Alumni Spotlight: Daniel de Smeth


Daniel is a 29-year old Dutch guy from Amsterdam, the Netherlands who moved to Shanghai about four years ago. He makes soft drinks and iced-teas for a living.

Why did you choose this program?

I started my Mandarin studies about three years ago and have been to about 5 different schools. Two years ago, I moved to Silk Mandarin when one of my classmates decided to start his own school. He felt that the teaching methods of most Mandarin schools were not very effective because they are not developed with the (foreign) students together. Silk Mandarin therefore became a school with a very innovative teaching method and a drive to improve – something that worked out very well and made me stick to this school.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Silk Mandarin helps me organize my learning schedule, organizes field trips all over China, and organizes extra-curricular activities such as learning how to write characters and language corners. As I am employed in Shanghai, I am not very familiar with what else they organize for their students, but I am more than happy with all their activities. There are so many of them that I do not have the ability to attend all of them.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Listen to your teacher. I sometimes want to study too fast, which in the end slows me down. Sometimes it is good to revise, and if your teacher tells you to do this, then listen!

Also, go to all the classes, definitely when you have group classes. Sometimes it feels like you are not progressing, but this is all part of the process. Those days somehow always end up being the days with the most impact.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I follow two types of classes at Silk Mandarin.

The group classes are usually two times a week for 3 hours each. In the classes. we usually go through a listening and reading exercise together, followed by a discussion. Then in the off-days, I make my homework which is then discussed in the next class. During the classes, we are also taught about several cool methods such as Silk Mandarin's slow motion technique. These are very useful and not something that you see at other Mandarin schools where everybody only works according to the book.

The other class I sometimes follow instead of the group classes are private classes, which are basically the same but allow for a more effective one-on-one learning method. I spend two times two hours per week on those.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

This might sound a bit cheesy, but yes, my biggest fear in China was not having the ability to communicate and get around by myself. I thought it would not be possible for foreigners to speak proper Mandarin, but I turned out to be very wrong about this. Shanghai has many foreigners who speak great Mandarin. As long as you study properly (and at a good school of course), you should have no problem getting around in Shanghai.

How do you find China?

I find that China is a place that still needs to be discovered by foreigners. I had a very different picture in my mind about China until I finally visited, and found that it is much more welcoming than I thought before. The locals as well as the expats are very nice and interested, and the entire country has a “can do mentality” where everybody feels the sky is the limit. I am one of those people who came to China and am definitely not planning to leave!