Our standards are not high. We just say what we think. Benny's achievements in learning Chinese were admirable. Whether his results were exceptional or not is subject to discussion. They stand for themselves, and in that sense a video of the hour long conversation would have been nice.
As to the veracity of your school's review, I have my doubts. The last time I heard Benny, his tones were somewhat hit and miss. He may well have improved a great deal while traveling in China, but without seeing a new video I am skeptical.
You felt that Benny was at B1, OK, your opinion. Short of taking a test, this is subjective. You then said that he could have achieved B2 if he had had a few grammar lessons and didn't have to maintain his blog. I find this statement not very credible to say the least. In my experience it takes a lot of exposure and time to move from A2/B1 (where Benny is) to B2, many months. More months,in my experience, than going from scratch to the level that Benny is at. Just read the definition of the CEFR levels. Additional grammar lessons and the odd hour not spent writing blog posts would have little influence. Only lots of exposure and speaking can do it.
So my issue is not so much about Benny's level as such, but the veracity of your review.
June 11, 2012, 7:30 a.m.
I just had a look at the school's website where the encounter with this Irish guy appears under "blog". Funny to see the Irish polyglot posing with his arm around the chinese teacher - a no no in China.
That's exactly what I thought when I saw this photo: http://tinyurl.com/bsahvmn
What's more, the teacher looks so extra cute (compared to the other LTL teachers) and so elegantly dressed, so the photo seems to be not just a snapshot but an advertisement photo ...
Well done, Andreas.
June 11, 2012, 10:16 a.m.
June 11, 2012, 10:24 a.m.
@dooo: yes I do find it interesting what he does - he has given Chinese learning a lot of exposure, which I think is good. You can say I have a commercial interest in that and you are probably right, as presumably as a language school we benefit from more people wanting to learn Chinese, but I would argue that I am doing this because I am interested in it and do very much care about it. Anyone is free to of course doubt that.
He also uses a full immersion approach, which I think is a very good way of studying. You can also say that I think that because of business interests, as we are an immersion school and offer a lot of language immersion programs. I would however say I a believe into it and have done so long before I worked at a Chinese language school and we are offering the programs because we believe into them. And that's why I agree with the way he studies.
You are free to disagree with that of course too :)
@jayB: I guess I am not getting the reference (I have to admit to not having actually read all 33 pages of previous conversation...). He smokes?
@dooo2: dont get it either. Tought day it seems...
@Steve: To doubt whether the review is correct is fair and I think no problem. The teacher and I thought his tones are very good for 3 months studying. If someone else thinks differently, that opinion would be at least as valid as ours. Me saying that I think he is B1 is highly subjective. In fact the whole review is subjectic. It is the opinion or two people, no test, no review of the test, no verification.
It is honest though (I guess you can doubt that too if you want).
One Benny unrelated point I do disagree on however is how much an influence a few hours of work in English a day can have on Chinese progress. I have found there is a big difference between 100% immersion and 90% immersion (if I may use these rather crude definitions) for myself and for others.
You saying that B1 to B2 is a bigger step than A1 to A2 (even bigger if you think in HSK terms) is correct and the way I used them (and the only way I think one could use them without actually testing someone) they were broad measurements. And I do think with a full immersion he could have got to B2. But thats my very subjective opinion and my strong believe into immersion. Anyone free to disagree (in fact is appreciated if it is backed up with a real argument, as yours was) as this is my belief and not a scientificaly proven truth.
I however stay at my opinion.
@Marianne10: It seems that we experienced very different parts or aspects of China and it's culture. A man posing that way with a woman for a picture is probably not the way most Chinese would do it, but it is (in my experience) not something that is offensive or inappropriate. Certainly not in Beijing. He didnt ask his teacher if he could put his arm there nor did anyone else. He just put it there for a picture. I didnt ask the teacher, but I know her quite well and I think she would have told me if she had felt uncomfortable.
@hape: I will let her know, she will be delighted :) Thanks on the compliment for the picture quality also, I am trying my best.
@JujuLeCaribou: I don't know for Thailand, but in China when touching a woman's head or her shoulder in a friendly manner one usually does not risk anybody's life :)))
June 11, 2012, 11:35 a.m.
I tend to agree with Steve : the gap between B1 and B2 is huge.
I've been living in Thailand since 8 months now, spending about 4 or 5 hours per day with Thai (study + TV + practice with my wife, friends, the people in the streets, etc ...).
I would say that, according to the CEFR scale, my level is at a strong B1.
But B2 (which I consider the beginning of a real fluency in the language) ..... Impossible with a language totally different from your native one : too much things to absorb (vocabulary, grammatical patterns, ...).
About the tones : there is a "hack" that I've found with Thai, maybe it is true with Mandarin too : if you speak rather quickly and emphasize the tone of the last word of the sentence, your (native) interlocutor tend to say that your accent is good (which, in fact, is not true).
Was Benny using this "hack" ? Is this "hack" relevant with Mandarin ?
June 11, 2012, 11:43 a.m.
In the theravada Buddhism (the main religion of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia), the head is the center of the soul : touching the head is EXTREMELY offensive !
June 11, 2012, 11:59 a.m.
June 11, 2012, 12:21 p.m.
June 11, 2012, 12:36 p.m.
My point about this bragging irish guy here on this thread was more that he seemed to be ignorant about such an elementary point even after so many months in the country. I think often we need to not just learn the language but also understand how people behave and try to fit it. This is also part of learning a language.
Full immersion is not some exotic new "approach"! How does that deserve special interest? If you were interested in Benny's activities as a learner and you did your homework, you would not have invited him.
You were interested in page-views for your website. Period. This renders your review highly suspect because anything less than "wow he is surprisingly good" would break the feel good marketing mood.
Ps.I distance myself from all the speculation about the picture.
June 11, 2012, 1:35 p.m.
I think this is what happened next. The wannabe polyglot then posted the review on his website saying how chuffed he was. I cannot verify this as I refuse to add my click to his page. So the review then resulted in a win-win for both parties.
That happened already: http://www.fluentin3months.com/bennys-mandarin/
"I had a little trouble finding the place and ended up walking around in the strong unshaded Beijing sun for a half an hour. This meant I was a little irritable and tired when I did get in, but my teacher Fiona (in the photo) was patient and let me rant a little, and I let off steam about some things that had been bothering me, both in China and over my stressful 3 month period in Taiwan. All in Mandarin of course."
;-) Do you believe this?
"Of course, the point of this project wasn’t to “master” Chinese in 3 months, but to force myself, through intensive immersion, to get the best possible level that I could in the shortest time possible, which was necessary if I was to truly enjoy China, as I have done!"
And finally, the C1 goal becomes miraculously an aim.
June 11, 2012, 2:25 p.m.
June 11, 2012, 3 p.m.
quote from the Irish guy as reproduced by you above:
"aim was...to get the best possible level that I could in the shortest time possible"
Did he not originally say he was going to be able understand all conversations and not hold anyone up. The goal post changed again.
I thought he wanted to show off how his method worked.
He is writing in a very bragging way "all in Mandarin of course". You would never get a Chinese person writing like that. If there was something he could pick up from the Chinese it was how important it is to be modest. He missed a trick there.
June 11, 2012, 7:28 p.m.