Monday, 3 April 2017

xièxiè, TsinghuaX

Here’s a story: in 2015, I did my first MandarinX course and quite liked it. Last year, I did the second one. And then, when the third instalment was announced, I thought it could be a good idea to refresh a bit of Mandarin in my memory. So I decided to try another basic course, TsinghuaX (TM01x Tsinghua Chinese), and see how it compares with MandarinX.

Now that edX scrapped their free honor code certificates, and I don’t have any spare money to pay for a “verified certificate”, I am doing these courses purely for myself.

Tsinghua Chinese: Start Talking with 1.3 Billion People

Just like MandarinX, TsinghuaX is a six-week course with estimated effort of 4 hours/week. Each of the six lessons contains the following sections:

  • Dialogue (several short videos and quiz)
  • Characters (several short videos and quiz)
  • Listening comprehension (quiz)
  • Tea time with Peter (study tips and cultural notes)
Like in MandarinX, most of the material is also presented by “talking heads” but here we have more diversity. In the Dialogue section, Ms Lǔ (or Lǔ lǎoshī) talks about grammar and vocabulary. Another teacher, Ms Wáng (Wáng lǎoshī), introduces a few Chinese characters. Although the focus of TsinghuaX course is on speaking (Ms Lǔ only uses Pinyin in her presentations), I have to say that I remember more of hanzi from Ms Wáng than from all MandarinX courses. I love the way she explains the origin of the characters. (On the other hand, I like that in MandarinX we are always given hanzi together with Pinyin. Even if it slows down my note-taking, I prefer to have both things.)

Here are the topics of TsinghuaX:

  • Lesson 1: Greetings
  • Lesson 2: Self-introduction
  • Lesson 3: Transportation
  • Lesson 4: Food
  • Lesson 5: Accommodation
  • Lesson 6: Shopping
There is no final exam, but you have to take quizzes (18 in total). To pass, you only have to get 60% right, which is really easy. The quizzes are good fun. For example, you are given the Beijing subway map. The task is to find a certain hanzi in the station names!

I was so inspired by this course that I decided to start yet another blog, just some symbols, where I present one symbol (usually a Chinese character) a day and write a short story about it.

Now back to MandarinX.

Basic Mandarin Chinese – Level 3

Here are the topics of MX103x:

  • Lesson 1: Movies
  • Lesson 2: Talking about studying Chinese
  • Lesson 3: Health / going to hospital
  • Lesson 4: Sports / getting fit
  • Lesson 5: Staying in touch / 21st century telecom
  • Lesson 6: Talking about studying (again!) and dating
Now MX102x had a “Question of the week” section. To do it, one had to set up an account with Prollster. The participation marks for this section were worth 10% of the grade. Like many other students, I found this requirement incredibly annoying (why do we need to register with one more platform?) and have chosen to ignore this section altogether. I’m glad that in MX103x they scrapped this nonsense. Just like in MX101x, each weekly quiz is worth 10% of the final score and the final exam is worth 40%. You need to get at least 80% to pass.

Estella, as always, was super-charming. However, listening to the dialogues, even with my level of understanding Mandarin, I had a distinct feeling that nobody talks like that in real life.

“Physical appearance isn’t everything, but I do like women who are shorter than me.”
“Your figure is very good, so you’re probably interested in exercise, too.”
“If I could find a girl like you that’s this perfect, it’d be too good to be true.”