The editors of this blog and myself are really luck people. Why is that? Because we are passionate Mandarin students and we have the chance to study in a university while living in a (almost) total Chinese environment.
However, we are aware that not everyone has enough means or time (especially if you already have a career, a family to take care of…etc) to move out in a Chinese speaking country or simply to attend a school in their own countries. Let’s be honest, learning Chinese outside a proper environment is a difficult operation. Mandarin isn’t really a complex language but it definitely needs to be practiced a little bit every day or you will quickly forget everything you’ve learnt before.
There are countless ways to learn Chinese, both online (Podcasts) and off (textbooks), but I’m not going to review them all here. Some are really well done but they all have one major flaw, they may be used to “train” or “review” your Mandarin abilities but can’t be used as efficient tools to “learn” mandarin in a proper way.
As I won’t be able (timely and financially) to attend my Mandarin Training Center indefinitely, I’ve passed the past few months searching and trying different services that could efficiently replace a class with skilled teachers while fitting a potentially busy schedule. It wasn’t easy but we’ve hopefully found two nuggets that could not only replace “traditional” way of learning but also definitely enhance the experience.
Our first nugget here is called ChineseTeachers.com, it focuses on oral training and will dramatically improve your ability to speak Chinese.
Chineseteachers.com has been created to answer several simple but recurrent problems that languages learners often encounter:
- You don’t speak that much during your class (usually 10 to 15 cumulated minutes during a two hours class at most).
- One to one (private) lesson are usually very expensive, hard to afford on a long-term basis.
- Online class often uses not very handy software that not everyone knows/wants to use.
- You always have to book a lesson in advance prior to start, if it’s 1am and you feel enough energy to start a lesson, you just can’t, you can go to sleep.
Basically Chineseteachers is like a marketplace where students, eager to quickly and efficiently learn how to speak Mandarin meet a large (about 200) pool of professional native Chinese teachers located all around the world (therefore mastering different other languages such as English (mandatory), French, German, Japanese, Portuguese…etc.).
Once you’ve registered, filled your profile (better to let your teachers know who your are) and topped-up (you can start with an amount as low as $1), you simply go to the main pages and check which teachers are already online:
As I mentioned above, there is no booking needed and I can start a lesson right away without having to install any software, everything is made through your browser (make sure to use the latest one such as Firefox or Chrome).
If you have specific questions/exam to prepare or just want to improve your conversation you can chose a random teachers (I usually do that to train hearing different accents, from southern, Taiwanese to the heavily accentuated northern one). But realistically, you are here to learn seriously, you’d better to book the same teacher (or group of teachers) for a regular (daily in my case) period of time, the teacher knows what is your level/progress and will prepare/adapt the course in consequences.
Homemade materials (“guides”) are available but most of the teachers already possess widely used schools textbooks (PAVC, Integrated Chinese, NPRC…etc). Everything learned during the class is stored online and can be accessible anytime. At the end of the lesson you can provide a feedback about your teacher.
Of course a service like this one isn’t free, but the good part here is that it’s really not expensive, per hour basis I even pay less than what I was paying to attend a school with at the ends better results.
Basically you have 4 kinds of teachers:
- Associate Teachers: Great for practicing daily dialogue in Chinese, they cost about $12US per hour (you pay per minutes, the first two minutes are always free)
- Teachers: These teachers have official qualifications in teaching Chinese as a foreign language as well as teaching experience. They will give structured and relevant advice to learners of any level. Cost about $18/h
- Senior Teachers: Very experienced, qualified Chinese Teachers who have taught Chinese to foreigner students for many years. Cost about $24/h
- Professional: Business professionals with excellent teaching records. Cost about $18/h
This price are quite ok if you realize that we’re talking about a private one to one lesson, however it can become a little bit expensive if you plan to study more than regularly as I do (that’s is more than 5h a week) it would cost 240$ per month
In that case you can purchase one of their 30/90/365, which basically gives your unlimited lesson during 30 days for $199, 90days for $999 and a full year for $2999.
As you may have guessed here, I’m a happy Chineseteachers user (I am considering dropping school at the end of the month to exclusively use this service) and I definitely saw my oral ability dramatically increase since I started.
Let’s see together the pros and cons:
Pros: No booking needed, no external software, use my own materials, two hours class = two hours of speaking, 30/90/365 day pass, great complement to Skritter (reviewed next week), large pool of native teachers always available (no matter the day, the hour or the place where you currently are)
Cons: I don’t have much cons here as the service totally fulfill my needs but I’d say that people like me who aren’t that outgoing will have some problem during the first 10 minutes with a new teacher, it’s kind of intimidating.
Check back next week for the second part in this series as Jean-François reviews Skritter, the online service for reading, memorising and writing Chinese characters.