I have had a private tutor for my Mandarin Chinese studies since I began learning the language in Taiwan. I consider this an indispensable part of learning a new language well as an adult, especially when it is not possible to be immersed in it. My current tutor has worked with me patiently for almost 7 years. She guides and corrects as I have fun writing this blog, and she records the spoken Chinese for me. She is a native speaker from Taiwan, but has lived in the Boise area for a few years now, so I can have lessons in person. She also knows how to use the computer, so I have some of my lessons via Skype. She is the third tutor I have had, plus I have interacted with the Chinese tutor other members of my family had in Taiwan. I also guided my children’s Spanish studies in conjunction with their weekly tutoring session for over 25 years. So, I’ve had some exposure to different tutors over the years.
A Hanbridge Mandarin representative contacted me through this blog and asked if I would list their company on my blog about Chinese learning resources. After checking out their website, I said “sure.” A few days later, they asked if I would be interested in a free trial lesson to give a review on my blog. If you go to their website, you will find that they offer a free trial lesson to anyone at the bottom of their home page, so they were not offering me anything of unique value. Since I already have a tutor who is worth her weight in gold, it was the fun of reviewing them that interested me. I did not receive anything else from them.
A time was set for another representative to call me and make arrangements. There was a bit of confusion with the time zone difference, but she finally made connections with me about 45 minutes late. She asked me a few questions to get an idea of my level and interests, which was slightly complicated by an imperfect phone connection. And although her English was much better than my Chinese, there were a few instances where I was doubtful about whether she had understood me. This did not greatly hinder communication. We had a little fun getting to know each other and then a lesson time was chosen. She also asked me if there was a particular subject I was interested in learning vocabulary for.
The next thing to do was make sure my computer had the right software to use their virtual classroom. They have links to do this on their website. My computer would not do it the easy way, but the representative guided me through the necessary steps and it wasn’t long before I had things set up. Their virtual classroom was similar to Skype, with video and chat capabilities. The main thing that was added is the ability to show photos/visual aides on a separate screen. They do have options to using the virtual classroom. (click on any photo to enlarge)
The lesson began right on time, at 7:00 PM my time. Hanbridge’s main location is Nanshan District, Shenzhen, China, so they are 15 hours ahead of us. I wasn’t getting anyone up in the middle of the night. It was 10:00 AM there.
The Hanbridge tutor assigned to me spoke impeccable English. (You can see her photo on their website here. She is Shasha Liu, in the first row.) The sound connection was significantly better than it had been over the phone. It was nice to see her face at the beginning of the lesson, but when there was trouble with the visual aides lagging, we turned the personal video off to see if that would speed things up. It didn’t. Her typing in the chat box was also a bit delayed, but she kept the lesson going nicely, not letting those problems interfere much. Both the teacher and the marketing representative seemed genuinely surprised that the system was having trouble and notes were made to get their IT department right on it.
Although the tutor could speak English, she spoke Chinese to me as much as possible. She did ask briefly about the subject I had indicated interest in (exercise), but then we spent the rest of the 34-40 minutes going through the prepared lesson about restaurant and food vocabulary. She gently insisted that I repeat quite a bit back to her in Chinese, but she always managed it in ways that kept me going and helped when I needed encouragement. I already knew most of the vocabulary and basic sentence structures, but having me repeat the story lesson, with her help, was very good practice.
The end of the Hanbridge lesson seemed abrupt, but probably because I have become such good friends with my private Chinese tutor that we chat about all kinds of things after the lesson, as well as keep in touch between lessons. The Hanbridge trial lesson protocol apparently involves a 3-way conversation between teacher, student, and marketing representative at the end. The teacher gave her evaluation of my language skills, the marketing representative asked me what I thought about the lesson, and she made me an offer for a discount for further lessons. It was all very professionally done in a friendly, low-key way.
If I didn’t already have a great tutor, I would definitely consider having more lessons via the Hanbridge service. If I come across anyone who doesn’t have access to tutors in their area, I will recommend them trying Hanbridge Mandarin. If you want to know more about Hanbridge as a company, they have information on their website, particularly in links at the bottom under the “About” column. If I ever have occasion to visit their part of the world, I will go meet them in person. And, who knows?! I never in a million years thought I’d go live in Taiwan for a few months. The future is yet unwritten.