Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Live the language!

My Austrian friend Andreas Laimboeck (a long-time Beijing drinking companion who has made occasional bit-part appearances over on my other blog under a protective alias) has for the best part of a year now been devoting himself to setting up a new Mandarin school. Although he's been keeping up his day job at the same time, this is no mere 'hobby project' but a true labour of love - he's really put a tremendous amount of effort into getting things done right.

He was putting the finishing touches to his study centre in the early part of this year (there was a splendid day-long barbecue party to 'christen' the place last month), and he's now been fully operational for a few months - and already has quite an impressive roster of students. It's a great location for people living on the east side or working in the CBD: in the Sunshine 100 complex, just a few minutes north of Dawanglu subway station. Very nicely set up, too (in a converted apartment), with two fully-equipped modern classrooms, a couple of cosy study/relaxing areas, a kitchen and a balcony.

However, he anticipates that most students would prefer to have tutors travel to them, for lessons at their home or office; and he's quite prepared to provide that.

Of all my Chinese-speaking foreign friends, Andreas has achieved one of the highest levels in his effectiveness in oral communication - so good that he can prosper in a sales job where he's communicating with his customers entirely in Chinese. He therefore has quite a bit of insight into how to study Chinese effectively, and what the biggest barriers are for non-Asian learners. He's taken care to find Chinese teaching staff who are progressive and flexible in their approach, and he wants to put an emphasis on tailoring courses of lessons to the individual needs and goals of each student.

I, of course, am a notorious sceptic about the merits of learning this language. But I appreciate that most people do not share this curmudgeonly view, and I'm always very impressed by people who really knuckle down and make good progress in their Mandarin learning.

The fees are very reasonable (and I think there are some extra discounts for new students at the moment). If you're interested in taking a Mandarin course, I'd say Andreas' new school is well worth checking out -
he calls it Live the Language.

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