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ICLP worth it?

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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby ChineseQuest » 13 Apr 2012, 00:23

From what you have said about your speaking skills, it seems like that is your area of weakness. Do you think going to ICLP might take you in a direction of doing more of what you are good at and not giving enough attention to your areas of relative weakness (e.g., speaking in a range of situations and registers)? If I understood your previous posts correctly, it sounds like you have already jumped into a lot of ICLP's materials. If you were to decide to go there, perhaps you might benefit from easing off their stuff and instead look for opportunities to improve your general speaking skills between now and the time you start at ICLP.


Yes, I expect that after three terms at ICLP, my Chinese ability will be lopsided. I have a year afterwards to work on that, and I'm willing to deal with it in order to get what I really need (the ability to use Chinese in academic contexts). I think working on my general Chinese ability from now until this fall is a good idea, and I plan on doing that, but not at the expense of studying the more academically focused material (TOCC now, 思想與社會 soon). That is ultimately my biggest need, no matter how much I may want to have native-like proficiency in all areas (and I really do).

One thing I have noticed recently is that the times I get most frustrated are the times that I want to try to have discussions with people about my research interests, language learning, etc. The type of things I'll be learning to discuss at ICLP. I much more rarely get frustrated trying to take care of everyday stuff, even if I don't know the word for "pedal" (踏板) when taking my bike to get fixed (which happened today).

I really do appreciate everybody's input in this thread, even if I occasionally come across curtly. It's been a big help in getting me to think more clearly about all of this. Sorry I'm not going the way most of you want me to in my decision though! :raspberry:
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby ironlady » 13 Apr 2012, 01:26

If you know all the structure of modern Chinese already, read and listen. That's what is going to improve your Chinese in all areas. Reading and listening. Extensive reading and listening. You don't need a class, a teacher (easy enough to find people to answer specific questions) or an institute, just your brain and lots of reading and listening.

The mystique surrounding this or that "exclusive" program is just that -- mystique. Anyone who didn't go to those programs "doesn't get it because they just don't know what goes on there", and anyone who did, is part of the club.

I learned my wenyan with a private tutor in the US, after graduating with a 4-year degree in Chinese, using good ol' Guwen Guanzhi. Worked fine. But what really took me from okay in Chinese to a professional level was reading. Lots and lots and lots of reading. Hours and hours of reading. Sitting for days on end in tea shops (you may have to do coffee shops, these days :D ) and reading books on all sorts of things. Today, with the Internet available to you, you don't even have to buy the books half the time, nor do the dictionary work.

Find Chinese texts in your specialty and read. Hire graduate students to talk to you in Chinese about their specialty. After you know the grammar, it's all vocabulary and collocations. And that's reading and listening.
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby Feiren » 13 Apr 2012, 10:35

I strongly agree with this.

ironlady wrote:If you know all the structure of modern Chinese already, read and listen. That's what is going to improve your Chinese in all areas. Reading and listening. Extensive reading and listening. You don't need a class, a teacher (easy enough to find people to answer specific questions) or an institute, just your brain and lots of reading and listening.

The mystique surrounding this or that "exclusive" program is just that -- mystique. Anyone who didn't go to those programs "doesn't get it because they just don't know what goes on there", and anyone who did, is part of the club.

I learned my wenyan with a private tutor in the US, after graduating with a 4-year degree in Chinese, using good ol' Guwen Guanzhi. Worked fine. But what really took me from okay in Chinese to a professional level was reading. Lots and lots and lots of reading. Hours and hours of reading. Sitting for days on end in tea shops (you may have to do coffee shops, these days :D ) and reading books on all sorts of things. Today, with the Internet available to you, you don't even have to buy the books half the time, nor do the dictionary work.

Find Chinese texts in your specialty and read. Hire graduate students to talk to you in Chinese about their specialty. After you know the grammar, it's all vocabulary and collocations. And that's reading and listening.
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby Feiren » 13 Apr 2012, 10:41

]I strongly agree with this. Ironlady's comments. It's also important to get out there and explore other interests. You have to walk before you can run. Think of how many books in English you had to become literate in English. Hundreds if not thousands as an adolescent. Now think about how many books you have read in Chinese. I'm not saying you should try replicate how you became literate in your native language, but it does provides some pointers.

I am a soon-to-be graduate who is also planning on spending a year in study at ICLP. My future plans are similar to the OP's - I want to eventually apply to graduate school in Chinese Studies (history, literature, political science...), tentatively considering MA program in Taiwan and then PhD back in the States.


An MA in history or literature in Taiwan is a complete waste of time. Just go get your PhD in the states.

Also, I am game for the wenyanwen reading group, will be on site in the fall....


Great. We'll try to have it up and running. Please check the other thread.

ironlady wrote:If you know all the structure of modern Chinese already, read and listen. That's what is going to improve your Chinese in all areas. Reading and listening. Extensive reading and listening. You don't need a class, a teacher (easy enough to find people to answer specific questions) or an institute, just your brain and lots of reading and listening.

The mystique surrounding this or that "exclusive" program is just that -- mystique. Anyone who didn't go to those programs "doesn't get it because they just don't know what goes on there", and anyone who did, is part of the club.

I learned my wenyan with a private tutor in the US, after graduating with a 4-year degree in Chinese, using good ol' Guwen Guanzhi. Worked fine. But what really took me from okay in Chinese to a professional level was reading. Lots and lots and lots of reading. Hours and hours of reading. Sitting for days on end in tea shops (you may have to do coffee shops, these days :D ) and reading books on all sorts of things. Today, with the Internet available to you, you don't even have to buy the books half the time, nor do the dictionary work.

Find Chinese texts in your specialty and read. Hire graduate students to talk to you in Chinese about their specialty. After you know the grammar, it's all vocabulary and collocations. And that's reading and listening.
[/quote]
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby austin » 13 Apr 2012, 12:52

Responding to ChineseQuest

TOCC is a knock-off of a Yale publication written by Fred Wang in the 1950s. Perhaps the knock-off is an improvement over the original book. No opinion on that matter. In any event, the director's lie (we wrote the book) is more telling - to me at least.

Causes and effects. People with certain traits that gather in a certain place do not necessarily excel because of that certain place. A team that recruits well and then turns out to have a lot of wins should not be confused with a team that recruits poor performers(for whatever reason - $, time, etc) but then wins is an obviously superior team. Bill Parcells took the 2d to last place NY Jets to win a division win and he did it with nearly the same team of people who finished 2d to last the preceding year. Thus, Parcells is a super-coach. People who go to ICLP were serious students to begin with and usually have nothing else to do but study. Such students could study any of a number of places and do well. People with good Mandarin skills come out of ICLP because people with good Mandarin skills, $, and study habits go in. ICLP is no Parcells, as far as I know. If one has a scholarship (and time) and can afford ICLP, one might attend there. If a person does not have the money, time, then not to worry. Self-reliance and a little creativity can create at least as good of a result. One can create one's own program and staff it with the teachers you want at a price that's appropriate to your own circumstances.
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby pzkpfwmmiv » 16 Apr 2012, 04:33

An MA in history or literature in Taiwan is a complete waste of time. Just go get your PhD in the states.


Could you qualify this recommendation? I agree that the general quality of instruction and research at Taiwanese grad programs is not up to the standards of those in the States, but I figured that if I were to go on to PhD in Chinese literature, history, etc. in the states, it would be helpful to have extensive on-site preparation reading, writing, and discussing Chinese language scholarship in my chosen specialty. If it makes any difference, I was particularly considering 台大中文系 or perhaps the 台大台灣文學研究所 for two year MA program (and not the programs designed for foreigners). Any experiences of similar programs at 成大, by the way?
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby ironlady » 16 Apr 2012, 05:42

Graduate school isn't about having stimulating intellectual discussions. Grad school is about tons of reading, doing slog work for a professor or professors, and generally sucking up. The latter is particularly important in Taiwanese graduate programs. Fail to suck up, and your life can be made difficult and passage of academic milestones onerous, regardless of your talents or skills. Erm, I mean, be sure to abide by the cultural mores in effect and treat your academic superiors with the utmost respect and consideration regardless of their performance in class or in general.
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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby Feiren » 16 Apr 2012, 10:36

pzkpfwmmiv wrote:
An MA in history or literature in Taiwan is a complete waste of time. Just go get your PhD in the states.


Could you qualify this recommendation? I agree that the general quality of instruction and research at Taiwanese grad programs is not up to the standards of those in the States, but I figured that if I were to go on to PhD in Chinese literature, history, etc. in the states, it would be helpful to have extensive on-site preparation reading, writing, and discussing Chinese language scholarship in my chosen specialty. If it makes any difference, I was particularly considering 台大中文系 or perhaps the 台大台灣文學研究所 for two year MA program (and not the programs designed for foreigners). Any experiences of similar programs at 成大, by the way?


Sure. I sat in on grad courses in Chinese history and literature at Shi-Da, Qingda, and NTU for about a year while I was still studying at the MTC. Then I got a scholarship to enroll in the MA program in Chinese Literature at Zheng-Da (NCCU).

Typical experiences included:

A class on Daoist thought at NTU where the cherub-like aging professor explained on the first day that since the first line of the Daodejing said that the true way cannot be accessed through language, there was no point in actually discussing Daoist texts since that would be anti-Daoist. He regaled us with tales from his childhood, rants on the evil Lee Teng-hui, and observations from his recent summer stay at his son's home in New Jersey. This went on for four weeks until I stopped going.

There was the Shiji class at Shi-Da where the professor would spend about 30 minutes every class asking people to read a few sentences and then basically repeating the same in a sonorous voice in free paraphrase. The next student. Understandably, he would get bored of this and spend the rest of the class telling 'jokes' The students seemed to really like him since it mean that we covered less material and the tests would be easier. This was actually a pretty good class since we actually read the texts, however briefly and cursorily.

There was a research methods class at NCCU where a very earnest young professor spend SIX weeks explaining his system for making notecards. These are 3 hour seminars!

There was the class on Ming-Qing fiction where the teacher would summarize Sanguo, Jinpingmei etc in class. No reading, secondary or primary was ever assigned.

Same for a course on the Pre-Qin philosophers. There a doddering old professor read his notes on Xunzi etc for each hour without us doing any reading. There was no syllabus and I couldn't figure out who he would discuss from week to week, so I couldn't try to assign myself reading. Oh, and he had a heavy, heavy Zhejiang accent that neither I nor the other students could understand. They didn't care, because there was a copy of his notes that everyone studied from (i.e. looked at the night before the test).

There were some interesting ones. A deeply eccentric teacher at NCCU gave a seminar on the Shuowen Jiezi in which he elaborated his theory of how the dictionary was actually an effort to prove the Yijing/Five Phases theory operated in language. He may have been a genius or completely mad, but my lack of philological skills made it impossible for me to follow his Casaubon-like arguments.

I also had a very good seminar on Qing history and the idea of the modern in Chinese history with Cheng Pei-kai, who was a visiting scholar at the time.

Like you, I hoped for
on-site preparation reading, writing, and discussing Chinese language scholarship in my chosen specialty.


I didn't even come close to achieving those goals. One problem is that the people in these programs (faculty and students) are True Believers in Chinese culture. In their world view, a foreigner is simply incapable of penetrating the ineffable mystery of it all. This is evidenced most clearly when he has the temerity to ask questions. Another problem is that most of the pre-modern faculty in literature or history are actually philologists, not historians or literary scholars that you would find teaching those subjects in North America.

This was all 20 years ago. Things may have changed, but I seriously doubt it.

I think that you might have a very different experience if you studied modern Taiwanese history or a western-derived discipline focused on some aspect of the present.

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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby Mawvellous » 16 Apr 2012, 12:19

Unlike other departments, which are dominated by foreign (mostly US) PhD holders, nearly all the faculty in Chinese literature departments have local PhDs. So teaching methods will defiantly be less Western orientated and the faculty less international in outlook.
However, it might still be worth considering. If you can get a scholarship - you don't have much to lose. It will help your Chinese, hopefully enable you to make some useful contacts, and you may find some courses you can get something out of academically. It certainly won't hurt when applying for PhD programs in the US.

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Re: ICLP worth it?

Postby Feiren » 16 Apr 2012, 12:33

Mawvellous wrote:Unlike other departments, which are dominated by foreign (mostly US) PhD holders, nearly all the faculty in Chinese literature departments have local PhDs. So teaching methods will defiantly be less Western orientated and the faculty less international in outlook.
However, it might still be worth considering. If you can get a scholarship - you don't have much to lose. It will help your Chinese, hopefully enable you to make some useful contacts, and you may find some courses you can get something out of academically. It certainly won't hurt when applying for PhD programs in the US.


Exactly. And they are defiant and resentful because they are second or third class citizens to the rest of the university with access to resources that reflects this. Go to one of the other departments. Does Academia Sinica have MA programs?

It won't hurt when you apply for PhD programs in the US but don't expect it to count for much. I was advised (tactfully) that graduate study in Taiwan was a waste of time (by someone from Taiwan!). He was right.

However, that extra year in Taiwan was great. I had very low expenses because I had a dorm room and made excellent money on the side editing papers and teaching the odd high paid english class. I wised up and stopped going to class in the 2nd semester. No one ever noticed. I traveled all over Taiwan and enjoyed myself tremendously. I also had plenty of free time to do lots of reading on my own in Chinese and no ARC problems.

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