How to Find a Really Good Chinese Teacher to Guide Your Learning

Retaining-Good-Teachers
Hello, Mandarin learners! This is Frank Geng again and I wish you a happy new year!

In January, I wrote an article on How to find a really good Chinese textbook. Hope that was helpful for you. Today, I’d like to continue on to talk about how to find a really good Chinese teacher.

Here are some facts:

I have many foreign friends who are learning Chinese Mandarin and complain to me that Chinese is too difficult to learn, even though they have private tutors to help them. At that time, I always tell them that they are so right and I suggest finding a professional teacher to teach them if they want to learn Chinese seriously.

The fact is the Chinese language is a far-distance language from Indo-European language for most western learners. This language asks for more effort and hours to achieve a functionally native proficiency, or the superior level according to ACTFL-OPI (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages- Oral Proficiency Interview). Here is ACTFL-OPI chart language acquisition.

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To reach the superior level, more hours are needed for a western learner to learn Chinese than one who is learning Spanish. With more detail, we will see the durations of language programs in American Defense language Institute where 24 foreign languages were taught. The following scale shows the duration of formal instruction (25 class hours a week) of these language programs for English speakers.

[table class=”table_purple shadow”]
Difficulty Categories Duration of instruction Languages
I 26 weeks French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish
II 34 weeks German, Indonesian
III 48 weeks Dari/Persian Farsi, Hebrew, Hindi, Russian, Serbian/Croatian, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Uzbek, Urdu
IV 64 weeks Arabic (Levantine, Iraqi), Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Pashto
[/table]

I giving you the above example not to quench your fire to learn Chinese, but want to tell you that the truth that learning Chinese language is very challenging. It is not a smart idea to learn Chinese from the Rosetta Stone or Chinese for Dummies. In order to save time, it is worth to pay a good and qualified teacher to help you learn Chinese language.

Here are some standards

There are billions of Chinese native speakers in the world and finding a good Chinese teacher doesn’t seem to be a difficult problem. However, this thought is a very big misunderstanding. For a long time, teaching Chinese was not seen as a professional skill until 1981, when the Beijing Language and Culture University started to enroll college students who majored in teaching Chinese as a second language (also known as Duiwai Hanyu,对外汉语). These Chinese native students studied Chinese Language and culture knowledge, foreign language (mostly English) and the methodologies to teach Chinese to foreigners. In short, their training goal is to teach foreigner to speak Chinese in the most efficient way. When you look for a Chinese teacher, do firstly look for someone with the academic background of Duiwai Hanyu.

In 2007, the China National Office for Teaching Chinese as Foreign Language (also known as hanban 汉办) designed a criteria for international Chinese teacher qualification with 5 modules and 10 standards. Here is what Hanban developed as standards for Chinese teachers.

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Here are some Checking References:

If power in your hand to choose a Chinese teacher, you may need to go through a simple checklist rather than the general standards above. I personally use some references to distinguish amateur Chinese teachers from experienced ones. Here are 10 Yes/No questions that I use for my own evaluations.
Q1:Does the teacher has an accent?
Q2: Does the teacher speak too fast?
Q3: Does the teacher often say “Do you know XXX pattern”?
Q4: Does the teacher often say “Do you understand my question”?
Q5: Does the teacher often say “That’s just how we Chinese say it”?
Q6: Does the teacher often ask student to “make sentence”?
Q7: Does the teacher often ask student to “read the text after me”?
Q8: Does the teacher use too much translation or medium language?
Q9: Does the teacher speak more than you?
Q10: Does the teacher often butt in and correct your reply?

If your Chinese teacher has “yes” answers, you probably need to reevaluate your decision. However, it’s your time and money so please choose as you believe is best. You are always welcomed back to DigMandarin.com to meet some really good and qualified teachers here.

Frank Geng

Frank (耿直)is a lecturer of Chinese in Fudan University, specialized in Chinese teaching grammar and Chinese textbook studies. He graduated from Beijing Language and Culture University as a B.A, and received his Ph.D from Peking University at 2012. His publications include A Corpus-based Study on Comparative Sentences “Gen, You, Bi”(Fundan University Press, 2013), A Chaotic Model of Choosing and Arranging Language Points for Chinese textbook: With “ba” Sentence as Example (Chinese Language Education Research, Volume 18, 2013), Chinese textbook Honghuo Chinese. He was also a visiting Chinese Professor in Murry State University in 2010 and is serving as a member of the council of The Association for Modernization of Chinese Language Education.

  • Tim Brayton

    I’m learning Chinese for few months and it’s not so easy for me. First I tried to learn by different self-studying books and websites. But it was difficult for me and I didn’t have any conversations. Than, my friends suggest me to find tutor so I take lessons on https://preply.com/en/skype/chinese-tutors. It’s a good source and I started to practice speaking. As additional sources I read books, watch videos, try to learn as much words as possible. But even now I’m looking for new opportunities to try something new in language learning.

    If you know some great ways you tried yourself, let me know, please.