Name: Alexander Balchin
Language Program: Private Intensive
How did you find Mandalingua?
I started looking at Chinese language schools online when I decided I wanted to improve my Mandarin. There are several popular schools in Shanghai so I set up some free trial classes at a few of the schools. Mandalingua had a great, convenient location and the class was really fun.
Why did you study for more than six months with Mandalingua?
I noticed the improvement in the confidence and ability of my Mandarin speaking skills after I joined the school. Having an experienced tutor who can explain the language clearly really helped me learn and I always had a good time in class.
How do you feel about the ratio of quality to money of our courses?
The other schools I looked at before choosing Mandalingua were cheaper but each course lasted much longer. In the end you were still paying the same amount and learning the same amount but with other schools you were wasting time. The tutors at Mandalingua are experienced and qualified which helps you learn quicker.
What do you think about the service Mandalingua offers?
Mandalingua seems to care about the quality of its courses more than other schools. The teachers, the curriculum and even the environment are all very professional compared to what else I’ve seen. I have never had any problems with administration and my teacher is always happy to arrange lessons around difficult schedules.
How do you like the Mandalingua community?
I have made friends with everyone I’ve met at the school, especially my Chinese teacher who is great and even corrects my Chinese mistakes if we are chatting outside of class. There is such a large range of other students at the school but we all share an interest in the Chinese language and have a lot in common so there is always someone to have lunch with.
Why do you learn Chinese?
I am an architect so learning Chinese will open up more possibilities in my career. There are so many opportunities in China that having Chinese language skill is always going to be useful. When I joined the school I had been learning Mandarin on my own for about a year and I found the extra knowledge and confidence from regular lessons so helpful in my daily life in Shanghai.
Which part of your Chinese study was easy?
I didn’t start learning to write in characters until I began private lessons. At first it was so difficult remembering the differences between all of the characters but after about a week all of my experience with reading and learning Chinese came out and I felt like I had been writing characters for years.
What advice can you give for beginners?
When I started learning Chinese I gave up learning to read characters in about a month and focussed on speaking, just like most of my friends did too. After a year of study I realised how much easier it is to remember the topics and progress if you learn comprehensively. You don’t want to get too far in your study and then realise you have months of reading skills to catch up on if you want to pass an exam, or read a menu!
What do you like about China’s language and country?
The Chinese language is very old, especially when compared to the English language. My teacher has a hundred stories to tell about certain characters or idioms in Mandarin, they are always great fun and help you remember the lesson. The country itself always has something to do, you could spend months travelling through the different cities and lifestyles or even take a trip to visit a different Buddha every weekend for years!
Why did you decide to come to Shanghai?
I always knew I wanted to come to live in China after Uni, I love the food, the cinema and the martial arts but I had never really experienced the country. My relatives had taken trips and they told me how lovely Shanghai was compared to other cities, the amount of public parks, the mix of Western and Eastern cultures and the world famous architecture. For expats, Shanghai is the best choice.
What do you like most about Shanghai?
I like the diversity of the city, one week you can have all the comforts of your country, the next week you can feel like you’re a million miles from home. I think its romantic to dream of getting lost in another culture but if you really want to survive you need a few creature comforts once in a while.
Which are your favourite places to go in Shanghai?
I love taking photos, so Lujiazui, Tianzifang and Jing An are places I visit as often as the weather permits. I’m also addicted to the tourist markets, where I can get suits, shirts, shoes and as much souvenir junk as I can carry home!