Elena Kaye, who spent a year studying at a Chinese university, wants to keep up her Mandarin. Maynard Clark, who learned some simple Chinese phrases from his Asian friends, wants to learn more Mandarin.
Both have options to practice the language in and around Longwood.
The Boston Mandarin Chinese language Meetup Group holds a meeting every Tuesday from 6 pm to 8 pm in the Harvard School of Public Health. The group engages in a general discussion in Mandarin and English, listens to a speech in Mandarin on a current event or a common issue, and responds to the speech.
The group’s goals are to teach English speakers to understand and speak Mandarin, and to enable accomplished Mandarin speakers to have enjoyable, worthwhile conversations.
Clark, who works at the Harvard School of Public Health, organized the group with four other people in early 2012. Clark, who started to learn Mandarin in 2007 from his Asian friends, provides the meeting place, while the others, who speak Mandarin fluently, help correct pronunciation and grammar during conversations.
“The attendance now is about five to 12 people,” Clark said. “We are interested in inviting more people at nearby colleges and hospitals to participate in the chats.”
People who are interested in the meetup should go to the website and register for a meeting.
Kaye, who is doing volunteer work for Fenway Community Development Corporation, comes to the group every week. Kaye began studying Mandarin in 2008 when she spent her second year of college at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.
“I dedicated so much time and energy to learning the language, so I don’t want to lose it now that I am back in the U.S.,” Kaye said. “The meetup is a great way to practice what you already know, but it is not a method for beginners to actually learn the language.”
“I think it’s important for someone to learn the structure and rules of the language in a classroom-style format rather than trying to pick it up in an informal meetup setting,” Kaye said.
For beginners, two language institutes near the Longwood Medical area provide options.
The Boston Language Institute, which has 4 Stars on Yelp, offers regular and immersion Mandarin programs.
The regular programs, ranging from level one to level five, are offered in classes of four to 12 students on weekday evenings or weekend days. Each class runs for 90 minutes and occurs twice a week. The tuition at all levels is $379.
The immersion programs cover level one to five in six weeks. Students need to spend three hours every weekday. The tuition for this program is $1,895.
The instructors are native speakers with years of teaching experience in America or abroad. Registration is either online or at the institute’s office at 648 Beacon Street.
Another language institute offers a much cheaper option for beginners. The Chinese Institute of Language and Arts, which gets 4.5 Stars on Yelp, offers small-group classes and private lessons.
The small-group class, which has four to eight students, runs 90 minutes once a week on weekday evenings or weekend days. A 10-week session costs $180 for all levels.
The Institute also provides private tutors, all of whom are all Chinese and charge $30 per hour. The students decide the length of the session.
Students can register at any time in a year for classes at the website, or at the office located at 30 Kneeland Street.
There is another option for tutors. UniversityTutor.com helps students find a tutor in different subjects for free. The site allows users to scan a tutor’s education and teaching experience, and allows communication via e-mail. The learning time and location are flexible. Tutors decide the fee for their services. Chinese Mandarin tutors in Boston charge from $1 to $100 per hour.
Members of the Northeastern community can take Mandarin classes for free.
NUCALLS, a student organization which was founded in 2007, offers free Mandarin classes to faculty, staff, and students. The student organization offers beginning to advanced classes. Classes begin during the third week of Northeastern classes in the fall and spring semesters and end the week before finals. The registration for the spring semester has begun online.
Students, who speak Mandarin fluently, teach the one-hour classes on weekday evenings. Classes are held in the International Village, located behind the Ruggles Station, and in the YMCA building on Huntington Avenue.
In the fall, NUCALLS offered four Mandarin courses with about 80 students enrolled, according to the NUCALLS team.
“Free can be an advantage, but can also be a disadvantage at the same time,” said Minggan Wei, a Chinese tutor for the Chinese-English Language Exchange Program at Northeastern University. “It usually results in low commitment.”
“It’s really hard for newbies to learn a language without devoting enough time,” Wei said. “It’s better for beginners to go to formal classes where teachers and students both can make a commitment.”
Northeastern and Simmons college students can make such a commitment in the schools’ language departments. Simmons College’s Modern Languages Department has offered Chinese courses for undergraduate students every semester since 1996. It now offers cultural courses, such as Masterpieces in Chinese Literature, as well as language ones.
Northeastern University’s World Language Center offers Chinese courses every semester, ranging from elementary to advanced. The teachers are experienced Mandarin teachers. Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to take those courses, according to Jean Paul, office assistant at the World Language Center.
“They count toward course credits,” Paul said. “Approximately 200 to 300 students enroll in Chinese courses each semester.”
Students in Northeastern language courses can apply for a free language tutor, who usually is a native speaker studying at the university.
“The appointment with a tutor usually occurs one hour a week,” said Ming Hu, who served as a Chinese tutor from 2011 to 2012. “But the meeting time and location are very flexible.”
According to Wei, who tutored in 2009, the main job of a tutor is to help students better understand what they learned in classes. “Sometimes students cannot thoroughly understand a word or a phrase if the instructor only gives one example to explain it in class, then we can give them ten examples to help them understand it,” Wei said.