- Learning Mandarin the unique way
"Skilled teachers are the key to language acquisition", writes Lisa Stones
The quality of your prospective teacher is the most important thing to consider after deciding to learn Mandarin, according to Fu Xianling, Managing Director of New Concept Mandarin in Hong Kong..
Fu said that to teach a language effectively was not a simple thing. "It is not enough to say you are a native Mandarin speaker and therefore can teach the language," Fu said.
The New Concept Mandarin teaching method was based on Fu's research at Queensland's Griffith University and is designed for non-Chinese speakers.
"Our area of expertise is teaching non-Chinese speakers Mandarin - this is what the course is specifically deigned for," Fu said.
"There is a lot of demand from local Hong Kong people to learn Mandarin but because the approach is different for Chinese speakers we normally recommend they go to someone else."
The company receives about many inquiries every day about courses, most of which are referrals from former or existing students.
"People in Hong Kong are beginning to feel a sense of urgency about learning Mandarin.
"Job opportunities in Hong Kong are greatly increased if you can speak Mandarin and business people generally want to be more informed about China."
Fu said in the past many companies doing business in China used local people as interpreters but understood nothing about the country. As a result there were inevitable faux pas on the cultural level. Now most big companies want to use their own people who have both Mandarin language skills and cultural knowledge of the country. Because New Concept Mandarin's programme was set up to suit the needs of executives doing business in China it is not purely a language course. It is what Fu describes as "a China experience" to help business people avoid embarrassing social blunders.
When New Concept Mandarin first set up in Hong Kong the decision was made to teach the simplified version of Chinese characters. Considering that almost no simplified Chinese characters were seen in Hong Kong at that time and there was still substantial resistance to their implementation it was a brave move. That decision has paid off with more simplified characters in use in the territory and people realising the importance of learning this version to avoid being cut off from the vast China market.
"When I first came to Hong Kong there were no simplified Chinese characters in use and Mandarin was rarely heard," Fu said. "Now most taxi drivers can understand Mandarin. You hear it in the supermarket and elsewhere and many companies are now producing advertising material in simplified characters. There are also many more schools in Hong Kong teaching Mandarin."
New Concept Mandarin employs all native Mandarin speakers as full-time teachers.
"Our teachers must have an understanding of language teaching. They must understand about language acquisition and the need to experience it, not to learn it parrot fashion."
Students can either take a private course at their own office or pick up a nearby NCM training centres. The contents of their classroom learning are also available in their CD-ROM or online courses. So if a student wants to have more extended practice or enhance their classroom study the CD-ROM and the online courses are really helpful. The CD-ROM and online courses makes is easy for students to catch up classes if they have to miss classes.
The success of New Concept Mandarin's unique method has been widely recognised with students from Canada, the US and Australia, among others, flying into Hong Kong especially to undertake one of the company's intensive courses.
The majority of students, about 90 per cent, are learning Mandarin to do business in China. The remaining 10 percent are non-business people including parents wanting to help their children learn Mandarin and people whose partners have been transferred to work in China.-- The Australian Entrepreneur
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