- New Concept Mandarin - Shenzhen - Worth the Price??
An HR person (we are not quite sure who this person is yet) wrote the following comments about New Concept Mandarin (NCM). He had expatriates in his company who need to learn Chinese and he took Mandarin courses with us himself. He shared his experience with NCM in Chinese-Forums.
I'm the HR person in southern China for one of those logo'd companies you see on the NCM client list and have been responsible for bringing something on the order of 60-70 foreigners plus their family members to Guangdong during the last 8 years or so. Those foreigners are primary from the US, UK, and Australia. A very small part of the role of an HR person in setting up an operation and bringing folks in is scoping out and comparing local vendors. So perhaps I can be of assistance in your quest.
The caveat, of course, is that of the local vendors I scoped out when first getting here, I selected NCM -- and made the "preferred provider" sale -- to my line management. So I'm not exactly unbiased. However, I'm happy to share with you some of my experience in managing that relationship since then.
The expats and family members we brought in were not limited to using NCM... they could choose any other local provider, local university instructor, or private tutor they chose and the company would still pay the bill. Consequently, they didn't have to consider cost in selecting. Our company did, however, require verification of course attendance and some extraordinarily minor proficiency evaluation at the end of the session. In all but a couple of cases, our staff and their family members who elected to study Mandarin selected NCM or came back to NCM after trying another service provider. For the handful (maybe 10-15) people who wanted to continue studying Mandarin after the company-paid benefit limit was reached, all elected to continue either directly with NCM or with their NCM teacher who may have been doing some freelancing on the side. And they paid for it out of their own pockets. (Not that they were happy about paying for it... better to have the company pay, of course, but after the maximum benefit was reached, the company wouldn't pay for instruction from anyone, regardless of cost.)
I rarely received complaints about NCM from our staff/family members. The complaints I received were usually around "chemistry with the specific teacher" issues, but none of those folks elected to ask NCM to provide a different instructor, either.
Consequently, given that our folks tended to gravitate toward NCM when they were free to choose other options, had few complaints, and seemed inclined to use NCM even when they were paying themselves, my company has maintained that relationship from 2000 to current.
Personally, my first two instructors were freelance teachers, one a retired university professor and the other a local middle school English instructor freelancing Chinese lessons to local expats. The university prof was very, very Chinese, but he beat tones and pronunciation into me. Am very grateful for that subsequently, but didn’t really get enough vocabulary in our time together to beyond minor pleasantries. My second freelance structor was very, very, very Chinese and it was about then that it dawned on me that I learn differently from the Chinese students these folks were used to working with.
So I went to NCM and have now taken a couple of different courses through them – one group course and one set of private tutoring sessions. I wanted to take the immersion course but couldn’t get enough time away from work and so am taking an extended series of private tutoring lessons. Must say that I preferred the group sessions as there’s greater opportunity to interact with other learners and learn from them. I find that when I’m with an instructor for 3 hours at a time speaking Chinese, I’m usually pooped by the end. So I group class that went a full day would undoubtedly be intense, but do-able depending on your own tolerance/motivation levels.
NCM for me is good in that their instructional method is suited to westerners’ learning patterns. My freelance local instructors tended toward wanting rote memorization of sentences which is often how locals begin learning their English. That method didn’t work for me because I wanted to take sentences apart and use the vocabulary I learned in different structures…which sometimes can be done and sometimes can’t.
I’ve met with the head of NCM on numerous occasions during the years when renegotiating our corporate contracts. He’s Chinese (from Wuhan) but did Ph.D. study in Australia in linguistics and is now an Australian passport holder, if I recall correctly. He developed the base curriculum for the NCM series of courses and has generally tried to structure them in ways that follow western style learning patterns and give a combination of vocab, tone practice, and common expressions that can get students up and running in a reasonable period. I know the instructors have also been trained to be very perky and try to keep things moving along at a good place, knowing that we’re an MTV generation that takes things in small bites and needs some entertainment in order to learn. (Personally, I hate that. There is nothing that irks me more on a Monday morning than to have my instructor show up and be perky.)
BTW, NCM was one of the few vendors here willing to sign our corporate ethics statement and I’ve never had any reason directly or through our company’s students to question their practices. So I wouldn’t leap to the conclusion that they’re getting kickbacks from local hotels, although anything is possible, I suppose. Their immersion courses thus far have been rather small…only 2 or 3 folks a pop, at least when I was checking for myself… and they only started them earlier this year, so I’m not sure they had enough data or clout to go to the local hotels with the kind of commitment that could result in a good discount. If the hotel thing is an issue, ask them for a price quote without the hotel stuff included and make your own arrangements if you’d prefer.
However, without a doubt they’re expensive…they’re doing a lot of development right now with proprietary texts, online interactive stuff, DVDs, etc., although they’ve had a CD-ROM product for some time. So developing that stuff is probably not cheap. They are also going international and are expanding to Germany. So we students are paying for that at the same time we’re theoretically benefitting from instructional methods that are being continuously refined.
BTW, if you’re interested in the Shenzhen area, Shenzhen University has Chinese courses for foreigners and there are a number of private instructional companies in Hong Kong that also teach Mandarin.
Long note, I realize, but I hope it’s helpful. I think it’s pretty much (a) how do you learn and how do you want to learn, ( what type of ongoing motivation do you need once you get started, © what types of bells-and-whistles do you value, if any, and then weigh that against the practical realities of costs and locations. It’s different strokes for different folks; there are lots of vendors out there and even more individuals willing to trade some time to teach you Chinese in return for the chance to practice English with you. It just comes down to what you think best fits your learning goals and style, pocketbook, etc. There are advantages and disadvantages to every option…just depends on which set you are willing to live with.
Good luck. If you get to Shekou/Shenzhen, I hope your experience here is a good one.
- About Us
- New Concept Mandarin News
- New Concept Mandarin Beliefs
- New Concept Mandarin Story
- Learn Chinese in Your City
- Learn Chinese with Our Mandarin Teacher
- Be Our Franchisee
- What our clients say
- Partial Client List
- Study Chinese in your city
- Study Chinese in Hong Kong
- Study Chinese in Shenzhen
- Study Chinese in Guangzhou
- Study Chinese in Dongguan
- Study Chinese in Nanjing
- Study Chinese in Suzhou
- Study Chinese in Shanghai
- Study Chinese in Beijing
- Study Chinese in Singapore
- Study Chinese in Taipei
- Study Chinese in Toronto