MHC in Beijing

Mount Holyoke's intensive, eight-week course in Chinese at Beijing Language and Culture University

July 29, 2006

Another week has come and gone . . .

As the title says, another week has come and gone for us MHC students in Beijing . . . and, well, for MHC students everywhere, I suppose. Yesterday was an important day for us because we had our midterms and our mid-semester projects, which were 10-minute skits that we performed in groups. It was a lot of fun (the skits, I mean, not the midterm), and everyone's skits were very funny. I particularly liked Kaitlin's impression of Wang Laoshi and the 3rd year skit where they made fun of the Beijing Opera. But still, everyone did a great job. After we finished our skits the teachers brought us pizza and we had a mini-celebration together. It was a lot of fun, but, of course, the pizza was about as similar to American pizza as American Chinese food is similar to real Chinese food. Basically there was almost no sauce, and barely any cheese. It was a little upsetting, but it had pineapple on top so that made up for everything.

This week's classes have been MUCH better than before. Our teachers are starting to loosen up, our male teacher has realized that we aren't going to attack him mid-lecture, and we're doing fun and useful stuff like looking at pictures and learning things about China. People are a lot more motivated, and everyone seems a lot happier in class, which is always good.

Next week we have our last lesson from our "Integrated Chinese" book and we're starting the new book that Wang Laoshi and Huang Laoshi wrote for our program. This is a great relief to everyone, because most of us really don't like the "Integrated Chinese" book we've been using for the past year and a half. Frankly it's a poorly written book. It seems like the writers just wrote a bunch of simple dialogues that kept increasing in difficulty, and from those dialogues wrote out vocab lists and grammar "rules." So after every lesson all but the most important vocab we had learned was never gone over again (and if it was, it was reused once or twice a couple of lessons later), and the book also never taught us some of the most useful words to know in the Chinese language. For example, if we strictly followed the book we would know how to say "The people on the top will crush the people on the bottom to death," but we wouldn't know how to say "Where's the nearest hospital?" or "'Where's the clock?' 'It's hanging on the wall over the map of China.'" Simple things like that. But this new book promises to be much better. It's even prettier than the old one (as you can see for yourself if you look above), which always counts for something.

So, I suppose I should leave today's entry at that. I'll try to update next week, but I'm pretty sure we're going to the Great Wall (Wang Laoshi's pretty much the only person who's ever certain about where we're going), so it might have to wait. Goodbye for now!