Learn Chinese online?

Can it be done. Apparently it’s taking off in China, and teachers there are offering it to students overseas. This article looks at the pros and cons.

Chinese instructors are teaching their language to students around the world without ever leaving China, as Liu Yang recently demonstrated while sitting in a cubicle peering at a streaming video image on her computer monitor.

Her headset comfortably on, Liu gently addressed a faraway student struggling to speak in the standard Chinese dialect. She watched him on her screen, corrected his pronunciation and guided him through simple drills in an online textbook.

With the latest technology, student and teacher heard each other clearly. They also saw each other on camera.

The era of interactive online language instruction has arrived. It may never be a complete replacement for face-to-face instruction, experts say, but its low cost and convenience make it attractive. Instruction in standard Chinese, or Mandarin, is taking off in China, where teachers are paid less than instructors abroad and easily embrace the technology.

“This is a trend. It is unavoidable,” said Dr. Marvin Ho, founder of the Taipei Language Institute, a Chinese-language school with 12 centers in Taiwan, Mainland China, Japan and the United States.

Others who are quoted say, however, that this technology can only go so far, and can never replace face-to-face instruction. While I would tend to agree, I would still love to try it; my tight schedule (the reason for the dearth of posts in recent weeks) makes going to class almost impossible. Anyone know where I can actually get any information on cost and class times?

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 4 Comments

This is nothing new. If you want to give it a try, take a look at Chinesepod.com .

March 29, 2006 @ 5:28 am | Comment

Chinapod has you download classes – I don’t want to do that. The service described in the article gives you a live teacher working with you in real time.

March 29, 2006 @ 5:53 am | Comment

Ahh..I can see where that would be useful – especially if your reading and writing aren’t up to par.

My problems are mostly related to pronunciation and phrases. So Chinesepod works well for my needs. I’m not sure how I’d like working in real-time over the internet though.

March 29, 2006 @ 6:03 pm | Comment

I think there would be two major issues regarding this type of learning.
1.) The quality of the teaching. Though any issue with any medium, a foreigner physically outside of China, may not have the ability to gauge the cirriculum’s quality.
2.) The ability of the student to learn in this environment. Distance learning certainly not a new technique, it’s been used widely since 1994.

There are ton’s of other issues discussed in this paper. http://carbon.cudenver.edu/~lsherry/pubs/issues.html

I would personally use it if for example, I had to miss a regular class, provided it was still the same teacher and the same format. I doubt I would use it exclusive of all other forms of learning.

March 29, 2006 @ 8:14 pm | Comment

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