starting from level 1, it generally takes about 2 years to reach a higher level like 7, 8, 9. However, being at a mid level doesn't necessarily mean your level isn't high either. The levels don't mean much depending on how much/fast you learn and your teacher as well. Please refer to the teachers section for more information.

Supplementary Classes

A list of supplementary classes offered are on the MTC website, but it does not tell you which are offered in each quarter. Some classes are seasonal. You will be given the sheet with all the supplementary classes offered and times for each term.

Note: This example is for the winter quarter schedule Dec-Feb)

Mandarin Phonetics Class/Pronunciation Class: As mentioned on the main site, these 2 classes are offered only during the first week of every term.  Room 504
- (M-F) 10:30-12:00 and 12:30-14:00.

Introduction to Chinese Characters: Offered during the 2nd week of each term.
-  (M-F) 10:30-12:00 and 12:30-14:00. Room 504

Language Class: These start from the 3rd week and differ every term. 
- For the winter term (dec - feb) they had Taiwanese class offered every Wed. Room 504

Learning Chinese through Movies: Offered twice a week on select days. Random Chinese movies, some good some bad.
- (select days) 10:20-12:10 and 14:20-16:10. Room 504

Learning Chinese from Chinese Medicine: Offered once every 2 weeks. The teacher is a nice guy, but his English is a bit on the poor side. He will toss in English words randomly, but mostly try to speak in Mandarin. He gives handouts to his powerpoint presentations as well. The only thing is on the handouts there is no pin ying for the characters. He covers topics like "gua sha" and losing weight. However, he does not list out all the vocab words with their meanings. You might have to ask him how to pronounce the word and the meaning as he lectures.
- (Tue for the dec-feb term) 14:20-16:10. Ro0m 504

Classical Poetry: Offered once a week.
- (Tue for the dec-feb term) 10:20-12:10. Room 504

Chinese Character Writing: Offered once a week.
- (Wed for the dec-feb term) 14:20-16:10. Room 504

Chinese Cuisine and Dining: Offered once a week. The lady who teaches this class is very good about teaching new vocabulary words with the handouts she gives. Every week she covers a traditional Asian dish that corresponds to the given occasion. (moon cake, Gong Bao Ji Ding, Red Turtle Cake, Traditional Chinese New Year foods...etc) You will also get a chance to make some of the dishes. This class is also recommended as it will help you pick up extra Chinese words and get to learn more about the cultural foods. 
-(Mon for the dec-feb term) 14:20-16:10. Room 504

Chinese Interviews: Offered once a week. This is highly recommended by many people to attend.
- (Thu for the dec-feb term) 10:20-12:10. Room 504

Let's Sing in Chinese: Offered once a week. This is a very fun class and also highly recommended. You sing as a group, so don't worry you will not be put on the spot. The teacher will print out lyrics with the pin ying every week. The songs can be anything from the latest popular song or an older classic. For the most part, you will pick up a lot of Chinese because most of those words are commonly used in other song lyrics and words you can also use every day as well. 
- (Wed for the dec-feb term) 10:2012:10. Room 504

Be sure to get your timecard stamped once the class is over!

Listening Drills: Recommended that you go to this audio lab for listening drills to help improve your Chinese. They have headsets and separate cubicles for you to listen to tapes.
-(M-F) anytime from 8:10-20:20. Room 501. Max 3 hours per day.

Audio-Visual Practice: Also, recommended to improve listening skills. You can rent out an audio tape or DVD from room 501 to take to room 503 to insert and practice.
- (M-f) anytime from 8:10-20:20. Room 503. Max 3 hours per day.

Reading Practice (aka study time): Where most people go to do homework or study. 
- (M-F) anytime from 8:10-20:20. MTC Library 7th floor. Max 3 hours per day.

NTNU and MTC Activities: Throughout the year there are different activities that MTC will hold like one day field trips. For example, they have a Lantern Festival event for 2/7/09. There is also Dragonboat for the spring term (March-May). Practice is 6:30-8:30 on M-F. 
- can be on class days or weekends depending on activity. May be on/off campus.

Chinese Language Contests: These range from speech, writing, calligraphy, singing to essay contests. Not every contest is offered every term, so you will have to check to see what is being held each quarter. 
- can be on a class day or weekend depending on activity. May be on/off campus.

Remember to get your time card stamp after every supplementary class!!

At the end of each month your time card will look something like this. If you fill up both side, you amy get another one either in the Listening lab (5th floor) or Library (7th floor)

At the end of every month, your classroom teacher will collect your time card and add up the supplementary hours you have received for the month. They will stamp their name seal and record it and give it to the office so you get credit. Your time card will be handed back to you afterwards. Make sure you hold onto it and don't throw it away. In case you need to prove anything with the Immigration for visa purposes it is always handy to have around. Again, if you hold a Taiwanese passport this does not really apply to you. 

Attendance and Grades Sheet

If you are in Taiwan on a visa or if you are a scholarship student then the Attendance and Grades sheet is very important to you.

The Immigration Office will not extend your visa if you show a poor attendance record and/or low grades. You are allowed to miss up to 5 days of class, this is 10 hours if you are a regular student. On top of that, you are required at least 5 additional hours per week from the supplementary classes as well. Lacking hours in any category will be detrimental to the status of your visa renewal. 

Grades: While there is no set requirement on what score percentage you must get, it is advised to just do your best and score decent enough. When renewing your visa the Immigration Office will see your progress and if your grades are poor they don't see a valid reasoning in extending your visa for longer stay to study. Make sense? In other words, attend class and don't slack off.

Note: If you plan to study for more than 2 terms you can qualify to apply for a Resident Visa (ARC) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after studying for at least 4 months. Again, you will need to bring the items requested to them and attendance and grades is looked heavily upon. Please refer to the Visa section for more information. 

So according to this example, I have missed 2 days of class (4 classroom hours) and 1 hour of supplementary hours for the month of december. 

Intensive class student:

You shouldn't be missing anything for then 3-5 classes out of the quarter since each days worth of class consists of 3 hours. They are intensive for a reason and you are given daily Listening/Writing quizzes as well as short essays, projects and "4-6" hours worth of homework/study time per day. If you are going to be missing anything more than that, then do not consider taking an intensive course unless you are serious about it.

Facilities: Computer Lab

The computer lab is located on the 6th floor, near the men's restroom. When you go in, drop your id card in a card slot next to the person sitting at the desk. You can go to any computer you want to. There is no real time limit to using the computer there and it is almost never really full. You don't get any hours stamped on your timecard for staying there though. 

There is also a printer located in the corner of the room. If you need to print, do so from your computer and before you leave you pay for the prints up at the desk. Each page is 1NT and it's on the honor system. They will not stop to count all the sheets you've printed. Same rules apply with the copy machine next to the printer.