How long have you studied Mandarin?

Just to let folks have a feeling for the people participating in the forum, how long have y’all been cracking the books (or chatting up the neighbors) to learn Mandarin?

I studied two years of Mandarin at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, graduating in 1974 with a B.S. in Economics. I worked for a year before coming to Taiwan in the Fall of 1975, and did not study during that time. I have always actively studied here in Taiwan, although a few years after getting married to a local lady I began to more and more direct my inquiries for language assistance to her, or her co-workers. I also now have some part-time secretaries who help me with proofreading my Chinese compositions. So counting my twenty-six years in Taiwan and two at the university, I calculate that I have been studying Mandarin for 28 years.

quote:
Originally posted by ironlady: Just to let folks have a feeling for the people participating in the forum, how long have y'all been cracking the books (or chatting up the neighbors) to learn Mandarin?

I hope you don’t expect the answers will tell you for how long one has to learn to be a Master of Mandarin™. As I wrote in my comment to the voting, one can start learning a language, but it is impossible to complete that study. So if I hear someone say he/she learnt a language for a few years at university and that was all to do to be enlightened then my mostly harmless response is doubt.
I started to learn in 91, as a result of some kind of impact Taiwan made on me. Probably I should mention that I’m an interpreter, with one of my two working languages being Mandarin, so I’m not playing in the “amateur league”. I had to reach a certain level within a certain time, but even then one can’t sit down and say “That’s it, now I know all of Chinese.”
So, basically, I’ve been learning Mandarin (under several circumstances) for almost eleven years now. And if you ask me next year, I will tell you its twelve years…

Olaf

Anyone who has studied “chengyu” knows that you cannot learn all of Mandarin. You know,

huo2 dao4 lao3, xue2 dao4 lao3,
hai2 you3 xue2fei4 na2 bu2 dao4.

“Live to an old age, study until you’re old,
Still there are tuition fees you just can’t get ahold of.”

Obviously if I could just pay for that one extra course, I would be totally FLUENT!!

Olaf – how is the interpreting market in Taichong? What have your experiences as a “non-Chinese” intepreter been like? (Maybe another thread…?)

Of course it’s impossible to say how long you have to study Chinese to speak it ‘fluently’, but here’s some interesting information that basically says - a lot longer than for most other laguages:

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~wbaxter/howhard.html

Out of 44 languages taught to Americans at this institute, along with Arabic, Japanese and Korean, Chinese ranks as hardest, with 1320 hours of instruction to reach a level that you could get with 480 hours in French.

Bri

IronLady, this really isn’t the appropriate forum to ask you this, but I know you will come here, so…I understand what you mean by feeling more isolated in the US. What motivated you to move back here? Why not go back to Taiwan? My main reasons for not wanting to stay in Taiwan are: I want to take care of my elderly mom here, I don’t want my children subjected to the Taiwan educational system (ie ‘shut up and memorise/drill, then go to the buxiban for more’), the pollution situation is truly scary, the political situtation (ie Mainland China) is too unstable, and last but certainly not least, my Taiwanese husband has more power over me in Taiwan.

quote:
Originally posted by ironlady: Olaf -- how is the interpreting market in Taichong? What have your experiences as a "non-Chinese" intepreter been like? (Maybe another thread...?)

Actually, I’m not working as an interpreter here. I’m designing (or at least have done so until recently, probably time to change the job) electronic circuits…

But for the market: In contrast to many other people I don’t think that “cha bu duo” is the best representation of the attitude towards many things (including interpreting) here in Taiwan - I vote for “zhe yang jiu ke yi”. Does that answer your question? Even the Taipeh city government prefers to try to talk in English with guests from german city governments (will happen this week) to save the money for the interpreter(s). I wish them good luck and much fun…

Olaf

Maybe if you rolled some tanks down ChungShan S. Rd. blaring Mahler they’d start speaking German.

Perhaps we should all start to learn Swahili, according to the list is one of the easiest.

Well, this week I will try to find myself a class to enrol in for learning Mandarin. Perhaps not easy and a never ending thing but it should make my life here easier and who knows what it’s good for in the future …

Olaf wrote:

As I wrote in my comment to the voting, one can start learning a language, but it is impossible to complete that study.

I wrote:

You will never truly complete the study of any language, not even your mother tongue, and no-one is claiming that you could. I’ve been speaking English all my life but there is still much to learn. However I feel that my English has reached an “acceptable” level and there is no pressing need for me to improve further. Were my Mandarin to reach the same level I would consider my study to be “complete” in the sense that my language skill had reached an acceptable level.

Would a claim to the title “Master of Mandarin” be totally unjust if your Mandarin was as good as your mother tongue?

Note that this is a hypothetical situation. I have studied the language for the grand total of 7 months and am barely able to communicate.

Hang on. We may have a new method Chinese class up and running within a few weeks or months. I guarantee you will be able to communicate a lot quicker than 7 months. I’ve taught high school students with it and it’s very effective.

It’s very frustrating when you put in so much time and you’re not able to get the results you would like, but stick with it. I hear Chinese gets much easier after the first 50 years.

Terry (with just 30 more years to go)

Good god, at my rate of study (one two hour class a week) it’s going to take me more than a decade to get anywhere. Good thing I don’t need much Chinese in my daily life.

quote:
Originally posted by ironlady: Hang on. We may have a new method Chinese class up and running within a few weeks or months. I *guarantee* you will be able to communicate a lot quicker than 7 months. I've taught high school students with it and it's very effective.


You’re teaching Chinese? Wow… So what methods do you prefer to torture your students? When I started to learn Chinese, we had six (6) weeks of almost only pronounciation. Can you imagine how close one is to madness after six weeks from morning til afternoon only repeating things like “ma ma ma ma - oh, which tone should it have been? Sorry, yes, I repeat once more…”. And after those six weeks we only had a vague imagination of how this language should be pronounced - though at that time we thought ourselves to be Masters of Pronounciation™…

Olaf

Your post made me laugh thinking of dear Teacher Fang at TLI on Hsinyi Rd…one of the first guys to teach Taiwanese, and a great pioneer in the field, but he too subscribes to the “read the entire pronunciation book” (and for Taiyu it is a whole book!) out loud repeatedly before letting anyone learn a word or two. Anyone who has studied on the same floor during one of his class periods will know something about Taiwanese phonology because he has the most resonant, booming voice, and let me tell you he really rips into those nasals!!

As for my methods, I teach a method which I guarantee has not yet reached Chinese teaching, as I am currently writing the textbook for it. Since I’ve been hired to direct a language school in Taiwan which will use this method, and since the method is what I’m selling to them, and since I haven’t yet signed the contract, I really don’t want to say much more at this point. Suffice it to say that after doing a Ph.D. in Foreign Language Education, and teaching for 7 years, when I encountered this method I felt like I had wasted all the hours I had ever taught before, because it was just so much more effective than anything else (ALM, Communicative Method, Principled Eclecticism, whatever.)

I had a “guinea pig class” of high school student volunteers who came during their lunch periods (20 minutes 3x a week) and by the end of the first two months they could speak and understand simple stories, and one day I realized I was speaking at normal speed with them and they were understanding without any trouble. True I was using vocab they had had, but still…most students of Mandarin aren’t able to do that after that much study. The method isn’t my creation, but I’ve adapted it quite a bit to make it more suitable for teaching Mandarin, and I’m very excited about it. (We’ll also be teaching English with this method at the school, and I hope Spanish in the future.)

If you want some of this kind of “torture” c’mon out! Keep in touch and I’ll be glad to have you when we get something going.

Terry

quote:
Originally posted by ironlady: [QB]We may have a new method Chinese class up and running within a few weeks or months...and it's very effective. QB]

Does it focus on spoken AND written Chinese, or just spoken?

I teach spoken Chinese first, then introduce characters for recognition after the language has already been internalized, THEN characters for production for those who want to learn to write.

Personally (and I teach and translate and interpret) I don’t have the need to write much by hand in Chinese, so I often advise beginners to focus on being able to recognize more characters rather than spending a long time learning (memorizing) how to write them. Of course you need to write your name and address, nationality, stuff like that, but really, I virtually always write on a computer when I do write Chinese, so what is most important is a) accurate recognition (pick the appropriate character out of the “line-up” on the computer) and b) accurate phonetic knowledge (to type in the phonetic accurately, to get the computer to give you the right list of suspects).

Just my NT$1 – and depreciating!

Terry

I completely agree with the last post by Ironlady. In fact, I do the exact same thing with my studies. It’s mostly due to being too lazy to practice writing, but being able to type on a computer is usually sufficient. Although, I’d have to say that it’s easier to distinguish among characters when you can actually write them. That’s one of the drawbacks of not practicing writing, IMHO.

quote:
Originally posted by ironlady: Your post made me laugh thinking of dear Teacher Fang at TLI on Hsinyi Rd... Anyone who has studied on the same floor during one of his class periods will know something about Taiwanese phonology because he has the most resonant, booming voice, and let me tell you he really rips into those nasals!! [img]images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]
I know what you mean: When I started with Japanese, the Chinese group was right next door - in a makeshift building with thin walls... At that time, I would never have thought to see me in the same class one day.
quote:
[QB} As for my methods, I teach a method which I guarantee has not yet reached Chinese teaching, as I am currently writing the textbook for it. Since ... [/QB]
Sounds interesting. I would at least like to learn a bit more about it one day - after you got all the patents savely in your pocket...;-) But what I wonder: AFAIK the MOE only grants a work permit for language teaching if you teach your native language - which is probably not Mandarin?
quote:
[QB} I've been hired to direct a language school in Taiwan which will use this method, and since the [/QB]
Or does this mean you are generally employed by them and as a side effect they can use your method? Though I wonder how much they will pay for an immaterial object - Richard had an article about that problem a while ago...

You’re true about writing: The time I had to write the most Chinese (by hand) was at university, especially at NCHU, now its mostly reduced to filling in forms or writing a letter (or at least the address on the envelope).

Olaf

Hi,
About paying for an idea: since this particular boss has the idea of doing something “different”, and because this method is not known in TW yet, and frankly because I have the three obnoxious letters Ph.D. after my name [which means little in the realm of being better than anybody else, but which the government of Taiwan tends to honor a LOT], I am in fact getting a fair amount of money for this whole enterprise.

The whole work permit thing isn’t an issue because the main thrust of the school is English teaching, and that is my native language. (I’ve had that problem before when I was offered a Spanish teaching job and couldn’t get approved because I hold a US passport.) The Chinese thing is kind of a “sideline” class, but I’m quite serious about it because I’ve seen how well this kind of class can work. Actually the only reason I’m even considering teaching English now is that I will be allowed to use 100% of this new method. Otherwise I would never, ever teach English again.

Slap! Slap! Ooohhh…sorry. My attitude is back to a positive state again. I love teaching English.

Terry

Regarding secret methods, I find it much more
effective to put my works under the
http://www.fsf.org/copyleft/gpl.html and then on
to my web page. Never again will I have to
hesitate when telling anybody the best way to do
something.
Here’s my latest interview, in Chinese,
http://www.geocities.com/jidanni/200204linuxer.ht
ml