Feedback on the TLI

I am thinking about signing up for Chinese lessons at the Taiwan Language Institute. Has anyone used their services? If so, were you satisfied?



If you want to focus on SPOKEN… I highly recomend them. Written is however not as good there as Shi Da. TLI will let you study either in hanyu pinyin, or bopomofo (I forgot the official name of it). I studied one on one 14 hours a week for 6 months at the Beijing branch and returned to the States to enroll in a Second year University level Chinese course. The first 2 terms of the Second year Uni-course were largely review…

Of course, I have lost it all now… :frowning:

Thanks for the info. I notice you are in Taipei on your profile. How could you have lost it living here?

I have heard that they write their own books. How good are the books that they use?

I also heard that there is a lot of pressure on the teachers there. If you don’t like the teacher that you have, then you can switch anytime. Is that true too?

Kristy, how much did it cost to study 14 hours a week one on one in Beijing? In Taipei it’s almost $400 an hour. Also, at 14 hours a week I’m sure you would have gotten good results anywhere. It’s really not much of a recommendation I’m sorry to say.

I have studied on 2 different occassions at the TLI on Roosevelt Road. I’ve had 2 good teachers of of 6. Not great odds. I find there books better than the Shida ones as the grammar explanations are more comprehensible. They tend to use more everyday English. With the old Shida green book I found myself translating the English explanations into English. They also have useful sub-sections such as lists of measure words, resultive verbs, and smaller section highlighting the different shades of meaning of common words. Their dialogues also only use words you’ve learned or are about to learn in the current chapter.

That said,the teaching style tends to be listen and repeat. Go over a big list of new words and make sentences. As Ironlady always rightfully points out, the teaching methods in Taiwan are woefully antiquated.

A few months ago I hired a private teacher and tutored her on how to teach me Chinese. Class is much more interesting now as we read stories, look at picture books, review areas that I am having problems with or don’t understand well, break off on tangents I am interest in pursuing, and even use a TPR to practise commands and daily life activities.

Mucha Man,
That sounds exactly like We Hua DaXue. I got sick of the lousy teaching methods during the second book and left. I only had one good teacher there (bless you Jiang laoshi!).

One question though, what is a TPR?

TPR is a teaching method pionered by Dr. James Asher. I’m sure that means a lot to you. In essence, TPR, which stands for Total Physical Response, which is nothing like Full Metal Jacket, is a method of teaching students to respond to (mostly) command language. Learners are not asked to speak, just respond appropriately. “Pick that up. Touch your nose. Turn around. Etc.”

The stress on comprehension and a physical response means that only little, well, stress, is placed on the learner. Awareness and concentration tend to be heightened as many sensory channels are opened (and the body is active) and language learned through TPR is said to be retained for a longer time that that learned by more traditional methods.

If you ever teach at a kindie in Taiwan you’ll be sure to incorporate (however unknowingly) some standard TPR methods.

You can get your Chinese teachers to do a little TPR on you during class. Besides commands, I recommend you try the stories in “Do and Understand: 50 action Stories for young learners” available at Caves. I use this book in my Chinese class though I must say that I did have to train the Chinese teacher how to use it effectively. (I even make my own flashcards for the vocabulary.)

Each frame of every story represents a specific action. This means they can be gestured or mimed effectively. For example, your teacher says, “Take a pot. Put it on the snowman’s head.” and you do the appropriate action. Conversely, your teacher can do the action and you say the sentence. When you get more familar with the story she can say the lines to several pictures in a row. This really increases your concentration as you struggle to remember all the lines and respond with appropriate gestures.

The story pictures also lend themselves to a lot of basic questions (in Chinese), like, “What is he doing? What is this? Is this a tree? How many? Is this big or little? Do you like this? What does he do after he gets off the bike? Etc.”

Does this answer your question?

Yes, that did answer it. i never thought of training my Chinese teacher to teach me. But it sounds like a great idea. I’m going to try it out. Thanks!

Mucha Man,

I am trying to remember the cost, it was around 10 bucks an hour I think. Oh, and I do agree, the number of hours and my determination to try to cram as much into my pea brain as possible were factors in the amount I learned. Your point is very valid. I also think that they do a lot of the read/repeat method, but the next level (right before I quit to return to the States) was picture stories. One of my roommates hated it, cause the level of Chinese that it took to use the pictures was much higher and involved more actual free thought on her part… her boyfriend, the person who was really wanting to learn it, loved it!


TLI’s books (when I studied gosh, 5 years ago) were in the process of being re-written to use Hanyu pinyin. There were typos to be sure, but they did use general common English phrases.

As for teachers. In Beijing I had one teacher out of 6 I did not like. I was able to switch. Three were from Taipei, assisting in the set up and admin of the school and they were all very good. The other 2 Beijing teachers were both pretty good.

I do have to say, my husband studied here at Roosevelt. He had less luck with good teachers, but was able to switch.

Finally, Bongo, how do you loose your Chinese living in Taipei? Work in an office were you are the only foreigner (my first job) and you become the office English teacher by default… not many people would want to speak Chinese with me… then transfer to an American/MNC where all of the work is in English… and spend the rest of your day chasing a toddler :unamused: as I always say my Taxi Chinese however is SPOT ON! :sunglasses:


I just started a few weeks ago at TLI’s Shilin branch. So far so good. They do write their own book, and it’s well-organized and very useful. You can buy corresponding cassette tapes or CDs that take you through the lessons too, so you can review or move ahead at home. I’m in a group class (there are only 3 of us) and go for 2 hours Mon.-Fri. for about 2 months. Costs 10,000 for that term. I have 2 teachers, both are good. E-mail me if you want to know more.

I’m starting my chinese class at TLI Taichung on Monday noon. I’m wondering if anyone here has studied there? Is it any good? Does anyone have any helpful hints to studying chinese? any thoughts?

Well been going to Chinese class for a week. Seem to making all kinds of strange new sounds with my mouth. I can already see why this language is so difficult to learn. With four/five tones one word can have four or five meanings at the least and if you can’t hear the difference in the tones then you will be right screwed to understand what is the other person is saying. :shock:

Eventhough I have been in Taiwan for almost 2 years I haven’t ever taken the time to learn Chinese. I mean i picked up basic survival Mandarin but after ni hau and wo yau… communication was pretty much lost. So I decided to go in to the language school to take lessons. I went up to the counter and the woman smiled at me and told her that i wanted to study Chinese. She said, “Guixin” to me and I had no idea what she said so I just smiled and said, “Hello,” Then she wrote, “Beginner.” That was my proficientcy test.

The lessons have been straight forward so far. Introduce new bo po mo symbol then the tones and then compare to similiar sounding symbols - listen and repeat. A few games. I guess it is cool. I seem to be picking it up without too much trouble.

The class has five students: a couple Canadians, an American, a Swiss and a guy from Turkey. The guy from Turkey can’t speak English so he seems a little lost most of the time. He has a good sense of humour about it though.

I would not recomment TLI as I never felt that the teachers really cared about me and what I was trying to learn. If you have studied at another language school before, they look down on you. Going to TLI was a terrible experience for me. I always felt they just wanted my money and could care less whether I learned anything or not.

[quote=“Hans Castorp”]Eventhough I have been in Taiwan for almost 2 years I haven’t ever taken the time to learn Chinese. I mean i picked up basic survival Mandarin but after ni hau and wo yau… communication was pretty much lost. So I decided to go in to the language school to take lessons.

Hans, if you are serious about learning Mandarin, I highly recommend that in addition to your coursework, you pick up a series of texts (the Taiwan Normal University texts sold at Caves’ bookstore are good) and study for a half hour or so each morning. You’ll get through a few books in six months, and it will give even more structure to your learning, beyond what they’re giving you at TLI.

Also recommend that you carry a small notebook with you everywhere you go. You are learning pinyin, right? That allows you to write down the words that you hear native speakers using. You won’t always be accurate (until you can learn Bo Po Mo Fo and ask people to write things down in BPMF for you), but your everyday Mandarin will improve dramatically as a result. Don’t give yourself too much pressure-learning Mandarin has been known to cause intense headaches until you are up over the learning curve-but if you can use this method to absorb 10-15 new words a day, you’ll be amazed at how much progress you’ll make in a few months. I filled up six such notebooks in my first year. It was the basis of my everyday vocabulary.

Most non-speakers of Mandarin lack the motivation and perseverance to learn Mandarin. I’m not ripping those people–up to you: learn it and reap the rewards, don’t learn it and pay the price. Major kudos to you for giving it a go. Don’t give up!

Included in Knowledge Base

I had a very good impression of TLI, after about two-and-half cumulative years of part-time study there in the 90s at their Roosevelt Road branch. I got up to the radio plays and business books after repeating a few of the intermediate book classes (this was the result of a few year-long breaks from formal study).

As someone mentioned earlier, TLI is great for learning spoken Mandarin, but they don’t push reading and writing, at least in the earlier books. I think this is ideal for beginners, because teachers can get you up to speed to carry out normal conversations without spending a lot of class time on writing and reading exercises. The downside, of course, is you really do need to know how to read if you want your spoken Chinese to advance beyond average proficiency. If you get past the intermediate classes at TLI, you will be forced to learn how to read … the radio plays and business books I was given didn’t have bopomofo or pinyin.

The teachers I had were pretty good, especially my last tutor, Lily Lee. She was strict, but very effective, and spoke Mandarin without a Taiwanese accent. She also didn’t mince words if you needed improvement in a particular area.

One other thing about studying Mandarin … when i first got to Taiwan I attempted to learn Chinese by “picking it up on the street”, living with a family, doing language exchange, etc. I tried this for 9 months, and it just didn’t work. You need a structured learning environment, plus lots of practice, to learn Mandarin. I was able to reach a comfortable level of proficiency within 4 months of starting class at TLI, with 10 hours of class per week and a few hours/week of study at home (plus lots of opportunities to practice with ordinary people in the course of everyday life). After about a year of TLI classes I was able to conduct (and pass) a job interview in Mandarin.

I can’t compare with NTNU, because I never attended classes there. Friends who were studying there told me it was hit-or-miss with the Shida teachers, and the TLI blue books were better than the red and green NTNU books for examples … but that was ten years ago, and things have probably changed.

I would agree with this, and with the amount of time it takes ot start talking. I’d just like to add that you can learn by “picking it up on the street” once you’ve got up to a certain level (maybe a year of study), as long as you’re not in a hurry.


I found that the books being used at Taiwan National Uni. are very outdated in their use of vocabulary. My wife (Taiwanese) choked with laughter after reading the texts and suggested that I throw the book out the nearest window. I think that it was very useful for learning the tones and grammar but some of the vocabulary was … hmmm … is that the sound of a book flying out the window.

Has anyone ever asked TLI staff why their pinyin textbooks have simplified Chinese characters? I’ve had hostile responses from most of the teachers I’ve asked, and those that can be bothered to answer the question in a civilized manner come up with garbage like “oh, well many of the characters are the same as we use in Taiwan,” or “they’re useful in China.”
These books are, after all, supposed to be “Practical Chinese” are they not? :unamused: