My Distance Learning class started this week. This is a language course (Mandarin, naturally) that’s all online, no classroom. FSI’s website has everything you need: course materials, several ways to interact with your fellow students, and a mentor that guides you through the class. I couldn’t sign up for the class myself, Diplowife had to take care of that, so ask your spouse about signing up if you’re interested. The class goes for 14 weeks, so I should finish in mid-December.
Right off the bat, I was skeptical about the class. You’re supposed to schedule time to talk with your mentor once a week for 45 minutes, and my mentor has a calendar on the course’s website. Problem is, the times she’s available are when I’m at work. I asked her if she’s available evenings or weekends, and she was kind enough to accommodate me. So don’t be afraid to ask, you never know. My other issue was I assumed this class was redundant since I’ve already been using Mango for a while now.
As it turns out the course has complemented Mango Languages pretty well so far. The first week’s study material focus on how to pronounce Chinese properly (it’s not easy) and how written Chinese works. The class barely touches on written Chinese, but at least they provide a brief introduction to it. Mango doesn’t really cover this, so right off the bat I’m learning new stuff. I’ll need to be able to read street signs, price tags and who knows what else in Shenyang, so this is important.
I did my first mentor session a couple days ago, and it was interesting. We met up on Skype in video chat. She had me pronounce various Chinese sounds and let me know what I was doing wrong. I had been speaking Mandarin with Mango for a couple months now, but it seems my pronunciation needs work. Good to know! Some of the sounds are so similar to each other that I can barely hear any difference at this point, but I’m told it gets easier with practice.
Anyway, I recommend taking the Distance Learning course, if you have the time. Ideally, before shipping out to your new home, but better late than never.
Speaking of China, happy Mid-Autumn Festival! Diplowife brought me some moon cakes yesterday. Not very good, but maybe they’re better in China.