Studying Chinese at SYSU

So, we are almost into our third week here at SYSU. Time for a little update on what classes are like, our schedule and what we’ve covered so far.

Day one: registration

On the first day, before classes began, we had to register. This took place in the Chinese as a second language administration building. After registering with our documents, we went downstairs and were given a quick interview to pre-assess our level. I was asked a few simple questions, and introduced myself. In the last part of the interview, I was shown a piece of paper with a series of characters. On reflection, they were quite easy, but I didn’t recognize them all.

The ladies interviewing me were surprised at my high level of spoken Chinese, especially as I can’t read simple characters! I was told that I’d be in level 2, and that it would be very much “你好,你好的汉语” far too easy for me – but I should be in this class in order to learn to read and write!

A few days later, we came back to school to find out our level, and buy our books.

Level 2 books – ‘Developing Chinese’ for 口语课 speaking classes. ‘Short-term listening chinese’ for 听力 listening class, and ‘Boya Chinese’ for 读写客 reading and writing class.

我们每个星期有十八节课。Each week, we have 18 classes – 12 reading and writing, 4 listening, and four speaking. They’re either in the morning or the afternoon, meaning we still have a fair bit of free time. If I have classes in the morning, I tend to grab lunch at the canteen and hit the library for a few hours of character writing.

So far, I’ve found the speaking and listening classes far too easy, but I’ve learned that I need to be humble and learn the foundations. My problem is that I’ve learned Chinese informally ‘on the streets’ so I know what to say, but there are gaps in my knowledge such as measure words for different items, and vocabulary outside of daily life. For example, I can introduce my family, their professions, and their interests etc, but didn’t know that you use 口 for family members.

Character writing is proving to be very difficult for me, but I’m starting to pick it up. In each class, we tend to learn about 20 or so characters. It’s frustrating for me as a ‘false beginner’ because they aren’t new words. I’ve used them all quite regularly, and typed them on my phone. I recognize them all, but struggle to recall how to write them. A byproduct of the digital age. I have whole conversations on WeChat in Chinese, but can’t write them by hand!

We have a 汉字 exam tomorrow – so I’m spending my afternoon revising in the library!

3 thoughts on “Studying Chinese at SYSU

  1. Dave

    It’s ingesting to read through your experience. I can imagine it’s going to get difficult as the months go by. Looking forward to the updates!

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