GoEast is a language school in Shanghai that teaches Mandarin to foreigners, both at their Shanghai campuses and through their online courses.
Although I haven’t had the opportunity to visit their school in Shanghai, I have tried out their online courses and taken a 1-1 lesson with one of their teachers. Because of that, this review will focus on what it’s like to study with their online course.
Their course is rather unique because the lessons are entirely in Chinese (with English subtitles) and takes a blended approach, combining self-learning with 1-1 lessons.
There are a few different courses to choose from.
- HSK 1
- HSK 2
- HSK 3 – I
- HSK 3 – II
- HSK 4+ (on request)
- Business Chinese
- HSK 1 Grammar
- HSK 2 Grammar
Some of the courses, such as the grammar and pronunciation courses include live instruction as an optional part, while the HSK courses have the live lessons included in the price.
The HSK 1 and HSK 2 courses include 30 lessons and 33 private classes. Each of the HSK 3 courses includes 20 lessons and 22 private classes.
This review will take a primarily look at a lesson at the HSK 1 and HSK 3 courses.
As I mentioned, the lessons are entirely in Chinese so you won’t hear any English being spoken, although there are English subtitles so you’ll still understand everything in the lessons.
I have somewhat mixed feelings about this approach.
On the one hand, it’s awesome for beginners to be exposed to so much Chinese from the very beginning. Most courses have too much English being spoken, limiting your learning opportunities. So, this course is very refreshing in that regard.
However, in practice, it ends up being rather strange. This is especially true for lessons in the HSK 1 course. At that level, students know very little Chinese so the explanations end up being FAR more challenging than the concepts being taught.
The content is spoken clearly and at an appropriate speed, but for earlier levels, students will basically be reading the translated subtitles if they hope to understand anything.
Although this feels kind of awkward in the beginning, getting more exposure to the language is a net positive in my eyes.
Overall, the lessons aren’t the most exciting things you’ll find. They aren’t terribly boring either, just kind of average in that regard.
Let’s take a look at the first part – vocabulary.
The first part of each lesson is a video focusing on vocabulary. This typically lasts around 10 minutes and introduces you to new vocabulary and sentence structures.
You’re given lots of examples and although the oral explanations can be challenging to follow (if you don’t check the subtitles), the written examples use level-appropriate vocabulary.
The explanations also make it clear that the GoEast team has lots of experience teaching Chinese. They’ll often point out common mistakes and expand on areas that students may struggle with.
The lessons end with a quick review of what was taught.
One thing that detracted from the overall quality of the lessons is that there were a few mistakes in the PPTs. For example, things like 姐姐 written in the wrong tone could definitely cause some confusion for learners.
I’m a big proponent of using flashcards to review vocabulary, so it’s nice to see these included with the lessons. There are actually two sets – one with the vocabulary written in pinyin and the other written in hanzi.
They use Quizlet for the flashcards which works nicely. However, there’s one problem that hurts the experience.
The audio for the recordings is machine-generated and doesn’t sound remotely natural. So, if you were to use that as a guide while reviewing, you could end up with some robot-like pronunciation.
The conversation part of the lessons is also a video, lasting around 10 minutes.
In this part, there’s a video where some of the staff at GoEast act out a scenario. Prior to seeing that part of the video, you’ll be given a couple of comprehension questions to pay attention to. Afterward, you’ll go over the answers to the questions.
Then, there’s a section where you’ll repeat the conversation, filling in the blanks of the missing keywords. This is nice as it not only gets you to think about what’s missing in the sentence but also gives you the opportunity to practice speaking aloud.
Later there’s a Key Notes section of the video. The instructor takes some potentially challenging phrases and grammar points from the reenactment and explains why they were used, adding in other example sentences.
Again, this is all really solid information and super helpful.
Finally, there are Extension exercises where you’ll practice what you’ve learned in different contexts. You’ll be prefaced with a situation and asked to respond, with a short pause given to you to speak it aloud.
The Conversation Exercises include around 10 multiple-choice questions. This is another useful feature and the way that the answers are written makes certain that you’ve actually understood the content. If you didn’t understand the material, you’ll probably get a few questions wrong.
One minor gripe that I have with these exercises is how pinyin proceeds the Chinese characters. Maybe I just have bad old-man eyes, but the hanzi is a bit small and can be kinda hard to read in the answers. Plus, when pinyin comes first, most people will tend to take the lazy route and focus on that.
This is actually one thing that surprised me about the course and something I’m not a big fan of. Pinyin is used more extensively and is more prominent than hanzi – pinyin is almost always written first. Even the subtitles are written in English and pinyin, but without hanzi.
I prefer the way Chinese Zero to Hero does their lessons, with a strong focus on using hanzi from the very beginning.
This is a short PDF where you’ll find some helpful information, such as the vocabulary words, the conversation written in hanzi, pinyin, and English, and grammar explanations with example sentences.
Overall, it’s a pretty helpful resource for reviewing the conversation. There’s one small thing that bothers me, that wouldn’t have a huge impact on your studying, but is sloppy nonetheless.
The way pinyin is formatted when written above characters is pretty terrible to read.
Next up in the lesson is a grammar video. This is a bit shorter than the other videos, lasting around 3-6 minutes.
The instructor explains the grammar point clearly with good examples that make it easy to understand. Afterward, you’ll be given some situations to respond with what you’ve learned. These are really well done and the practice is helpful.
Following this is a grammar quiz that’s similar in nature to the conversation exercises, with 8 multiple-choice questions. Again, GoEast does a great job of using somewhat similar answer options. That way, you’ll have actually needed to learn the grammar point to get them correct.
The final part of each lesson focuses on Chinese culture. It’s written in English and covers pretty interesting topics, such as ‘How to succeed in business with China’, ‘A guide to drinking in China’, and ‘How to breathe easily in China’.
These are quite detailed and an enjoyable way to finish the lesson.
As I mentioned earlier, a big thing that makes GoEast’s online courses different than other Chinese courses is their blended approach – mixing self-study and personal instruction.
As such, you’ll want to study each lesson independently prior to your 1-1 class. Then, after you’ve done that, you’ll meet with your instructor over Zoom – a platform somewhat similar to Skype.
For this review, I also had one lesson arranged with one of their instructors, which lasted around an hour.
It was definitely among the best 1-1 classes I’ve taken. The teacher was awesome – really friendly, obviously experienced, and spoke great English but stuck with using Chinese. She really did a phenomenal job.
In the private lesson, we went over the material that I studied in the lesson. Although this may sound a bit repetitive, it was actually really helpful.
It’s pretty easy to feel overconfident from watching videos and answering multiple-choice questions. But, you’ll likely find yourself needing a bit of extra practice with some parts of the lessons. Being put on the spot and asked to respond using a certain sentence structure is great reinforcement that is often lacking while self-studying Mandarin.
Not only do these classes help to improve your understanding of the lesson, they’ll inevitably help you improve your spoken Chinese, listening comprehension, pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, etc.
After the lesson, you’ll be sent a PDF with the lesson notes. This again is pretty useful as it gives you the chance to quickly review what was taught in the lesson, and it’s personalized to your specific lesson.
When I first saw the prices of the courses, my jaw dropped. They’re really expensive.
The HSK 1 and HSK 2 course cost $889 each while the two HSK 3 courses cost $619 each.
I was initially taken aback by these prices, after all, you could reach an HSK 3 level for a fraction of the cost of a single one of the above courses.
However, when looking at everything included in the courses, the price becomes much more reasonable. For example, the HSK 1 course includes 33 private lessons which would come out to just under $27 per lesson – not taking into account the value of the self-study part of the course.
You could find an instructor for half that cost on italki but then you’d also have to arrange the self-study aspect with another Chinese course. It can also be a little more challenging to align the content you self-study with an independent tutor and especially hard to find a tutor as skilled as those on GoEast.
So, once again, I have some mixed feelings. The price is actually pretty reasonable when broken down into a per class amount, but spending nearly $900 for an HSK 1 course just feels wrong to me.
That might just be due to the fact I’m still paying off student loans, so dropping that much money on a course would be irresponsible for me, personally. If you’re in a similar spot and don’t have lots of extra cash, then for sure, go with cheaper alternatives. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have success in learning Chinese.
But, if money isn’t an issue and you’d rather have everything laid out for you, then GoEast’s courses are definitely a good option.
One more thing worth mentioning; if you were to complete any of their courses and take all of the private lessons, I’d be shocked if your actual progress didn’t end up being quite a bit higher than the course level.
For most people, I’d say that GoEast’s courses aren’t the right choice simply due to the high cost. But, if you’re fortunate enough to not have to worry about that, then they really are an excellent option.
Although their online self-study courses aren’t my favorite by themselves, when combined with the private 1-1 instruction, they become quite good. Having private lessons with an experienced teacher that’s aligned with the self-study course works really well.
I have no doubt that any student who takes their courses would make awesome progress with their Chinese.