Summing up last semester (fall 2012 at NTNU)

Like many other articles I have planned for this website, this article is long overdue. The difference between this one and the others is that I’ve actually written this one and now also published it. It would feel a bit silly to post a summary of my first semester in the Graduate Institute for Teaching Chinese as a Second Language (華語文教學研究所) months or even years after it actually ended.

Since many people have asked me about how I’m doing so far, I thought I’d write about it here. Therefore, this is in a sense also a Chinese proficiency report, even if I won’t bother to evaluate the different skills this time.

In short, I want to talk about three things:

  • My previous long-term goal for learning Chinese
  • My actual grades for the past semester
  • My thoughts about the program in general

My previous long-term goal for learning Chinese

Roughly three years ago, I set the long-term goal of being able to survive a graduate program in a language-heavy subject taught with native speakers in mind. I didn’t know that I would actually do that back then, but it sounded like a good idea and the goal was fairly concrete as well and something to work towards.

As my grades in the next section will show, I have now reached that goal. Sure, I haven’t graduated yet, but if I encounter problems during the rest of my time here, it’s not going to be because my Chinese isn’t up to par. Obviously, I have an almost infinite amount of Chinese left to learn and I still have some serious problems, but they aren’t of the nature that will make me fail my courses. Spending enough time will solve most problems.

I have been thinking about setting a new long-term goal, but rather than rushing it, I’m going to think about that for a while before I write anything about it. It’s likely to to be something related to teaching, explicit knowledge of Chinese or something similar, rather than language competence in general, as has been the case earlier.

My actual grades for the past semester

I took four courses last semester with a total of eleven credits. The maximum score for each course is 100. 70 is required for passing and 80 to keep receiving my scholarship without problems.

The courses and my grades were as follows:

  1. 華語文教材教法 (Chinese Language Teaching Methods and Materials): 89
  2. 話語語音教學研究 (Studies in Phonetic Instruction in Chinese): 90
  3. 漢語語音學 (Chinese Linguistics): 96
  4. 高級華語 (Advanced Chinese language course): 94
  • Weighted average: 92.1

The last course isn’t actually a part of our academic courses, but a requirement from our institution. All foreigners who don’t have the right qualifications have to enrol in language courses for foreigners. Of the three regular courses, the first and third were compulsory, whereas the second was elective.

In general, I’m quite happy with my grades. I think I deserved the 90 in the phonetics course and the 94 in advanced Chinese, but I actually didn’t expect the 96 in linguistics. I would have expected a result below 90. I don’t know what I expected for teaching course, but perhaps 85. This course had a midterm in-class written exam that made everybody nervous as hell, but since I got 84.5 on that one, I wasn’t too nervous about the final grade.

Apart from actual courses, I also passed the 華語口語表達考試, which is an oral exam that all teachers (including native speakers) in Taiwan have to pass in order to become Chinese teachers. I don’t think I did very well on the exam, actually, but obviously someone thought it was enough. That’s one less hurdle left on my way to graduation! Yay.

My thoughts about the program in general

My overall impression of the program so far is actually a lot more positive than I thought it would be before I came here. As you might know, I have studied at this university before and didn’t like it very much, but this is a new department (sort of), new teachers, new campus and, perhaps most importantly, a new level (master). A new start, so to speak.

The quality of the courses vary, but I know that I will learn an awful lot during my time here. Sometimes it might not be because of innovative teaching methods or brilliant lecturers, but that doesn’t really matter. The program provides enough support, a wide variety of interesting courses and a very stimulating environment. That’s more than enough to make me happy.

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