In association with That's Mandarin
'对的,' exclaims Guo Laoshi with enthusiasm. A little positive reinforcement is never a bad thing. We're in the midst of our second lesson of the day at That's Mandarin
and for someone who hasn't studied Chinese in nearly a decade, it's a far cry from the Chinese language learning experience I remember (think rows of desk, an ancient chalkboard and cassette tapes). A screen displays the dialogue we're reading with a nifty note-taking function and a quick toggle switches between that and the school's newly produced TV series.
Set in the centre of Jingan, the sparkling new That's Mandarin campus in Shanghai is clean and modern, with two terraces for studying or recharging with a cup of coffee while you take in city views. Intimate classrooms are outfitted with whiteboards and large monitors for displaying the lesson on the school's learning platform NihaoCafe.
There are options to fit every lifestyle with both group and one-on-one classes, intensive (five days a week, three classes a day) and part-time (two days a week, two classes a day) options and specialised courses like HSK prep. If you want to study with friends, the school can coordinate private group courses for two to eight students.
A selective hiring process ensures that teachers are not only well-qualified, but are also truly passionate about teaching. The 50-minute class sessions with Guo Laoshi pass quickly and her enthusiasm for the language makes for an engaging lesson that feels much more like an easy conversation that just happens to be speckled with new vocabulary and grammatical structures.
In the field of language learning, where rote memorisation and 'practice, practice, practice' are the name of the game, study materials can be dry and feel like relics from the '90s. That's Mandarin has developed custom material to aid in the learning process – contemporary in its look and feel, the course material was just overhauled this year and is regularly refreshed so the content remains relevant. NihaoCafe provides an easy interface for interactive lessons, enabling reading and listening exercises as well as the school's TV series that features Chinese celeb actors.
That's Mandarin also offers programmes for younger students from seven to 17. Summer and winter camps immerse kids in the language and culture through activities and field trips, with optional homestays and camps for the whole family. Teens looking to deep dive into the language can join specially tailored immersion programmes or take one-and-one courses.
For anyone abroad or looking for maximum flexibilty, That's Mandarin's online courses are a world beyond Skype. Utilising the school's own platform NihaoCafe, class are conducted live with teachers and notes are taken for you via the platform on a browser or the That's Mandarin app, which you can access even past your course's end date along with additional exercises. And there's 24-hour IT support in case you encounter any bumps along the way.
Interested? That's Mandarin is offering a free two-week trial of group classes to new students. For details as well as further information on in-person and online courses, take a look at the That's Mandarin website or scan the QR code below.