eChineseLearning Trial Lesson Review

eChinese LogoRecently I had a trial lesson with eChineseLearning. eChineseLearning is a Beijing-based online Chinese teaching service that provides language students with one on one Chinese lessons with their teachers via Skype. eChineseLearning has teachers for all levels of Chinese, from beginning up through high-intermediate (~HSK 7 & 8), and for all ages too.

Disclosure - my wife works for eChineseLearning.

My teacher for the lesson was Ms. Hong, a very professional young lady with more than a few years of Chinese as a second language teaching experience.

Ms. Hong started the lesson by checking to be sure that my version of Skype was up-to-date enough to be compatible with hers, that our internet connection was okay and that I could see (they use webcams so you can see the teachers writing on a chalkboard behind them) and hear her clearly and that she could hear me clearly.

Once we had tested and verified that the technology seemed to be working fine, Ms. Hong asked me what my goals were for learning Chinese and whether I had any special requirements, such as a need or interest in learning business Chinese or some other vocation-specific aspect of the language. I told her I was just looking to improve my general Chinese ability in all four major language areas: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

With that, Ms. Hong began to assess my Chinese level by engaging me in conversation about movies. Under her guidance, we quickly got to talking about Zhang Yimou’s Not One Less,《一个都不能少》.

Ms. Hong had me narrate the story. I explained that it had been four years since I’d seen the movie, and then did my best to summarize the plot. At the end Ms. Hong, a little to my chagrin, told me that my summary was good, but not perfect. Well, I thought, it has been four years since I saw this movie, as I told you.

After this we moved on to some textbook material. I chose to review a lesson in one of my oral Chinese textbooks I had studied before in my Chinese classroom in Weifang.

Ms. Hong’s experience really shined once we got going in the text. Unlike my previous teachers, Ms. Hong did not try to explain every sentence in the text, but concentrated only on the words and phrases I had a hard time with. For example, I got stuck on the word 载. I know 载 as in 下载, to download, but was unfamiliar with it in the context in the dialogue, 拒载, which, as I now know, means (of a taxi driver) to refuse to take a passenger somewhere.

We went on through the dialogue, stopping at times to go over material that I did not fully understand with Ms. Hong patiently and clearly explaining to me and giving examples of the usage of vocabulary and then asking me to create a sentence with the word.

What I liked most about Ms. Hong’s teaching was how clearly she was able to explain things to me. Often in the past I have found that when I would ask my Chinese teacher for an explanation of something I would need an explanation of the explanation and then, more often than not, an explanation of that. Ms. Hong kept her explanations simple and full of easy examples.

As a language teacher myself, I admire this. It’s a good example of the concept I learned when training to be an EFL teacher: i+1. i is the information a student already knows, so in i+1 the goal of the teacher is to add just a little to the information the student already knows, not to overwhelm them.

I think eChineseLearning would most benefit students outside China at the beginning to lower intermediate (~HSK 4 to 5) stages of Chinese who would like a teacher to guide them in their studies, answer their questions and most importantly, give them the real-world speaking and listening practice that they may otherwise not have the opportunity to get. More advanced learners with little opportunity to practice their speaking and listening (or lazy sods like me who get all the speaking and listening practice they could ever possibly want but need pressure from a teacher to actually sit down and study) may also find eChineseLearning useful.

If you are interested, giving it a try won’t cost anything. The trial lesson is free. You can sign up by filling in the trial form on their website.

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Tags Chinese, CSL, eChineseLearning, Online Learning, Language Learning

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