Tuesday, September 16, 2008

HSK or not?

A lot of questions this early Tue morning… but this one I don’t really know how to tackle. The uni where I am studying is offering the usual HSK course this fall and I don’t know if I should take it or not? For those of you who are not familiar with the term ‘HSK’, here goes (from an HSK test homepage):

“The Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK) is China's national standardized test designed and developed by the HSK Center of Beijing Language and Culture University to assess the Chinese language proficiency of non-native speakers (including foreigners, overseas Chinese and students from Chinese national minorities).”

Since I started studying Mandarin I have been a little bit against the whole ‘HSK thing’ since I am not studying to score well on some test (that only test your grammar/writing/reading and listening skills –so basically u can be good on the paper and then if you have no speaking skills it won’t matter) but to be able to speak and use the language in my every day life (and hopefully later in my career). But then I met a girl this semester, an American girl, who has gone from level 2 to level 4 (!) simply by taking the HSK course and doing really well on the test. She said the HSK course had helped her with both vocabulary and grammar and that made me think… “hm… maybe that course isn’t that bad after all?!’

Although I already know I won’t do well on the test. I am a smaller disaster when it comes to handwriting Chinese characters. Give me a computer and I’ll do okay but by hand… nope. It won’t happen unless I have my best friend aka my electronic dictionary next to me… I simply find it impossible to memorize all those strokes in my head and scribble down an essay. I am deeply impressed by those who can, however.

I have heard from many people that the HSK course is quite hard, that the tempo is really high and that u basically have to know what the class is about before you go in there otherwise you’ll be lost… so hm.. I can’t say that it sounds appealing. But that smart girl who went from level 2 to 4 is definitely an inspiration… Hm… Anyone reading this blog that has taken the HSK test? What did you think? Does it help with vocabulary? Or is it simply about self studying a lot and then quickly reviewing it in the class? I definitely don’t need another class that I am struggling to keep up with, I already have three and that is more than enough…


Shopgirl said...

Id get 10 points out of 100 on that test

Jonna Wibelius said...

I take that as a 'don't do it'?!

Anonymous said...

I strongly recommend you to go for the HSK. It helps your career in the long run.

little tiger said...

I think the main purpose of the HSK for foreigners is for admittance to a Chinese university.
However, I find these language tests ie HSK, IELTS concentrate on the idiosyncrasies of the language in question and lots of the questions would stump even native speakers.
Personally I would only do it if a job required it, otherwise I wouldn't because exams take the fun out of learning a language!

Emil said...

I got the same problem, when I was studying chinese, I never learned to memorize the characters by hand, so I never ended up taking a HSK, still I work for a chinese company and use chinese as the daily work language.

Some people say you just got to study hard and some day you get it, though it never happend to me.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Emil -ahhhh it feels sooooo good to hear I am not the only one having this problem.. and hearing that u now r working for a Chi company makes me even more hopeful. How long did u study for before u got your job? And where?

In order to get into an HSK class u had to first take an HSK exam to determine your level.. that exam is today and I don't have time to make it, so I don't know how they will decide my level in case I decide to take the HSK class... although the thing is: if I do a test I bet I will end up in the lowest level...because of my problem with writing.

I was actually thinking that it would be nice to take the class, just to get some more Chinese lessons, and then maybe not do the exam.. although is this just stupid thinking? I am not quite sure if I can handle finding out that my HSK level is equivalent to some smart Korean guy who has only studied for 6 months though... :/

Anonymous said...

Hi Jonna,

If you have the time and money, it might be worth doing simply for the experience.

Having said that, I am actually similar to you- I'm just doing my course to improve my own ability to speak and write for myself, not for an exam.

I suspect it's not necessary for you. You'll probably work for a MNC and they are by and large Western, so all you have to do is speak a few Mandarin words quickly in front of the HR dept head and they'll love you, since they wont know what you are saying ;)


afritzse said...

I haven't taken the HSK yet, but what I find motivating about it is that at the basic level, you learn the most important 3000 words (characters less than that) of the language. With that, you have some independence from your textbooks, because with textbooks, you usually learn fewer words and do more reading and grammar, so you may feel tied up.

Exploring Chinese on your own can definitely be very motivating.

Learning the 3000 most important words also means that you should be able to understand more Chinese than if you spent the same amount of time on textbooks. The textbooks are more important for grammar, but given the words, you should be able to figure out a lot yourself or just need a short glance on the grammar. This is more rewarding.

So you definitely need both HSK and your regular course, but in my view they can be cross-pollinating.

At the basic level, you don't have to be able to write characters, just read and choose from multiple-choice.

Just IMHO. :)