Chinese Language Forum

How about a Chinese Language Forum? I know there hasn’t been much talk about Chinese on hear recently, but if a forum started I think people would use it considering how many people here are learning Chinese.


That sounds useful. Sometimes I post my queries on tw.bbs.lang.english to try to get Chinese equivalents for English things, and stuff like that, but I can’t usually fool them…

A forum that existed to support the learner of Chinese in Taiwan doesn’t seem a bad idea. I’d be happy to help out on it.

I think a Chinese language forum is a great idea. In the meantime however, we can turn this thread into a post about learning Chinese. Why are most of yall learning Chinese? Business? Exchange Student? ABC, CBC coming back to improve language skills? All 3?

Also, how many of us are also learning Taiwanese and or HAkka? Living in Pintung, I know I should also learn some Taiwanese, but since all the younger people usually speak mandarin to each other, I havent botherd yet

I’m still learning Mandarin to improve my skills as a translator/interpreter, which is how I make my living. I’m trying to learn Taiwanese (Minnan) too, because I believe this is going to be important in the future. However, being back in the States, this is tough, and I’m getting really bored with the only tape I have… I’ve tried to get a language exchange but we live a bit far away from the universities.

I hope to get to Taiwan for awhile this summer and do some catching up!

I learn Chinese because I really enjoy it and because it’s necessary for living in Taiwan (emph on living).

I used to always read the forums on which is an excellent site, but those forums were really messy, full of posts like ‘how do you write “dragon” for a tat’ or ‘what’s the Chinese for A,B,C …’ and then most of the regular posters moved to oriented anyway.


Last time I checked, the forum on was closed until further notice. I just tried to go there again, and my browser couldn’t even find the server.

Hi all.
I too am learning Chinese. I have tried every language program out there…and have found the BEST.
Some of you have probably heard of it…but its called “HyperChina” by a company called “Sinologic”
Short of intensive classes…it is by far the best thing I have found.
You can check it out at:

Happy studying!

Iron lady you and Richard are my personal heros. My question for you is, how long did it take you to get to the point where you could basically understand a college level lecture? a textbook? any tricks you could share for the rest of us?

Regan, why did you start learning Chinese?

Narrow and deep.
Concentrate on a few words at a time, try to get material at your level for reading and listening (no more than 10% unknowns if you’re reading alone for pleasure or to improve your Chinese), and repeat, repeat, repeat.

This is hard to do because there aren’t many materials that answer this description at present…but like I said, we’re working on it…

Remember that you need to hear a word used in a novel context (not just reading the same stuff over and over) about 50-70 times before it really sinks in, so don’t be too hard on yourself for the whole “I know I’ve seen that before” thing.

What is your Chinese level? We may be starting up a class in Taipei. Can’t say much more about it at this point, but it would be either foreigner-taught or taught by a Chinese teacher learning a new method [or maybe team taught]–(hey, you’ve got the whole city as a language lab…why insist on a native teacher if the methods are not going to be appropriate for Westerners??)

For listening, I really enjoy using the “Pinyin Dictionary” (can’t remember the actual name, but it’s yellow and black!) by Lanbridge Publishing. It lists all the words in pinyin order without regard to tone or character, so you have a fighting chance to find a word you’ve just heard on the radio or TV without having to check under 16-million characters for “bao” to see if there happens to be a compound that matches what you heard.

The other thing I swear by is my Palm Pilot (actually, a Handspring Visor). I have the Oxford E>C,C>E dictionary on there, and another program called “SuperMemo” which is a kind of intelligent flashcard program that remembers your performance and gives you tests based on what you did last time. I have about six file “packs” of flashcards going at any one time, depending on what project I’m working on at the moment. You can put in several fields, so you can have characters, Pinyin, and English and arrange them as you like.

You might also consider adopting my TOP romanization (“Tonally Orthographic Pinyin”). Basically, it’s a way to represent the four tones of Mandarin by using capital and small letters, instead of tone marks or adding silent letters to a word as in tonal spelling. I came up with this in 1995 when I was preparing for my dissertation defense and was basically sitting around the university library all summer doing sight translation from English to Chinese under the supervision of a number of (paid!) Chinese grad students (the object being to increase my vocab). You just use capital and small letters, like this:

First tone: all CAPITAL letters: MA ZHUANG
2nd tone: last letter CAP: mA zhuanG (it goes up, you see…)
3rd tone: all lower case (it’s low): ma zhuang
4th tone: First letter CAP: Ma Zhuang (the tone of voice goes down).

Neutral tone can be represented by all lower case followed by an “!” or a period, depending on what you like. (In typesetting, I would use italics…)

This system has several advantages. First, you “visualize” the form of the word, so it helps you remember the tones. Second, you have to re-write the whole word to change the tone…no more scribbling over the tone mark and ending up with no clue what tone you meant. This reflects the real identity of the tones in Chinese. It’s also easy for people who are touch-typists, because it’s usually easier to capitalize than to add a number.

If you like Pinyin, there is a set of tone-marked fonts called Pintone that are very convenient and easy to use.

I don’t promote TOP for written stuff (although I can read it easily since I’m used to it). It is just a learning aid, not a revolution to the orthography of Chinese in general. Most Chinese people say they “can’t accept it” because it “looks weird” (yeah, right…ahem, like a lot of characters don’t!!) but then again those people were mostly teachers of Chinese who never actually had much teacher training in the first place, and were just doing the best they could (pick a random English teacher in Taipei and ask them about pedagogical theory and you’ll see what I mean.)

Well, this is long-winded (as usual) but I hope it gives you some suggestions. If you’re advanced, there are other methods I can share with you to improve your vocab and diction.

Have fun

Oops…I didn’t answer your question, did I?

I think it took about 5-6 years of fairly intensive effort (mostly outside of Taiwan) before I felt comfortable listening to an hour-long lecture in Chinese, although I might not understand all of what was said. Before that, I could catch most of the drift, but I had a problem with “turn-off” – after a certain time, my brain would just switch off [fatigue]. Also around the 5-6 year mark (that is, after 2 years of college Chinese at Georgetown, a year in Taiwan, another year at GU and then 2 years of studying on my own and with a private tutor, with I’d say no more than 2 weeks without Chinese during that time) I could start predicting word forms and really understanding things I’d never heard before based on understanding how the language works (ex: “ink strip” for “typewriter ribbon”, stuff like that).

I started interpreting school with 12 years of Chinese and it wasn’t really enough. The good thing was that I did learn some techniques to improve it. In the end, though, what has helped the most has just been reading, reading, reading (usually for pay in the form of translation, but all my leisure reading is done in Chinese too.) I prefer translations of Western novels or stuff originally written in English (I know, I have a low cultural level! ) because the vocab is more what I need to focus on and it holds my attention better.

Early on, Harlequin romances translated into Chinese were great – lots of everyday vocab, plus you can pick up 35 words for “trembling”…you get the drift. I also enjoyed novels by Cheung Yao, which are considered teenage girl stuff in Taiwan.

If you were taught with modern methods and were in a language-rich environment, I think you could speed up this process considerably, though.

I have been learning 2 years, so I can always use advice. I have been in Taiwan since May, I am an exchange student, and I can pretty much understand my prof’s lectures, but what really bugs me is that sometimes I really have trouble making myself understood. 可是我覺得越來越好. Anyway, right now what I really need to improve is my written vocab. like I said, I can understand the lecture ok, being in Pintung, ALL my friends speak Chinese to me. I NEVER speak English. In fact, I 'm really kinda mean, cause I have to break the spirits of the gun-hoe English students around here who wanna talk to whitey in English. I almost feel guilty about it sometimes…almost
Anyway, like I said, listening, ok…but I still need HOURS to understand our textbook. Any special tricks? or just rote?


The problem with improving receptive skills (reading, listening) is that you can’t always control the input.

For improving your reading, you would ideally want to be reading extensively using materials that contain no more than 10% unknown words. (In Chinese, this kind of statement is usually a cruel joke…!) You might try to “prepare” yourself for the reading by reading the same or equivalent thing in English first (interpreters are taught to do this as one way of preparing for a bilingual conference – first see the info in the native language and then read in the FL to “match” up the terms).

Otherwise, learn to be very alert to contextual clues and use guessing as much as possible…don’t stop to look up everything (especially if it seems to be 4 characters together – “CHENGYU ALERT, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES”!)

If you see it again, it’s probably worth looking it up.

Also, save yourself aggravation and make sure you have a good electronic dictionary with handwriting input (I used to like the Besta 65 because it’s more foreigner-friendly than the newer models, but it’s probably not avialable anymore as I’ve had mine for like 6 or 7 years now). Now I’ve switched to using my Palm Pilot almost exclusively, with the Oxford E>C C>E dictionary on it. Handles both simplified and traditional and really cuts down on lookup time. In fact I almost never look up a character by using radicals or strokes in a traditional C>E dictionary anymore.

The more you read, the better will be your ability to express yourself orally and in writing. I struggled for years to improve my spoken Chinese, then finally “gave up” for a year and just translated and found that I made up more ground when I’d stopped worrying about it and doing 11 million language exchanges and just translated full time (which meant reading 60,000+ characters’ worth a month). Extensive reading is where it’s at, but the frustration factor (having to look up more than 10% unknowns) is really strong. The good thing about translating is that at least somebody’s paying you to do it.

Remember that you need to see and hear a new word in something like 50-70 different contexts and occasions to really master it, so give yourself a leg up by making up dumb stories which repeat any words you particularly want to master. At the advanced levels these stories sound REALLY idiotic, but they do make the words stick. I mean just 4-5 sentences out loud to yourself that include 4-5 instances of the target word will help a lot. Somehow combining the visual and aural modalities helps the brain hold onto things.

Keep at it, it gets easier (so I’m told)…

Is this (description below) the same dictionary you are using?
My Visor has only 2MB which is barely more than this software.

The Oxford Concise English & Chinese Dictionary is now on Palm, with built-in handwriting recognition, Chinese character display and support for traditional and simplified characters.

Feature summary:
The essential Chinese reference licensed from Oxford University Press. Features almost 24,000 entries in its Chinese to English dictionary and over 12,000 in its English to Chinese dictionary.
Handwriting input - forget all of those clumsy radical lookups! We use WisdomPen technology (licensed from Motorola) so that you can simply write a character on your Palm’s screen and quickly jump to that character’s entry.
Radical input - for those of you who still wish to employ radical lookups, we’ve also converted the complete radical table from the print version of the dictionary for speedy access on your Palm.
Powerful Pinyin search - if you know how to pronounce it but not how to write it, just enter the Pinyin romanization of a word, with or without tones, for a list of every possible match.
Built-in Chinese display system - so you don’t need to buy a separate Chinese OS.
Supports traditional and simplified characters for both handwriting and font display; if you’ve got enough memory you can even install both (and instantly switch between them).
Cross-referencing. Can’t tell which of the 9 definitions for ‘time’ shi2ke4 refers to? No matter - highlight it and click a button to instantly pull up its definition in the complementary dictionary.

For more information, check out the online product manual at our website, or download the demo version and see it in action!

System requirements: any Palm OS handheld with 2 MB of memory or more, running Palm OS 3.0 or greater should work. The full version of the dictionary requires approximately 1500-1800k of available memory for a basic installation

and another program called “SuperMemo” which is >a kind of intelligent flashcard program that >remembers your performance and gives you tests >based on what you did last time

Can you provide more details on where to obtain this program? Thanks!

Also, I’m curious about why people prefer pinying over bopomo. Bopomo is more accurate in teaching pronounciation. Also, many slang in the press/media use some bopomo. I forgot my bopomo, and I’m trying to learn it again.

Hi Urbanjet (may I call you “Urban”?)

Yes, those two are the exact programs I am currently using on my Palm. The lack of headroom in your memory might be a concern, but after all what’s more important than Chinese?
Or maybe you can upgrade to a Handspring Visor, which is expandable in future, and begins with 8 MB (which so far has been enough for me although I’m starting to scrape my head on the memory limit now).

You can buy either on Or (consider doing it this way) you can figure out the developer’s direct link and buy it directly, thus not giving PalmGear the commission (which is hefty and not paid very promptly to the developers…this has been a major issue with them of late).

I remember that SuperMemo is at
I’m trying to remember where the Oxford is…it’s a short, catchy one-word domain name which I have predictably forgotten! But I know it’s visible on palmgear. You can check them both out and then determine which would give you a better financial deal.

Both programs are well worth the price of registration, IMHO.


OH yeah…for the Oxford dictionary, you don’t need a separate Chinese OS for your Palm, but for SuperMemo you would. That might be a limitation for you because of the memory size.

I use ChineseOS in BIG-5 which is good for me as I prefer reading traditional characters. There are quite a number of other systems out there. I’ve also used DragonPen input which was nice. I’m not quite sure why I haven’t re-installed it…sheer laziness, I guess.


I may have too much time on my hands, but I jsut did a little check to see how many topics to do with Chinese language there have been in the last month month. There’s

Culture and History 5
Living in Taiwan 4
Open Forum 2
Language Exchange 2
Visitor Feedbask 2

In the past I’ve also seen posts about Chinese Language in Miscellaneous, Technololgy (software), and Where Can I Find (schools).

The topics cover such things as learning styles, differences between schools, romanisation systems and learning experiences.

I really think it would be a good idea to start a forum for Chinese language. At the moment the posts are all over the place with very similar topics in a bunch of different forums. I also expect (from myself at least) a lot more action, talking about the language itself, if there was a dedicated forum for Chinese.

I know it’s only been a week, but hey, moderators, some response (even if it’s just “we’ll think about it”) would be nice. Just the last week with so much discussion happening and the apparent death of I’ve been thinking more and more that this forum is needed.



My key to success is imitating the tape until well versed. Textbooks are for a brief check of what is on the tape. Used alone, textbooks may do more harm than good. You will invent your own pronunciations and they will dog you for life.

One poster said bopomofo was better than hanyu pinyin: this shows that your orientation to Chinese is dangerously more by eye than ear.
If you were more ear based, the two would seem equivalent.

For the person who wanted to learn Taiwanese. I bought 50 tapes and 4 books from Maryknoll in Taizhong,

Hey Bri - did you not notice that there has been a holiday for the last week

But I support the idea of a Chinese Language Forum

Indeed…my first stop after shaking off the jet lag will be at the Maryknoll office to get my own 50 copies of those tapes for Taiyu! I’m getting really bored with my business Taiwanese tape and its “Oh, our quality assurance department does rigorous checking of blah blah blah…”

Thanks for clueing me in on the existence of these tapes!