I finally finished part 1of the Chinese Character Canon course at Dash Cultural and Educational Institute last December. It took me 9 months. This is a review of my learning experience.
About the Chinese Character Canon Course:
The course has three books:
Book 1: Chinese Character Canon (CCC), with 13 main lessons. Each lesson is a poem on one general topic such as geography, ethics, Chinese history, animals, fruits and trees, etc.
Books 2 and 3: supplements to Book 1. They enforce the main lessons and demonstrate usage of characters in short stories, poems, songs, Chinese folktales and historical events.
On top of the books, I also had an hour of conversational Mandarin lessons each week. The course covers both reading and conversation, but not writing (which can be taken up in a separate course).
At the end of this basic course, a student is supposed to have mastered about 1,000 Chinese characters. Lessons can be taught either with simplified or traditional Chinese. I took the simplified Chinese course.
Each week I am supposed to attend 5 hours of class. For the first 5 months, I had classes three times a week. From month 6 to 9, I had classes everyday from Monday to Friday. I paid P6,000 per month ( I am not sure if this is the prevailing rate, as mine was the introductory one).
About the Student:
I am a native Filipino speaker with no Chinese lineage. My only exposure to the Chinese language and culture is through being with a full-blooded Chinese husband who is firmly rooted in his cultural foundations (read: he will never give up his wu xia movies and Chinese telenovelas). While V was attending Chinese tutorials in K1, I was forced to sit with her and keep close watch (so she’d pay attention and not talk to everyone!).
In other words, I have nearly-zero background of the Chinese language. What motivated me to learn? The keen interest on the language. And, oh yeah, so I will be able to assist my younger kids V and Nate in their lessons and not endure hours of Chinese tutorials after school anymore.
About the Teachers and the Method:
Chinese Character Canon teachers are licensed and specially trained to teach CCC. They employ the method of repetition, among others, as a key technique for learning. Visuals such as color-coded character flash cards are also used.
Pinyin is not the main method of teaching, though it is a supplement. Books 2 and 3 are pure characters without Pinyin.
The conversational Mandarin teacher, who also happens to be one of the owners of the center, is a Chinese-Filipino who used to be a Chinese teacher for many years in a local school. She, along with her partner, is the brainchild behind bringing the CCC into the Philippines. (CCC is a trademark Mandarin learning technique based in Xiamen, China and has several franchises all over the world. In the Philippines, Dash is the exclusive franchisee.)
At first, the characters were not explained. My classmates and I just had to swallow everything down, even if we did not really understand what those characters meant.
Later on, as the supplement books came in (which was much much later than I expected), I began to realize that I can actually read and understand basic Mandarin already!