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Ron with Beijing Family

Ron at his Host Family's Son's Wedding Dinner

DiQiuCun Language School

DiQiuCun (Global Village) Language School in Beijing

Students in China - Ron in Beijing

This spring I completed my third month-long trip to China to study Mandarin. It has become a yearly habit, as I can afford the time and it’s a perfect complement to Chinese classes at the Northwest China Council. In spite of being immersed in a foreign language for a month plus, I enjoy it tremendously and return home with renewed confidence in my speaking and listening abilities.

I chose April for its brief interlude of mild weather in Beijing as the city transitions from cold winter to warm summer weather. The plan mostly worked. The previous time I studied there, in late February though March, the temperature hovered at freezing most of the time. My room wasn’t much warmer. This time was much better.

One of my goals for this trip was to minimize cost so that I could afford to make language study trips more often. My plan was to avoid schools that cater to westerners, since these tend to charge western rates. I also decided to find a place to stay myself rather than go through the school. This was easy, since I had established a number of contacts during my first trip to Beijing. I ended up living with a host family, which included a room, breakfast, dinner, and a very talkative non-English-speaking family.  The total cost for 5 weeks in Beijing, including airfare, room, board, and tuition, was around US $1600. This was compared to more than double that for my first stay.

I ended up studying at the Diqiucun Language School (地球村培训学校) in Beijing’s Haidian District, which caters almost entirely to Korean students. Last year while traveling through Beijing, my teacher, Willow, scoped out language schools for her students, including Diquicun. She found several good schools, but especially liked Diqiucun for its combination of price, quality, and location. She also was familiar their textbooks.

Their website is www.diqiucunschool.co.kr, but isn’t too helpful unless you understand Korean Hangul. I also saw no evidence that anyone at the school office speaks English, or at least is willing to. Once I got past registration, however, this was a benefit, since I wasn’t able to be lazy and fall back on English. The easiest way to register is to just show up at their office, select one or two classes, and then start attending. I brought my Chinese landlady along to help out. You can attend up to three classes on a trial basis in order to determine the most suitable. Registration is in two-week blocks. Most classes are two hours per day, 5 days a week.  A single two-week class cost me around US $32.  I was worried that with such low tuition would be offset by poor teaching quality. I couldn’t have been more wrong. All of my teachers were excellent and enthusiastic.

I started out taking two 2-hour classes plus 2 hours of 1-1 tutoring each day. This proved to be too much, and after 2 weeks I dropped the second class, striking a nice balance of 2 hours of class + 2 hours of tutoring each day. The Diqiucun School itself doesn’t offer 1-1 tutoring, but it was easy to get a teacher to tutor during his/her off hours.

Outside of class my social calendar was always filled, as my host family’s relatives adopted me for the month and kept me busy on evenings and weekends with totally Chinese engagements, providing ample opportunity to practice my Mandarin. This included two hiking trips up Beijing’s Fragrant Hill (香山) and a Chinese wedding dinner (喜酒)where I was the only westerner attending, and of course the traditional welcome (接风) and good-bye (送行) dinners for travelers.

My one break from Chinese was having lunch most weekdays with Tom, another of Willow’s students from Portland, who was in Beijing at the same time, and also taking classes at Diqiucun. Tom is the subject of another "Students in China" article. In the end, Tom and I agreed that we had had positive experiences at Diqiucun School, and plan to return to there in the future.

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