After arriving in China in late 1980 I have tried many times to learn Chinese. In the early days contact with Chinese was very restricted. Making local friends and learning the language over a beer was a no-go. Also, one gets totally swallowed up by the job, in Beijing that is mostly 7/7 and most evenings included. Our mind is tired and not very receptive to learn.
After trying a couple of methods, buying lots of books, dictionaries, CD and cassettes I gave up. I just tried picking up some words through chitchat with locals. But frustration ran deep as I wanted to have a decent conversation with the many Chinese friends I have and who don’t speak English. I also love to chat with locals (service people, taxi drivers, …) who mostly don’t even understand the word “taxi”. I don’t want to go through interpreters, I want the people to feel at ease and open up.
After I met Curt, who became a good friend, he took out some time to convince me to try his method. Poor Curt, patience he needed, but he ended up making me a student.
I have now gone through all the lessons he had: some 275 lessons. Now the full course has 7 modules of 40 units each, being 280 units in total.
My pronunciation is so much better and so is my sentence structure – both were major problems. My vocabulary has improved considerably. Most important, I quickly gained confidence from the very first lessons, giving me the motivation.
In October 2010 I gave my first ever speech in Chinese, in The Great Hall of The People. Chinese officials were all impressed.
The teaching method uses no book and there is no “home work”. Well, that’s not entirely true. You receive original MP3 files. The clarity is great, both in English and in Chinese. There are many pauses that allow you to listen, digest and give it a try. And it is full of “military drill” – repeat, repeat, repeat. The teachers are great (yeah, I’m a sexist guy and I love it that they are all GIRLS)
I transferred the lessons to my iPod and mobile. Anytime, anywhere I can, I listened, and still do occasionally. But the face-to-face lessons were the key – to check my pronunciation, sentence structure and correct use of words. The teachers really knew how to trick me into messing it all up again, so I realized where I needed more attention… And they would come back at it later again, till I did it right.
Some of my foreign friends try self study, listening to pod casts, etc. There are a couple of websites that “help you”. But nothing is more important than a structured learning method with professional guidance – and discipline plus motivation to keep you on track.
About the classes
Sino Matters Ltd. is an educational consulting company focusing on serving the professional and private needs of foreign top executives living in the Beijing area. The company started in Beijing and has opened another office in Shanghai.
The company’s flag ship product is a revolutionary verbal teaching method that dramatically reduces the time investment needed to successfully learn spoken Mandarin.
Typical clients are high-level Executives and VIPs from some of the largest foreign companies in China as well as from the diplomatic service and public broadcasting.
The company was founded in 2006 by Curt Bergstrom and Audrey Lee.
See their introduction and leaflet: VIPMandarin_introduction and SinoMatters_leaflet
contact: Mr. Curt Bergstrom curt[at]sino-matters.com
See here a selection of pictures with the teachers and Curt.