Course Review

My name is Debbie Smith and I have an MAOM from the New England School of Acupuncture, class of 2005. I’ve been studying with Nicolaas since 2019. My past experiences with language study include a BA in Russian Language. I’ve also studied non-medical classical Chinese with other teachers at the continuing education level, along the way, just to satisfy curiosity about other types of literature that have had influence on our foundational literature.

This is what I’d like to communicate about the benefits of studying with Nicolaas:

  1. Robust material. The notes he teaches from are dense with information. I continue to go back to them to review and find more layers to understand each time as my own ability to grasp an idea improves. These notes are his original content. You will not find them in a book anywhere. When I have taken other classes, when I’ve hit a confusing concept, his notes ultimately are my final resource to put an idea in order in my head.
  2. Investment in his students. He corrects all submissions personally and meticulously. When reaching certain levels of testing, you will not only have your work corrected with direct comments, you will also receive a discussion sheet to go more in depth into the broader issues at hand. Every test is another learning experience.
  3. Thoroughness. He is thorough even at the beginner level. You will learn terms, but you will also learn the context in which these terms are used. This will be invaluable when you start reading medical literature.
  4. Care for character writing. Nicolaas will help you understand how to draw the characters well. To me, each character is a small piece of art, so to have that help with my writing was just wonderful! You wouldn’t think that would be possible through distance learning, but it certainly is!
  5. Foundational ethics. The ethics and history of translation of medical terminology are explained in detail. This is not a small thing to understand.
  6. Academic rigor. This one is a bit hard to explain without sounding a bit snooty, but I’m going to be honest. This class is refreshingly challenging. You are treated like you are capable of learning something that is indeed, quite difficult. This is unlike most of my experiences with continuing education of late, where you are left with superficial instruction that does not allow for practical application of skills learned. He understands that we have busy practices to attend to, but he can accommodate that in ways that do not involve diluting content. You will finish blocks A through C with the skills to read confidently, with a thorough understanding of the underlying grammar structures. It’s not always going to be easy, but he will never treat you like you are incapable of figuring it out, nor will he ever refuse to answer a question when you get stuck.
  7. Class format: Correspondence style learning seems like the ideal format for material at this level. I can read and take my time with this. I’m not sure a lecture would help me learn this any better, as the notes take time to contemplate, vocabulary takes time to memorize and you need time to practice reading and writing. I quite frankly love that the timeline for my study is in my control, and I don’t have to present myself to a zoom camera each week. I can just study quietly until the material makes sense and then turn in my homework. I can send questions when I have them instead of sitting on them for class time, which allows my questions to be more thoughtfully asked and thoughtfully answered.
  8. Relevance of material. You will immediately start working with medical vocabulary and then medical texts. There are other classes available that use popular texts that are based on Warring States period philosophical literature, as this is often the entry point of interest in classical Chinese language. While that is a worthy endeavor also, I would say from my personal experience that these are very different types of literature. For someone like myself, only a few years into this journey, the difference between the two still feels like comparing apples to oranges. If your interest is in medical texts, it seems to make more sense to start building your vocabulary and your reading skills in this area from the very start. You will find satisfaction in your efforts much sooner.

    In summary, I say without hesitation that I feel that this is the best class available to our professional community for developing the language skills to read our foundational literature.