Learning Standard Mandarin can be made a lot easier than mainstream opinion holds it today. The first thing you should do is naturally to come to China. The reason that being China is absolutely necessary is that even though there are ways to make learning Standard mandarin easier, it is never going to become a walk in the park. You need to be here, on the ground, and experience the language in its natural setting in order to be successful. I have written a previous article for this web site where I clank down on studying the standard mandarin language in a university class size. I mentioned then that the two largest obstacles that you will be unable to tackle in an efficient manner in large class size in pronunciation and the Chinese writing system. This remains true.
These obstacles are very hard to get used to and each person will struggle with different aspects of the curriculum. This necessitates a smaller class size, as one teacher can never hope to address the individual concerns of thirty students. This fact feeds heavily into the point of this article.
As already noted, I claim that learning Standard Mandarin in a country that is not China is all but impossible. If you come to China for language studies a university is a good place to start learning right? Wrong: First of all foreigners will surround you and you will not actually need to speak Chinese to go about your day-to-day activities. Countless people have failed to capitalize on their in China for this reason. Secondly, the most important aspect of applying the language in natural communication is having access to the section of the Mandarin language that matter for you own individual hobbies and ambitions.
Say that you are interested in skydiving and that you want to go jumping out of a Chinese airplane. Because the odds that an entire class will share your ambition to do this are non-existent, you will never find a class curriculum where thirty students are taught the necessary terminology. Furthermore, the teacher can simply not create the necessary tailor made content without having access to an entire staff of administrative staff, which would really make the university into a very large private school. The reason that private Mandarin language schools in China are more expensive is of course that they have a much higher staff to student ratio. But what you get for that money is not really something you can compare to being force-fed a deluge of vocabulary from pulpit, especially taking into consideration that the flood of new information is not relevant its entirety.
For to discuss an optimal way of learning Mandarin we need to involve components that can only be derived directly from individual attention. In order these components are individual questions and answers, attention to pronunciation on a personal basis, attention to individual methods of writing, which means both stroke order and awareness of stroke radicals. Furthermore, a small class size, or at least a much higher staff to student ratio, means that it is possible to address the individual goals of students Mandarin studies. Ultimately a private Mandarin language school, as opposed to a public university, is a business and is therefore much more aware of competitive factors. For mandarin language studies these factors make a world of difference.
To conclude: learning Mandarin is difficult. It is essential to be in China to succeed in your studies. The first two major difficulties that you will face in your Mandarin language studies are pronunciation and the Chinese writing system. These barriers are difficult to negotiate in classroom where there are too many students per teacher for the teacher to address your individual questions. Furthermore, a large class size, like the ones in a Chinese university, rules out the possibility of creating the content you need to as an individual target the most important aspects of your Chinese studies.
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