星期三, 6月 27, 2007

7th Day of Class at ICLP Completed - Stealth Vocabulary

By tomorrow I should be rather familiar with about 382 new vocabulary words. Tomorrow only being the 8th day of class, it sounds rather daunting doesn't it?

It's actually somehow not as bad as it sounds because we are always repeatedly encountering the new vocab in our texts and subsequent texts, in our classes, and our conversations (and I'm starting to notice them in my environment as well). The words are just kind of sneaking into my brain. And this is coming from someone who had trouble learning 30 new words every two weeks in a non-Chinese environment.

Now this is an indicator of a great language program.

星期二, 6月 26, 2007

Taiwan Culture Lecture at ICLP - 台灣文化演講

This morning, a flyer was posted on the bulletin board announcing a lecture about Taiwanese culture. Out of interest and wanting to post something on this blog, I attended.

Our speaker was a western scholar who spoke completely in Chinese with only the smallest hints of a North American accent. Since half of the 50 or so people who attended had never been to Taiwan before, he first provided a overview of Taiwan's demographics and recent history associated with each demographic. The main portion of his talk focused on a general overview of his research subject, Taiwanese authors from the 1950s to the present. Lastly, he spoke highly about the excellent poetry which has been and is being produced by Taiwanese.

Taiwanese authors and works he recommended included:

1950s - Jiang Gui - "The Whirlwind" and "Rival Suns"
1960s - Bai Xianyong - Taipei Residents (台北人)and Crystal Boys
1960s - Wang Wenxing - Family Catastrophe (家變) and Backed Against the Sea (背海的人)
1960s - Chen Ruoxi - The Execution of Mayer Yin
1970s - Huang Chunming - The Taste of Apples
1970s - Chen Yingzhen - Exiles at Home
1970s - Wang Zhenhe - Rose, Rose, I Love You (玫瑰, 玫瑰, 我愛你)
1980s - Li Qiao - Wintry Nights
1980s - Zheng Qingwen - Three Legged Horse (三腳馬)
1990s - Zhu Tianwen - Notes of a Desolate Man
1990s - Zhu Tianxin - The Old Capital: A Novel of Taipei
1990s - Li Ang - The Mystery Garden

I really enjoy the research and academic focus of ICLP.

星期一, 6月 25, 2007

Calligraphy Class at ICLP

Last week, ICLP announced they would be offering free calligraphy classes during the summer and had a sign-up sheet up for anyone who was inerested. So many people were interested that they had to open up a second session. The classes are about four or five sessions for 2 hours at a time. This is a great opportunity to do something extra-curricular. I completely didn't expect this from the program. Kudos to them.

The introduction went very well. During the first hour, our instructor told very humorous and entertaining stories about learning calligraphy. The one point I got (or at least understood) of all his points was that calligraphy was about beauty, translating the beauty of one's soul onto paper. During the second hour he wrote all of our Chinese names in calligraphy (shufa).

In our next class, we are to come prepared to actually write a little. If we don't bring our own brush, we can buy a very good one from him for 400 NT ($12 USD). I remember when I took a calligraphy class in Beijing, we bought our own brushes for about 80 RMB ($10 USD), which for China seemed pretty expensive!

星期日, 6月 24, 2007

ICLP Flashcards

One of my classmates is putting up flashcards for one of the textbooks being used at ICLP. I also found a ton of other great flashcards here as well. Check it out! Flashcard Exchange

星期六, 6月 23, 2007

One week down, Seven more to go

Today, I felt much better about my classes. I wasn't the nervous, uncertain wreck that I was in previous days. I think I'm going to be alright!

I've realized that the classes assigned to me address areas which would dramatically improve my Chinese level. These are 1) reading and 2) speaking and organizing thoughts in Chinese in long paragraphs rather than one sentence answers.

星期五, 6月 22, 2007

ICLP Welcome Lunch

ICLP hosted a fabulous welcome lunch for us today with something close to a 200 dish spread. I was too busy eating the vegetarian goodies that I forgot to take a photo!!

Hanging in there

Hard to believe that I'm only in the third day of class. Yet another 屁股 kicking. I am getting the feeling that all the other students have grown up listening to Chinese. They all seem to have an intuitive sense for the language and a level of comfort with it that I don't have. If I had taken Japanese instead, I would have been in that same lucky situation! On the other hand, maybe its just my own insecurities with this language which is causing me so much grief.

明高 is the only other student who has started Mandarin from scratch. I think he speaks Cantonese though, which could actually make learning Mandarin for him much harder in some areas and much easier in others. I'm glad there's someone like him in my class.

星期四, 6月 21, 2007

Second Day of Class

The second day of class has seriously kicked my 屁股. I seriously didn't anticipate Chinese being taught at this level of...professionalism, for lack of a better word. Actually, I did anticipate it, but I think I was in denial until now.

Memorization and drudge work is to be done by ourselves. With only 50 minutes for each class, these classes concentrate on actual thinking through Chinese as a language. I'm very impressed.

Second day of class and I need to internalize a total of 180 new words by tomorrow. GAH! I am already behind!

星期二, 6月 19, 2007

Chinese-English Electronic Dictionaries

So you saw an electronic dictionary and think it would be handy for your Chinese studies? Well, it could be, but they are so 90s! One retailer previewed the most basic, monochrome dictionary for me and it was $120 US dollars! I could probably bargain it down to $100, but there is NO way I'm going to shell out that kind of money for something which only has one use. I'd rather put $200 into a color PDA which can run a number of nifty and useful applications.

The software I am planning on installing on my PDA is apparently a very good Chinese dictionary by Pleco. The dictionary can recognize stylus-inputed characters. It can even assemble textbook wordlists which can be downloaded off the internet. Just check out their website and you will see what I mean!

EDIT: (08/05)
I test ran Pleco off of my friend's PDA and it was okay, but intuitive and user-friendly it was not. It was split into two columns which made the content extremely inconvenient to read. I could have put it in one-column mode, but that would have made it even more inconvenient to navigate. It just wasn't as good as I expected it to be. I'm looking into getting a Wacom tablet for my computer instead.

I've noticed that many students here at ICLP are using Wenlin on their computers and also referring to http://xuezhongwen.net.

Gongguan Starbucks - a place to study?

Just by the Gongguan MRT station, there is a 3-story Starbucks. The top floor seems to the be the "study and discussion" area. This is the only Starbucks I've found with a large table and a power outlet...yes... A power outlet for my laptop!

It's nice to listen to so many young people chattering in Mandarin...very motivating!

The Starbucks across the street from the Language Center has two power outlets available and seems to be much less crowded.

星期一, 6月 18, 2007

Very First Day of Class at ICLP

I was placed in classes far above what I believed I was capable of.

Interestingly enough, the first class has one instructor with one textbook (Newspaper Readings) and the second class has another instructor with another textbook (Chinese Culture Topics). So it is as though I am taking two entirely different classes.

The third "class" is 1-on-1 tutoring which works in conjunction with one of the group classes (in my case Chinese Culture Topics).

There are a total of 4 students in the Newspaper Readings class and 3 in the Chinese Culture Topics class. Good small numbers.

All of my classmates in both classes are asian, specifically American and of some Chinese background (i.e. Taiwanese, Malaysian/Singaporean, Hong Kong). The instructor pointed out that our needs and our strengths are quite different from the needs and strengths of the non-Asian students. I'm the only student who is mixed. I think I'm doing pretty well holding my own given that neither of my parents ever spoke/speak to me in Chinese or any form of Chinese.

星期日, 6月 17, 2007

Bus Routes to ICLP

The fastest walk for me to the ICLP building was from the bus stop by the Taida Gym. The walk was roughly 6-8 minutes as opposed to the 15+ minute walk from the Gongguan bus and MRT stations. There is ONE line which stops right opposite of the ICLP building but it didn't go through any section of Taipei I was familiar with and I've forgotten the bus number. Some people also got off and walked from the Technology Building station on the Brown line of the MRT, but I'm not too familiar with that route either.

The buses which stop at the Taida Gym are:
207, 236, 251, 252, 253, 280, 284 (goes on to Taipei 101), 290
642, 643, 668, 675, 676

This list is not all-inclusive.

ICLP Program Assessment: Advantage #1 - Campus Perks

The best part about being an ICLP student is that we receive access to the NTU gym and library. Oh, did my standard of living just increase about 100 times.


The gym complex (which I am visiting almost religiously every other day or more) comes complete with a pretty decent fitness room with ellipticals, stair steppers, rowing machines, and lots of weight training machines. They also have an indoor swimming pool, table tennis hall, and squash courts. Membership for the gym is only 200 NT a month! ($6.60 USD) and membership for the pool is only 250 NT ($7 USD) a month! We can even rent our own lockers for 200 NTD per month. (Yah, renting a locker costs the same as a month of gym membership). The locker rooms have showers. Just love this place!

Outside the gym are the track, bball courts, and tennis courts. Though, I don't know who would want to exercise outside during a Taipei Summer. That's just asking for it. I could be induced to shoot a couple hoops in the evening.

NTU Library

Plenty of English language books for me to pore through and help me along with my research. It's a dream come true. We can rent books for 2 weeks at a time.

With Shida, you can also gain access to their library, but I don't think they have a gym complex. With TLI, there are no perks since it is a company, not a university.

星期六, 6月 16, 2007

Program Assessment: Peeve #2 - Textbooks

For $3300 tuition for the summer semester, couldn't ICLP have at least given us our books for free? Instead, I have to shell out another $680 NTD ($21 USD) for proprietary books published by ICLP...and published back in the 1990s I might add. My theory for this is that since the IUP program moved to Beijing in the late 1990s, ICLP just hasn't been able to put out anything new. To their credit, the books they are using are tried and true. No nonsense and basically just text and wordlists, text and wordlists.

As if I didn't have enough books from TLI and ShiDa and CUHK. Don't Chinese programs ever overlap their materials?

I was dead wrong. My Newspaper Readings text was published March 2007 (not even 3 months ago) and is extremely current.

EDIT AGAIN: (7/19)
The Newspaper Readings I textbook is published by Taiwan Normal University, not ICLP.

Program Assessment: Peeve #1 cont. - Cost Comparison with ShiDa

National Taiwan Normal University's (ShiDa) Mandarin Training Center (MTC) is also considered one of the best Chinese language programs in Taiwan and offers various programs and private tutoring sessions during the summer.

I crafted out a plan which most closely matches ICLP's:

8 weeks.
10 hours of group class per week, 6 hours of private one-on-one tutoring per week.

Total Cost: $1091 USD.

Plus, they don't charge a $50 application fee as ICLP does. That's a $2,259 USD discrepancy between two schools who are within 20 minutes walking distance of each other!

Other programs at Zheng Da (National Chengchi University) and at private companies (i.e. TLI) are even more affordable.

ICLP better be a damn good program for them to be charging such a premium for their classes. Classes start on Monday so keep following this blog and I will let you know how it goes.

Program Assessment: Peeve #1 - Cost

Regarding the summer ICLP Program at Taiwan National University (also known as NTU or TaiDa), my first impression actually hasn't been very favorable for reasons I will blog out in the next couple entries.

First and foremost is the cost factor:

Summer at ICLP
* 8 weeks of Chinese.
* 3 hours of class a day = 15 hours a week.
* Total contact time is 120 hours.
* Each day consists of 2 hours of small group class and 1 hour of 1-on-1 tutorial.
* That's 80 hours of small group class and 40 hours of 1-on-1 tutorial.
* Cost is $3,300 US dollars.
* Breakdown - $27.50/hour.

It all makes sense if you compare this to the US economy, but this is Taiwan, where the average salary is about $1000 USD per month. The $3,300 summer tuition is a little hard to digest just compared to the program's regular semester!

Regular Semesters at ICLP
* 12 weeks
* 20 hours per week
* Total contact hours: 240
* Cost = $3700 USD
Breakdown - $15.50 USD/hour