ICLP worth it?

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ICLP worth it?

Postby ChineseQuest » 07 Apr 2012, 18:59

I know ICLP has been discussed here before, but the most recent substantial thread I could find is now several years old, so I'm hoping to generate some new discussion on the topic.

I'm learning Chinese in preparation for grad school in Chinese history (either early China or Ming-Qing history, but I have some time to decide that). I'm now in my third term at MTC, and I'm taking Mini Radio Plays (same level as PAVC Book 5). But most of my learning has been from other material I've studied on the side. I tutor English a few hours per week (I mean...I talk with friends in English and they give me 紅包 as a gift :lol: ), but otherwise my day is filled with studying.

I'm trying to decide whether to study at ICLP for the 2012-2013 academic year, or to save my money and continue at MTC. If I continue at MTC, I'll be hiring a tutor (who also teaches at ICLP) to help with the material I study outside of class. I have a generous friend who is a former ICLP student and gave me a lot of the material they use there already (several courses for each of levels 400-700, including the audio). I also have a bunch of 文言文 stuff that I'll really be focusing on, since I'll need excellent reading ability in 文言文 for either of the fields I'm considering. The 文言文 is one of the real snags for me here, because by the time the fall semester starts, I will have already finished all of the 文言文 books that they offer, aside from the 800-level courses which I've heard they pretty much don't let you take if you're in a lower level. I probably would be able to take them in my last quarter there, but up until then it would be slim pickings if I don't want to repeat stuff.

Everyone I've talked to in person who has been to ICLP has said it was "totally worth it". On the other hand, many of them have said that they learned because there was a lot of pressure to put in the hours every day. I don't have any problems with motivation, or with putting in 8 hours per day (or more) studying. I've also been told the real benefit of ICLP is more in their teaching methods and small class size than in their materials, but I'm wondering if having a competent tutor and working really hard is "good enough". I'd certainly like to save the several thousand US$. Another option, which I'm leaning toward as the "best of both", is to do the year at MTC plus serious work on my own and with a tutor, and then take the summer program at ICLP next summer, when I should be able to take some of the really high-level stuff they offer. I'll most likely be here another year after that (while my wife finishes out her work contract), but it will be spent working, with studying and reading in preparation for grad school being relegated to spare time. There is the possibility that I end up doing my MA here, but that's a little far off to be able to know yet.

One of the big positives for me of not going to ICLP is that I'd have a lot more autonomy in selecting material to study that is relevant to me and my field of choice (whatever that ends up being). This includes, like I said, a lot of 文言文 stuff, history books, stuff on paleography, etc.

But then again, there's the reputation. When I'm applying to PhD programs and my application package includes a year of study at ICLP, that means more to an admissions committee than a year at MTC. And there's the fact that I've heard of several people who got into top PhD programs (as in, Ivy-league, Oxbridge, and the big ones on the West Coast) after a year at ICLP, even though their undergrad degrees had nothing to do with their graduate fields (which is also my situation). Those, to me, are big reasons for studying at ICLP. The benefits of getting into a top program would be worth the few thousand extra and the lack of any social life for a year. But of course there are no guarantees.

If you've read this far, you're a saint.

Anyway, I'm particularly interested to hear from any former ICLP students on this, or anyone doing grad school in China/Taiwan-related fields here in Taiwan or in the West, or anyone else with experience relevant to my situation. I know nobody can make the decision for me, but any opinions or insight would be helpful. 三個臭皮匠勝過諸葛亮 and all that. Also, any discussion on ICLP in general, not only as it relates to my specific situation, would be excellent, because like I said it's been a while and the more info available online the better.

Thanks in advance!

*I'm hoping to avoid any discussions of whether I ought to be going to grad school in the first place. For some reason that always seems to come up (though not at this forum yet), and I'm always told I should do an MBA instead. I'm trying to get OUT of the business world, not back in! I'd also like to avoid "these Mandarin schools are worthless, you should do X". Well, I'm familiar enough with the drawbacks of studying at a language center, and I'm willing to deal with them, and I now have my ways of more or less getting around them.
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby Feiren » 07 Apr 2012, 19:09

Hi, I know of at least three people who got into Ivy League PhD programs after having studied at the MTC not the ICLP.

Of course many others do go to ICLP and get in. But I don't think the choice is that significant.

I really doubt there is much difference between the two. And I doubt that you are going to get any better quality of instruction in literary Chinese at ICLP. There is a lot of overlap between the people who teach in these programs and the methodology is all the same. This is Taiwan.

I think you'd be better off working through the Gudai Hanyu books with a good tutor--preferably someone from a linguistics or history department. The literature departments are full of ideologues who believe that Chinese doesn't have grammar etc. Unfortunately I don't know where to find such a tutor.

If you find a good one let me know.

I've long thought it would be fun to set up a classical Chinese reading group with or without a tutor.

Let me know if you might be interested.
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby asomu » 07 Apr 2012, 23:28

For application to MTC, must it be done manually? Can it be done online?
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby ChineseQuest » 08 Apr 2012, 00:18

Thanks for the info!

I do know that many of the teachers at ICLP have been there 30-40 years and are supposed to be amazing teachers. Not that the possibility of studying under them is worth all that extra money, but still. They also tend to be very well-connected in Western universities because many of the professors back home studied under them 20 years ago or whatever, so a recommendation from those teachers is worth a lot. Again, maybe it's not worth US$5000.

I'll let you know if I find a tutor like you mention. I know some people in grad school here, and one guy in Europe who is pretty well-connected with professors here, so I may be able to find someone good.

I actually picked up all 4 古代漢語 books a few weeks ago at 萬卷, though I may hold off on them for now. I've got a decent handle on the basic grammar through using Fuller's An Introduction to Literary Chinese. I'm using Shadick's book (Vol. I only, no commentary or glosses) as a reader, referring to dictionaries and Pulleyblank when necessary. I've also got some other intro-level books, along with Literary Chinese for Advanced Beginners 進階文言文讀本, which is used at ICLP after Shadick. Then of course some 三民 readers, namely 四書讀本 and 古文觀止 which I pick up here and there but haven't used for real yet. I think that's plenty to keep me busy over the next year plus. :D

I actually mentioned on my blog a few months ago that I'd like to start up a 文言文 reading/study group. Nobody ever expresses any interest in it until about two weeks ago, but you're now the third person to have mentioned something like this to me. One of them is studying 文言文 in his class right now, so maybe his classmates will be interested too. I have some friends that studied some 文言文 at their respective universities in Europe before coming here, and some actually liked it, so maybe I get work up some interest there (though many of them are going back in June). But it seems like we might have a group! We may have some straight up beginners (not that I'm all that far off), so hopefully we could set up something that people at any level could benefit from.
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby ChineseQuest » 08 Apr 2012, 00:21

For application to MTC, must it be done manually? Can it be done online?


I'm not sure, but the info should be on their site. Any other questions about that process would probably be better off in a different thread, either a new one or an existing one more relevant to the question, rather than in one chiefly about another school. :)
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby rosarot » 08 Apr 2012, 00:35

I can't add anything useful on the ICLP vs MTC question. But if you're interested in a pdf file of Shadick II and III send me a PM :)
I found the vocabulary not too useful and also think that you can make much better progress with using a 文言文 dictionary. But the annotations I found rather interesting.
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby ChineseQuest » 08 Apr 2012, 01:02

PM sent! I probably won't use them a lot since I'm trying to work through this one as much as I can on my own, but they would be nice to have for reference or if I get stuck. Thanks!
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby Formosa Fitness » 09 Apr 2012, 08:58

ChineseQuest wrote:I know ICLP has been discussed here before, but the most recent substantial thread I could find is now several years old, so I'm hoping to generate some new discussion on the topic.

I'm learning Chinese in preparation for grad school in Chinese history...


You can stop right there. I attended ICLP and I can unreservedly recommend them if grad school in anything Chinese is the goal. That's their specialty and they do it so much better than MTC. MTC is mostly lower level classes, ICLP is mostly mid-range and advanced. There's no comparison.
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby Feiren » 09 Apr 2012, 10:16

There were plenty of advanced classes at MTC. Don't know about now. I felt more than adequately prepared for grad school.
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby ChineseQuest » 09 Apr 2012, 15:12

Formosa Fitness,

Thanks for the input! However, that doesn't really answer my question very well. The proportion of classes offered in various levels at each school isn't all that relevant to me. Both schools offer high-level courses that are useful for me. For instance, Thought and Society (思想與社會), one of ICLP's more well-known books, has been offered every term this school year. There are other high-level courses offered frequently at MTC, like The Independent Reader (從精讀到泛讀, also offered at ICLP), Selected Articles from Various Journals, Advanced Writing, etc. 文言文 is offered less often, but last fall there was a 三國演義 class, and I believe a Senior High School Chinese Reader course last term. They have other advanced 文言文 course offerings on the list (古文觀止, 莊子, 四書, 古代漢語, etc.), but only when there's enough student interest. If there aren't enough students who want to take the class, I can always take it one-on-one with a teacher experienced in teaching the course.

So anyway, it isn't a question of course offerings. Are the courses at ICLP taught much better? Well, maybe, but I've also heard that the teachers in these high-level courses at MTC tend to be great. Some are also ICLP teachers (either currently or previously). Of course, at ICLP you're guaranteed to have only 3-4 students per class, while at MTC you could have up to 10 (not 30, as I've heard some ICLP students claim). However, with so few students at a high level at MTC, most advanced classes have 6 people at the most anyway, so there's not a huge difference.

So again, I'm having a hard time understanding why it's worth the money. Some people say the high-pressure environment keeps you motivated, but I don't have any problems making myself study Chinese all day as it is, and even less so once I get a good tutor for 文言文. I'm willing to spend the money if it's really worth it, because what's most important to me is getting into a good PhD program. But I'm really wondering if a year at ICLP will be any better than spending a year taking advanced classes at MTC, with a good tutor, and a lot of studying on the side, followed by a summer at ICLP. It's still a few thousand US dollars cheaper.
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