Send Flowers to Iran AND Persian Carpets to Japan

Friday, March 27, 2009

Travel to Beijing via Z-trains

Two weeks ago, Mos and I together with my friends went to sightsee Beijing. Because we have read good reviews on the net, we tried the non-stop soft-sleeper Z-train.

It was a well-spent 498 RMB . The rooms are quite comfortable and warm and we get 2 pillows each. On our way to Beijing since we are the only occupants of the room, then we get ultimate privacy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Learning Chinese

If you are married to an expat in Shanghai then one of the things that make your stay productive is to study Mandarin. There are plenty of language schools in the city but in my opinion, going to the university is still a better option.

First of all, you have a good environment for learning. There is rigid and structured approach and there is the pressure in learning the language. You have midterms and final exams and also attendance is monitored and homeworks are encouraged.

Another good thing is that university is rather cheap with an average of 9000 RMB per semester, which means 3 lecture hours a day, 5 days a week, for 4 months.

I have been to two universities already -- Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, and Shanghai Traditional Chinese Medicine University. I decided to transfer universities since we live in Pudong area and it used to take me 2 hours to commute to Shanghai University of Finance. Another thing I don't like about that university is that some of the teachers are part-timers and hence they are not really experts. I think the university is trying to rake in cash by hiring cheap labour.

I remember that our "Listening" course is handled by an undergraduate and no one really takes her class seriously. We also have a "Writing" class which I think is irrelevant as the teacher would only ask us to write formal letters or documents by copying the book format without teaching anything. For our "Speaking" course, the teacher speaks with a western provincial accent and I really cannot quite catch it.

In Shanghai Traditional Chinese Medicine University, all of my current teachers have teaching degrees and speak more standard Mandarin. However, because the rule is 1 class per day, (2 days reading, 2 days speaking, 1 day listening) the teachers would already feel tired on the last minutes and would dismiss us early. I think it is a waste of time.

In order to compensate for this deficiencies of university lectures, I hired myself a private tutor which costs 40RMB per hour and I also subscribed to This is helluva of a site and I really learn pretty neat expressions are not taught in the university. In the end, I think it's the podcast which helps me communicate more on a daily basis and on different functions, but it's the university structure that reinforced and provides the solid foundation.

In my opinion, one cannot exists without the other.