Tom and Mandarin Teacher on lunch break
Students in China - Tom in Beijing
After a year of Monday evening Mandarin classes with Willow Zheng Laoshi, I felt I had acquired a basic knowledge of Mandarin and really wanted to put it to the test of practice. So it happened I organized this 6 weeks trip to Beijing. And, also with the kind help of Willow and Ron, I determined a school and found a family for home stay.
The beginning was a bit rough, as the only means of communication was indeed ... Mandarin... But it really went well. I gained more practical use of Mandarin as the weeks went by. After a while I was able to handle conversations of daily life and handling my affairs on the street, shops, restaurants. Still stumbling of course, but I could communicate and people surrounding me, like my home stay family, were really supportive.
I really felt as I had this basis from a one year evening course (3 semesters at NW China Council, Book Level1/Part1), it gave me a jump start. If I were to start with no basics at all, a 6 weeks stay would only result in learning some basics and getting familiar with a new language. But now I was able to progress well. It also allowed me to keep pace with my schedule consisting of 4 hours class at the Korean school of DiQiuCun at Wudaokou, where you have a wide freedom in determining your classes, and another 1.5 to 2 hours per day of 1-on-1 tutoring.
So I enjoyed very much the experience of a 6 weeks stay in Beijing, in a Beijing family, studying Mandarin in class, and venturing off once in a while in a city that is undergoing an enormous transformation, and not only, as it is preparing for the Olympics in 2008. I can't wait to sign up for another 6 weeks stay and language learning experience in Beijing !
Tom Schutyser, Portland, OR
Note on Tom: Besides being interested in the Chinese language, Tom is also a serious student of Middle Eastern and Asian history and culture. During this visit to Beijing, Tom took an extended weekend to travel to the city of Xi'An to further research on his website, http://www.consideratcaravanserai.net, which is a study of "caravanserai', or roadside inns built to shelter men, goods, and animals along ancient caravan routes in the Muslim world. His site has lots of great pictures!.