Posts Tagged 'Nan Da'

And just to prove it…

Regarding our last post about last-minute operations here, we today encountered another reminder of how abruptly things happen. Sitting through our Friday morning reading class with our favorite teacher, we were unaware that everything was about to change. At the end of class:

“You all know that I am a third year graduate student, so I have to find work. Because of this, starting next week you will have a new teacher, since I won’t be able to keep up with teaching. Please remain earnest students for your new teacher-” Here she motioned toward the gentleman sitting in the back of the room who had been observing the class today.

And that was about it! So, next week new teacher. No need to be briefed in advance- this is just the way things are! We’re a little disappointed, but at this point we’ve ceased being surprised. We’ll let you know how things turn out with the new arrangements.

Those messy people

Today in our spoken Chinese course we studied vocabulary describing rooms and their appearance (furniture pieces, messy/clean, different room names, etc.). Volunteers went to the front of the room and gave a description of their own living quarters.

One rather plump classmate described her room and its contents, making the admission that her room stays fairly messy. As she walked back to her chair our teacher stated out loud what to her seemed obvious inference:

“Fat people often have messy rooms, don’t they? Because fat people eat and drink a lot of things, they are always leaving some things here, some things there. It’s easy for them to be messy.”

Our classmate did not catch the drift of this straight-faced comment, fortunately, but some of us who did just looked at each other aghast with amazement. Did she really just say that??

Standards of politeness and frankness vary everywhere. We will think again before making a seemingly innocuous admission in front of our classmates!

Chinese forensics

I gave my first speech in Chinese!  Friday was the foreign student recitation match, which my teacher encouraged me to enter.  I was the only student from the elementary class to enter the contest.  It was full of higher level students, many of whom had their speeches memorized.  I simply read my short essay from the phonetic transliteration, as Chinese characters still don’t quite flow off the tongue for me!

There were about 100 people in the audience.  I wasn’t very nervous, as I saw that even the advanced students had difficulty mastering the tough Chinese accent.  My teacher thought I had a good chance with the progress I made in this regard.  I thought that surely the girl who read with the thick German accent wouldn’t place as high as me.

After delivering my speech about the difficulties adjusting to life in Nanjing as a foreign student, I felt pretty good.  I even made the audience laugh at the description of not wanting to eat fish eyes (my first joke in Chinese!).

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it in the top three places.  The German student herself took third place, leading me to think that pronunciation wasn’t the sole criteria.  But I did earn the participatory T-shirt, so as not to lose face (very important custom here!).

I never thought that after three months of class I’d be ready to make my first public address in Chinese!


Class at Nan Da

I’m now in the third week of Chinese language class at Nanjing University, or Nan Da as it’s known to locals from its Chinese name Nan Jing Da Xue. I enrolled directly in the Foreign Students Institute, which offers Chinese classes at every level from beginning to advanced. Finding any reliable information about the program beforehand proved difficult- I basically enrolled without any clear idea of what I would be in for. In case anyone else is wondering, here are my reflections on the program so far.

Tuition for one 14-week semester is 9500RMB (about $1350 US). Each week students receive 24 hours of instruction in Chinese: 10 hours of writing class, 10 hours of speaking class, and 4 hours of listening class. My section is taught by three different teachers, meeting every weekday morning plus two weekly afternoon sessions.

I placed into the beginner’s class level, even though I studied independently for about a year beforehand. This is basically due to one thing I overlooked in my self-study: reading Chinese characters. Therefore, taking the placement test went something like this:

Answer the following questions by choosing the word that most appropriately completes the blank:
You blah blah blah person blah blah, blah blah blah blah have ____ blah blah.
A) Blah B) Blah C) Blah D) come

Oh, I thought, let’s go with D- that sounds good. Only then did I realize I was answering the example question, which to my dismay I still answered wrong. The rest of the test was pretty much downhill from there.

Already in two weeks, though, I’ve built a repertoire of more than 50 characters, and I imagine I’ll be able to write more than 500 by semester’s end. Class ends around mid-June.

There’s a great mix of students in the program- Europeans of various nationalities, plenty of Americans, some Canadians, and large contingents of Japanese and Korean students. There are also some students from Africa, Australia, and the Middle East. Some, like me, directly enrolled in the Institute. Others are on school exchange programs (paying much more tuition back home than the program itself costs). Still others are on China-sponsored scholarships, which I intend to look into for further semesters of study. One of the most interesting things is to hear an international crowd of students all conversing in Chinese, with all of the different accents from various linguistic backgrounds.

Anyone else looking for info on studying Chinese at Nanjing University, let me know and I can send some details.