How to psyche yourself up to use your Chinese?

I know will help and starting conversations with shopclerks
and joining groups and clubs will help my Chinese too. It’s just that sometimes I lack confidence with my speaking. Do you just speak and forget about sounding stupid or making mistakes? Or do you just have a few beers first?

Before you begin to speak, always preface with a “Dui Bu Qi, Qing wen yi xia.” Or “Mafan ni.”

One, this is polite, but more importantly it gets people prepared that a foreigner is about to speak to them in Chinese. By the time you’ve finished the intro their mind has adjusted itself and they are ready to listen to you (wait for their nod). If you just jump right in and start talking people will probably not hear the first few things you said.

Go out into the countryside on weekends and talk to people there. Prepare yourself by knowing some of the local sights in Chinese so you can ask people directions and things like, “Is that mountain the one with the monkeys on it?” knowing full well it is, but it gives you practise speaking and also listening to answers containing info on a subject you are familiar with. Also, when you talk about well-known subjects if a tone or two is wrong people will still know what you are saying because of the context.

Women are usually better to talk to than men, unless the man looks cultured or gentle.

Is there a mountain with monkeys on it?

Lots. Chai Shan in Kaohsiung is full of them. They are really aggresive and will steal your camera if you aren’ careful.

Closer to home, a mountain near Jingtong, which is the last stop on the Pingxi small train line, has monkeys on it. I was just there yesterday and saw a few. If you have a car it’s only a 35 drive to the trailhead from Mucha.