Here is a question to think about: how intensive is ideal in learning Chinese? Or does intensity (hours put in study) matter when it comes to language learning?
As a teacher, I’ve taught classes in several levels of intensities (1hr/week, 2hr/week, 6hr/week, 35hr/week, 40hr/week). The 40hr/week is Chinese trainings I have given for Berlitz‘s clients, where I was requested to teach using their own Berlitz method (Berlitz is an international language training company).
Obviously if you invest more hours, it’s much likely that you will acquire more knowledge. However, in terms of students spirits and whether it’s suitable, I think it’s still interesting to discuss the pros and cons of the normal learning and the intensive learning. I don’t know if there exist better terms, but let me just call them regular classes (for studying roughly 6hrs/week or less) and intensive classes (for studying over 20hr/week).
I also want to make clear that the hours here are rough numbers just for comparison, not by strict means. Obviously there is also difference between 1hr/week and 6hr/week, but you get what I mean by regular and intensive.
Regular classes: (roughly or less than 6hrs per week)
I assume the majority of Chinese learners are learning at this intensity. Most of my students as well.
- students can learn at a rather relaxed speed
- easy to co-operate with work (the class can easily fit in one’s schedule)
- usually affordable
- homework is not overwhelming
- learning takes a long time
- many students tend to quit after sometime (due to the slow progress)
- classes can be with a quite big group
In my opinion, the regular classes work the best for people who are:
- >> learning for fun
- >> more interested in Chinese culture
- >> having relatively more free time
- >> wishing to experience what learning Chinese is and maybe later study more seriously
- >> looking for affordable classes
The learning is easier and also entertaining when studying with a group. I’d recommend you to take your time and study at your pace if any of the above situations fits you.
Intensive classes (more than 20hrs per week)
- students can get into the feeling of learning a language very shortly
- students can stay focused (or motivated to stay focused)
- learn a ton of knowledge in a very short period
- normally in a small group which means every student gets enough time to practice in class
- the intensity can be overwhelming
- short memory overrules long time memory
- difficult to co-ordinate with daily job or other obligations
- more expensive
Speaking from my personal experience, the intensive classes are particularly useful for:
- >> Cantonese speakers (or other Chinese dialect speakers): for them the biggest obstacle is the pronunciation. The intensive classes can help them master pronunciation in very short time.
- >> serious learners: those who make a commitment and are serious about what they want to learn and what they want to achieve (such as managers about to go on a business trip to China, or people with Chinese partners, etc) can benefit more from the intensive classes. In addition, it’ll also save a lot precious time. In the long run, it’ll be cost-effective.
What are your thoughts? How intensive have you learned your Chinese or do you wish to get started? Leave your comment below!
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