FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Is Chinese really that difficult to learn?
Chinese is often perceived as a 'difficult' language to learn. This is probably due to the tonal nature of spoken Chinese and that the Chinese written script is based on pictographs or characters. However, learning Chinese is actually easier in some respects than learning English - with Chinese, there are no conjugations, no declensions, no different suffixes or prefixes according to singular or plural numbers, gender, tenses as in past, present or future etc. Therefore, grammar is a lot easier with Chinese.
Chinese is different from other languages, but not necessarily more difficult. What is easy for one person may be quite challenging for another.
At ACCS, we use Accelerated Learning techniques and we have made learning Chinese easier and more fun through the use of story-telling, role-plays, positive suggestions and relaxation techniques to aid better retention and recall.
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Should I learn Chinese without learning how to read or write?
It is possible to learn spoken Chinese without learning how to read and write. We do provide a short course called ‘Chinese for Travellers’ which does this. However, it does become essential if you want to achieve a certain grade of proficiency with this language, beyond saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’.
At ACCS, we teach writing Chinese characters as a way to memorise the characters and thus be able to read them fluently. Learning to read characters is important as it helps our students gain a better grounding of the Mandarin language and be able to converse beyond the very basic level.
Using an analogy - it is very easy for one to pick up spoken English on a very basic level without learning alphabets, and this is usually done by mimicking a phrase or sentence. However, an individual with knowledge of the English alphabet is also able to actively produce a word by spelling it in their mind and be able to reproduce it a lot easier. Interestingly enough, most people learnt their alphabets through writing and reading. This is also true for Chinese Mandarin!
Chinese has a large number of homophones as a language. Every second spoken word you say would almost sound the same, even when they have a different meaning. It then becomes pretty difficult to get past a Beginner’s Level, as you will find your progress of learning to stagnate after a while, without learning characters.
Historically, some Chinese people were illiterate, but were still able to speak Chinese fluently! However, our modern society demands a certain amount of literacy to function. This becomes especially true when travelling to China, whether on business or holidays as you will need to know how to read signs and directions, as well as to learn how to use a dictionary – Electronic or otherwise. Thus, for example, without knowing how to read Chinese characters, you will not be able to read a character on a signboard or a menu. Furthermore, you might not be able to use an Electronic dictionary to get the English meaning or pronunciation of it without knowing how to write the strokes.
The question still begs, should you learn reading and writing when learning the Chinese language? At ACCS, we think so – this is such that you can progress beyond a basic degree when conversing with others. Moreover, Chinese people will be very impressed if you can speak Chinese, but their respect for you will be over the roof if you can read and write!
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Do your classes cater for children?
In our Adult classes, we usually only accept students who are over the ages of 10 years old since these Chinese classes are designed for adults. We doubt that children under the age of 9 would be able to get full value from these adult classes which are each of 2 hours duration.
Children under the age of 10 should be enrolled into our unique Children classes instead.
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Chinese character for birdWhat happens if I miss a class?
Some of our levels (especially Levels 1, 2 , 3 & 4) have concurrent classes running each week at different times and at different locations. If you think you are going to miss a class or you have already missed a class then you are advised to go to another class of the same level running that week somewhere else and at some other time. You may even attend the same level class more than once a week, if you like, at no extra charge. For the Beginners (Levels 1 and 2) classes, we have Youtube videos and e-learning tools of the lessons which you can watch if you miss a class or two.
Alternatively, you may arrange a private catch-up session with us at a mutually convenient time - a charge for this private class will be applicable. Finally if you decide to defer to another Term, you only need to pay a nominal fee to repeat the course.
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Your Term has started, is it too late to join up?
It is never too late to join up. If you are a complete beginner, you can still join up but depending on how late you are, it might be advisable to take some private lessons with us to catch up or use our e-learning tools for the first few lessons.
If you are not a beginner, then it makes sense to join up with us at a mutually agreed level and go on from there. You may not have to pay for the full term fee. If the level you have joined up is too challenging, then it is always possible to drop a level or two to get to the right level or if the level you have joined up is too easy, then, you may advance a level or two to be at the right level. Note that you may have to pay for the books & CDs, if you change levels. In any case, call us or email us to discuss your specific requirements.
You do not have to wait till the start of each calendar year to start classes with us. All of our classes commences at the start of each term including Beginners classes and there are 4 terms per year. You can start a Beginners class at any term.
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I have learnt Chinese before, which class should I join up for?
ACCS is unique in the sense that we have up to 20 different Levels of Chinese Mandarin for you. We be happy to discuss the most appropriate level for you to join up at since we do not have assessment tests - contact us by phone or email, we be delighted to discuss your specific requirements. We can also email you our course structure and syllabus. In any case, once enrolled with us, we are pretty flexible in terms of which class you end up going to. You can always change to a lower or higher level if a class is not suitable after the first lesson. There is no additional fee charged as long as you don't write in the book we give you at the first or subsequent lesson. Otherwise, the cost of a new set of materials when you swap level is chargeable. In the event that you still could not find a class that is suitable for you, we will then refund your term fees less a small administration fee.
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Chinese character for horse, maDo you offer private tuition or company classes?
Yes, we do offer private tuition or private classes. It is an expensive way to learn Chinese. But, you may have compelling reasons to do so. Our private classes are based on a minimum of 1-hour lessons. It is usually better to learn a language in a group environment so that students may practice speaking and listening to each other.
We also offer company classes whereby our teacher goes to your premises to conduct the lessons. These classes are great for individuals or companies since the lesson schedule can be tailored to suit the students and the course content can also be customised to meet the students' specific requirements.
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I am going to China next week (or next month), can you teach me some quick Mandarin?
Boy, you have left it to the last minute haven't you? But lucky for you, we do run a 8-hour workshop called 'Chinese for Travellers' which will teach you approximately 100 words of spoken Mandarin very effectively using our Accelerated Learning techniques. The words we teach you will actually be part of your survival kit in China.
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Are your classes accredited or do I get some form of achievement certificate?
Our classes are not accredited as this would require us going through a long winded accreditation process. However, we are able to provide our students with 'Achievement Certificates' upon request. The Achievement Certificates states the level of achievement you have attained with us and the date of that achievement. This is usually sufficient for most employers who will test your level of comprehension anyway during the recruitment process.
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Can I get a refund on term fees?
Term fees are not refundable after the first week of lessons within that Term. Therefore, you can get a refund of your Term fees less a small administration charge before you have attended the second lesson of the Term. In addition, if you are unable to complete a Term for whatever reason, you can defer or repeat a Term with us for a nominal fee also.
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Our company is one which seems to deal with a lot of Chinese clients, what do you suggest we do to provide better customer service?
With the way things are, it won't be long before a lot more Chinese will be heading down-under. We currently provide a one-day workshop called 'Chinese Hospitality and Introductory Mandarin Program (CHIMP)' for our clients who are in the hospitality industry. This workshop teaches some key words in Chinese which are common in hospitality/entertainment situations and some culture tips and courtesies to enhance your clients' experience with you. For our clients in the real-estate industry, we have tailored courses which specifically give you an introduction to the Chinese language.
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Chinese character for moonShould I be learning Cantonese or Mandarin?
Mandarin is a language as opposed to Cantonese which is a dialect. They share a similar written script. In general, we recommend you learn Mandarin unless you have a very specific reason to learn Cantonese. Reasons for learning Cantonese are usually related to social circumstances such as
- my spouse or spouse's relatives only speak Cantonese
- my girlfriend or boyfriend speaks Cantonese
- some of my friends are Cantonese speakers
- I like to be able to understand Cantonese movies
For those people who would like to study Cantonese because they are going to Hong Kong to work or for a holiday, since 1997, Hong Kong has developed closer ties with the rest of China. The Hong Kong government started to promote the use Mandarin as a business skill. Mandarin became a subject in many primary schools beginning in 1998. In fact, Mandarin is now an important business language for adults and the usage of Mandarin has been introduced to public service announcements in Hong Kong. Therefore, there is no real need to learn Cantonese if you are visiting Hong Kong for work.
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Is Cantonese that different to Mandarin?
Definitely, yes! It is more challenging to learn Cantonese which has nine tones compared to Mandarin which has only 4 tones. At our Centre, we only teach situational spoken.
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Should I learn Chinese using self-study materials such as video based or computer based systems?
Sometimes, you may not have a choice because there isn't a language school near you. But, it is always better to join up in a class. Why? Because the classroom environment will give you better learning dynamics to learn a language where you can practice with other students. It will also build your confidence in using the new language. Our classes do anyway. However, we are currently developing e-learning support tools for our students and this may mean that you can enrol into our blended-learning classes very soon.
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Chinese teacher, Christine, having dinner with her students in Sydney
Dinner with our Chinese teacher, Christine, in Sydney