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Frequently asked Questions

Visit the homepage and click on FAQ for the full list of all the Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do you teach Cantonese?

    No, we don't. Fa Yin (020 625 43 09) and Kai Wah (020 642 13 58) are the two schools in Amsterdam that do. They teach mainly children of Cantonese parentage. 
    Cantonese is the native language of Guangdong (Canton) province in China. It is the language spoken in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. As most Chinese restaurants in the Netherlands are Cantonese in origin, it is often the language you hear in Chinese restaurants. 

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  • When is school founded?

    The school was founded in spring 2004. The team consists of Chinese, Singaporean and Dutch with one goal in mind: to teach people from all over the World the official Chinese language. To begin with, we start in Amsterdam :). 

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  • How are the teachers selected for the school?

    The paramount criterion in our teacher selection is their teaching capabilities. It is of course very logical but we like to emphasize that we pay special attention to the teachers' ability to understand and communicate with the students. It is great if a teacher knows lots of history and culture about China and perhaps 10,000 characters by heart. But even more important is his or her ability to pass this knowledge on and help the students learn. In other words, Teachers are selected based on their ability to give the students a rewarding learning experience, even if they know only 9999 characters. :) Although most teachers are native Chinese, we don't exclude other nationalities, as long as they meet our criteria. 

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  • How many students in a group?

    The average group size is often around 10. However, this varies a lot per season as well as per course. In general, the higher the level, the smaller the group. 

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  • How do you teach Chinese?

    Chinese is not a difficult language, but to anyone who has not been exposed to Asian languages or culture, it is certainly different and therefore requires a little hard work. We can't learn the language for you, but we can provide you a conducive environment and enthusiastic teachers to make the learning process fun and rewarding. We know the challenges facing adults studying Chinese in a non-Chinese environment; therefore our courses are tailored especially to help the students overcome these obstacles. We hope to do this by the following: 

    1. Emphasising on conversation and practical usage.
    We know the frustration of spending years studying hundreds of characters, yet not being able to use it in a practical way. While poetry, grammar and writing are equally fascinating, we want you to be able to speak, starting with sentences like 'say that again' (再说一遍 zai shuo yi bian) or 'please speak slower' (请说慢一点 qing shuo man yi dian). We like you to be able to understand the signs in Chinatown, read the Chinese menu and comfortably say: 'Please bring me a pot of tea'. (来一壶茶 lai yi hu cha) 

    2. Providing you means to learn on your own.
    Spending a few hours a week in class with the guidance of a teacher is a great way to learn, but a lot can be learned outside the classroom. We want to provide you with some practical tools so that you can learn on your own outside the classroom. For example, we will teach you how to use a dictionary and the computer so that you don't have to wait till the next lesson before your questions can be answered. 

    3. Culture appreciation.
    Language is culture. It is not possible to learn a language and not the culture. Speaking Chinese, or any new language, is not just a matter of literal translation. The Chinese often express their ideas quite differently from the Dutch. A Chinese may say 'Yes' when he means no; a Chinese may ask a question that appears strange or even rude to the Western ears, and vice versa; a Chinese may not want to discuss certain topics. We will devote time to discuss such cultural peculiarities so that you can approach the language with cultural sensitivity. Besides, we like to explore other cultural aspects which the students find interesting. What we will include in the course depends on the students' interest. So do let us know. 

    4. Achieving your goal.
    Everyone can start a course, finishing it is the challenge. To reach any level of proficiency within a short period of time requires a little hard work and perseverance. Set yourself a realistic goal and we will help you achieve it. We will try our best to make the lessons interesting so that you'll look forward to the next lesson. Combining fun and hard work is the challenge. Let's do it together! Whatever your reason for wanting to learn Chinese, we are here to help you. Good luck and we look forward to seeing you in class! 

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  • When are the holidays of the school?

    Course data for regular courses (classes) are mentioned at the schedule page. For the exact dates, click on Time table. The individual courses can start any time (as long as teacher is available).

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  • How many courses do you have in a year?

    We have 2 or 3 courses a year. One or two in winter/spring and one in autumn. 

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  • Do you teach children?

    We do not organise classes for children anymore. On individual basis, it is still possible. For regular children classes you can contact www.mandarinstars.nl or Kai Wah (020 642 13 58). We appreciate if you mention our name.

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  • Open registration

    An open registration means that the course starts, if we have enough students.

    In this case, you register and fill in your availability. Once we have enough students, we will contact you and your fellow students with a proposal for dates and times, as much as possible taking into account everybody's availability. If enough students accept the proposal, we will start. 

    'Enough students' varies per course. An intensive course (207) already starts with a few registrants,  for a regulare beginner course (101) we need about 10.

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  • What level of Chinese should I select?

    If you are a beginner, you can join the 101.
    However, if you already learned some Chinese before, you might skip one or more classes. So what is the right course for you?

    These 2 points might help you to make the decision.

    • acquired knowledge
    • available time

    Knowledge: in the "Study room (Studeerkamer)" of our website you can find the Course Requirements for each course.
    Time: if you have lots of time, you could start at a higher level. If you have a busy life and occasionaly miss a lesson, it is advisable to start a bit lower.

    If seats are available, you can switch to another level, during the course period. If applicable, you pay the difference in course fee and the extra books.
    Do take into account that we do not actually offer every course in every season. Or perhaps we do, but the course days do not fit into your agenda. It is not possible to pause and wait until the offered schedule fits into your personal agenda (see also the payment conditions on our contact page). 

    As our lessons are intensive and focused, we do not offer trial lessons. This is too interruptive for student and teacher.

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  • I speak Cantonese. Which course should I attend?

    If you speak Cantonese and know how to write Chinese characters, you can skip beginner classes. You will miss some basic information about Mandarin, which you have to learn on your own. Of course, this is just a general advice. It depends on the personal circumstances to know what is best to do. See also the previous advice. 

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  • How many characters do I learn?

    In a course of 12 lessons you can learn roughly between 100 - 150 characters. That is between 200 en 300 words. In the beginning it usually takes more time to acquire new characters. After a while you see the system in the Chinese characters (yes, there is!) and you will learn faster. 

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  • How much time do I need for homework?

    It depends on many things. An estimate would be 4 - 6 hours. 

    Tip: allocate ample time for making homework.
    Without planning and a lot of enthusiasm, you can get very far the first weeks. However many "unexpected" events can than easily mess up your study and it will be hard to finish the course.

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  • What books are you using?

    Beginner: We use A Key to Chinese Speech and Writing, Volume I. 
    (Chinese with English explanation)

    This book is written by Zhang Pengpeng, a senior lecturer at the Beijing Language and Culture University, together with a Frenchman Joël Bellassen, an associate professor at the Seventh University of Paris and chairman of the French Association of Chinese Language Teachers.

    This book combines the best of the East and the West and is one of the best books for learning Chinese in a foreign environment. 


    Intermediate: we use New Practical Chinese Reader, starting from part 2. By Liu Xun, Zhang Kai, Liu Shehui, Chen Xi, Zuo Shandan & Shi Jiawei (Chinese with English explanation)

    Children: we make use of books published by Jinan University ( 暨南大学 ). These books are specially developed by the Chinese Government for the education of overseas Chinese children. Some books are totally in Chinese, some are in Chinese and English. 



    Holiday Chinese and Future parents of Chinese children:

    The booklet and the audio CD are specially developed by our school. They accompany our courses but are excellent materials for self study and to bring along on your trip as a phrase book. All phrases are in Chinese and pinyin (Chinese written in Latin alphabet) with English translation.

    A5 size course/phrase book.
    Audio CD.

    The booklet and CD are available for sale at € 30/-. 

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  • What kind of dictionary do I need as a beginner?

    For beginners, we advice Oxford Beginner's Chinese dictionary. See also the Bookhsop link. This is a Chinese-English and English-Chinese pocket dictionary. It is designed for people learning Chinese and therefore has many extras like a list of measure words and the stroke order of a character. We also offer other dictionaries and books in our bookshop. 

    Please pay attention that a lot of (cheap) dictionaries are made for Chinese learning English. Those dictionaries have often small characters and do not mention the pinyin.

    Beginners don't need a dictionary from the first day. 

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  • Regular course: is it possible to change one evening?

    From the fourth week on, you can, without any extra costs, change your study day or even go more often to a course of the same level for the registered period. You don't have this announce this in advance, but we do request that you introduce yourself to the teacher in the new class.
    No refund is possible if you do not make use of the offered classes. 

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  • Individual course: can I change the agreed date and time?

    Before we start a serie of individual lessons, we agree on a certain schedule. After we start, there are only limited possibilities to change the scheme. We offer different packages. The choice of package determines the maximum number of changes after the start. Whatever course you follow, you always need to inform us at least 48 hours in advance of changes, otherwise the lesson is void.

    We like to advice you that in order to achieve good study results, it is important to maintain a regular scheme. 

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  • How long is one lesson?

    Our usual lesson duration for a beginner group is 2.5 hours. Higher levels are usually 2 to 2.5 hours. 


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  • What is the teaching language?

    We choose for the pragmatic solution. If everybody speaks Dutch we teach in Dutch. If there are several international students and / or we have a foreign teacher, we will teach in English. Always send a separate email just after your registration, to make clear that you prefer an English class if that is the case. 

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  • Do you offer trial lessons?

    We do not offer trial lessons.

    We can imagine, that you do not want to immediately register for a few years. Therefore we divided the study in parts of 3 months. We think that you need at least this period, to experience the course. After a few months you know from real life experience, if you have enough time and discipline to go every week well prepared to class.

    Of course, you are always welcome to ask us questions, to make well informed decisions. Or try the free online lessons at www.ChineseSpeechTrainer.com

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