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INSEAD - Mandarin A2 from scratch within a year?

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INSEAD - Mandarin A2 from scratch within a year? [#permalink] New post 16 May 2011, 13:11
I'll be applying to INSEAD's January intake and I'm trying to decide what to do about my 3rd language. I speak a little German and Spanish and I am confident I could polish either up to an A2 prior to January. This would be the easy option. However, I'm intrigued by Mandarin and am considering learning it from scratch. I realize this means taking classes while in school, which adds to the workload, but I'm not sure when else I'll have the opportunity and time to learn Mandarin.

Is it realistic for someone with no experience with tonal languages to get to an A2 level within a year? I picked up German and Spanish relatively quickly, but I speak English and French, so Romance and Germanic languages are obviously a whole different ballgame. Does anyone have any experiences with learning Mandarin they can share?
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Re: INSEAD - Mandarin A2 from scratch within a year? [#permalink] New post 16 May 2011, 19:03
SoCan wrote:
I'll be applying to INSEAD's January intake and I'm trying to decide what to do about my 3rd language. I speak a little German and Spanish and I am confident I could polish either up to an A2 prior to January. This would be the easy option. However, I'm intrigued by Mandarin and am considering learning it from scratch. I realize this means taking classes while in school, which adds to the workload, but I'm not sure when else I'll have the opportunity and time to learn Mandarin.

Is it realistic for someone with no experience with tonal languages to get to an A2 level within a year? I picked up German and Spanish relatively quickly, but I speak English and French, so Romance and Germanic languages are obviously a whole different ballgame. Does anyone have any experiences with learning Mandarin they can share?


The short answer is no, it's not realistic. If you were only learning spoken Mandarin it would be feasible (although very difficult to pick up satisfactorily without language immersion) but the character system makes written Mandarin too burdensome to 'pick up' in a year. I'm basing this answer off of this description of the A2 level exam:

http://www.thechinesestaffroom.com/arti ... -17-apr-11

For reference: I am American, have previously studied French (5 years), Spanish (7 years), Italian (only 1 year, but while living in Italy) and I have been living in Taiwan for the past 18 months. I have had a private tutor for 2-4 hours a week the entire time, work ~65 hours/week with all Mandarin speakers, and have not been learning the character system because it is too burdensome. The tones and structural differences of the language make Mandarin very, very challenging.
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Re: INSEAD - Mandarin A2 from scratch within a year? [#permalink] New post 16 May 2011, 19:48
Thanks for the response. The A2 test you found seems much more advanced than the A2 to which I was referring. I should have said A2-equivalent. INSEAD refers to the CEFR scale, even if there aren't direct equivalents for that respective language. A2 on the CEFR means basic proficiency - "Ability to communicate in a simple and direct exchange of information on routine matters."

The INSEAD language policy equates Basic/A2 in Mandarin to Basic 2 on the HSK Basic Level 2 exam. This is the old structure of the exam, but it seems as though the equivalent under the new structure is HSK Level 2, which is a vocabulary of 300 words. I'd post a link to a website describing it, but apparently I'm too new here to post URLs.

Does this change your opinion of the feasibility?
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Re: INSEAD - Mandarin A2 from scratch within a year? [#permalink] New post 17 May 2011, 04:31
It actually does- while I'm still a bit confused (since it seems HSK changed recently) it appears the exam presents the questions in both characters AND pinyin. If you don't have to memorize 300+ characters then it's much more feasible.

It will still be a hard task, though. My BIL graduated from INSEAD and the demands of the one year program were very intense... so just go into it with your eyes open I guess :)
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Re: INSEAD - Mandarin A2 from scratch within a year? [#permalink] New post 18 May 2011, 12:40
You would be a language genius to master Mandarin in less than a year with part time studies and being outside China. In order to get major improvement, one has to go to China/Taiwan for full time immersion. To give you an idea:

300 Chinese radicals is doable with disciplined studying (note: writing, reading, speaking and listening comprehension)
Mandarin has 4 tones in phonetics for each radical
Chinese derives from Sino-Tibetan language and follows different linguistic rules

I did German and French and it was easy compared to Chinese. what are the recent changes in the official HSK exam?
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Re: INSEAD - Mandarin A2 from scratch within a year? [#permalink] New post 18 May 2011, 22:10
It appears they made HSK a bit easier- there are now 6 written exam levels, and 3 oral exam levels. You can see further details here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanyu_Shuiping_Kaoshi

There's a link to the list of characters/vocabulary required, too. While I do think OP is a little crazy to consider this (and completely agree that it's necessary to spend time HEARING the language in order to actually grasp it) the OP could ostensibly spend a term on the Singapore campus and make some pretty fast progress.
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Re: INSEAD - Mandarin A2 from scratch within a year? [#permalink] New post 19 May 2011, 14:45
Sailorette,

Thanks for the HSK info, didn't know that the board revamped it and reduced levels from 11 to 6. Simpler with basics, intermediate and advanced.

Socan,
I think one can start from scratch and pass equivalent of HSK basic level 2 within a year with structured studying. But it may be stressful with Insead's 10 month programme and job hunting. Easier in Singapore than Fonty as you get cheap Mandarin language tutors or do free language exchange. But on the street in Singapore, people speak various Chinese dialects such as Hokkien, Fokkien, Cantonese. Note: There are hidden costs at Insead's language classes and exams. Not fully covered by tuition. Most firms in China would like to see intermediate level and higher as proficiency to communicate effectively in Mandarin. To be considered literate and reading Chinese newspapers, one needs a minimum of 1,700 Chinese vocabularies.
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Re: INSEAD - Mandarin A2 from scratch within a year? [#permalink] New post 07 Jun 2011, 14:14
it's possible but requires hard work.
Re: INSEAD - Mandarin A2 from scratch within a year?   [#permalink] 07 Jun 2011, 14:14
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INSEAD - Mandarin A2 from scratch within a year?

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