Learning chinese difficult with locals

I’ve been working in a Taiwanese working environment for quite a while but my Chinese is still pretty poor.

I’ve read that some people here say that having Taiwanese friends is the best way to learn Chinese.

I would never be able to make friends for the sake of learning Chinese like that. That seems to me to be using them.
I find most Taiwanese quite boring and interested in stuff that is different from me- working hard all day, KTV, family stuff, shopping, playing computer games (I’m not including Taiwanese girlfriends in this analysis). They don’t really play sports and don’t like going to pubs so much. For economic reasons most of the population has not travelled very far so we dont have much to talk about in that sense.
A lot of the men seem to be intimidated by western males so only girls in general hang out with foreigners. I can’t have many girl friends because I have a girlfriend already so that cuts me out of most opportunities to hang out with locals.
The other problem is that the Taiwanese friends I have are my friends BECAUSE they are more open and international and as a matter of course speak English well. The only real Taiwanese friends I’ve had have lived or studied overseas or are western style with great English. My other friends are all westerners. English speaking westerners. The non-native English speaking westerners tend to be very cliquey and not very numerous, if we meet we will always use English and not Chinese.

This is the conundrum of the situation. How the hell to learn Chinese when you don’t really connect with a large proportion of the population and the portion you do connect with speak great English?

Come on, everyone could use a few extra girlfriends :wink:

Not me!!! NO, the wife could read this. Never!!! I’d rather have my twig and berries cut off, cripes, she probably would too. :shock:

It all depends on you headhoncho… you made friends with the english speaking taiwanese, that was your choice. you chose to speak english with them, that was your choice.

I know it’s hard for caucasian to practise chinese here, people tends to just wanna practise english with you at the end of the day…

Well, my advise is, you must initiate to speak Chinese with everyone you think can speak chinese with you. And never stop even if they switch to English. Keep it that way… People will get used to your speaking Chinese overtime and they’ll stay speaking Chinese to you.

Me and Mangalica, we rarely speak English… We speak chinese everytime we met. I do not have the necessity to practise english, neither does he…

ax

i think it is so ridiculosu when I saw the man who named handhoncon II he posted.

There are so many methods you can learn chinese, not only you go to pub and know someone. Most important, did you try to many way to improve your language or not? By far, I think you never try to look for , or maybe you are lazy too, just want to wait somewhere and someone will come.

I saw many good foreigner who want to learn chinese, they go to university to learn or contact with local people and try to talk with them, for example: learning confu, go to market…everywhere is a chance.

If someone who said himself is a open-minded but he never open his eyes and mind to look around where he is. even he didn’t respect local culture. If this man can learn chinese well, I will give him my head.

You knew few people but you said all taiwaness have some styles, and almost all the same. Let me tell you something, you are a monomania person.

Hi there! Well, I’m glad I’m not the only person who feels the
way I do! I think you should be grateful you’re here because
in Japan, some Japanese really do try and practice their English on you.They forget you are there to improve your language skills and persist on using English. This is what we should be doing with our Chinese. Deliberately go outside with the intention to make conversations with people in Chinese;no matter how short/shallow or dumb it may seem to be. It’s easy to waste a whole year surfing English websites in your room rather than speaking in what Chinese you know which is the only way you’ll improve. We’re in the same boat, lets reach our destinations !

Forget about locals until your Chinese is very good. Find some language students and practise with them. Then you won’t feel like you are using them because they are also using you for the same purpose.

A Taiwanese person sees a foreign face and they think - English or Taiwanese … hmm which language to try?
A non-English speaking Korean sees a foreign face and they think - hmmm … Korean or Mandarin?

You need to be more proactive. The non-English speakers aren’t cliquey - they hear you speaking English and are nervous. They worry that their English will embarrass them and will avoid any contact. Be friendly, open and speak to them in Mandarin.

Want to learn Chinese? Then speak it. Refuse to speak English. Find some people with the same goals and work together. Don’t have any common interests? Yes you do - mutually improving your Mandarin. Talk about that.

I know that i’m not the first one (because there is already a first one), apparently i’m nto the second one ,too(because there is also already a second one). But i justcan’t stop myself to post this here after there are alreayd some people posted.
I totally totally not agree the "headXXXXII) guy.
first, it’s not about “using people”. but help each other, well, of course, it depends on your attitute and the way you treat them.
second, it’s of course the better way to learn a language by speaking/hang out wiht the local. But of coures, those local have to speak in Mandarin with you. Bars/Pubs are definitely not the good place to find one.
Third, not all Taiwanese like KTV and those bored stuff (by the way, who says KTV is bored, sometimes to hang out wiht friends there, and you can also learn things there, i.e. Singing in Chinese, can you). We do read, climbing and do some music stuff.
Above, those i don’t agree.
And as for opinion, try to ask your friends to help you, of course, in teh way you both agree. When i was with my boyfriend, I prefer to speak in Chinese with him. So, if your girlfriend speaks chinese, help each other. It should be the best way, since you’ve spend so much time being together which makes you have no time going to school to learn. *wink

NTNUGrad wrote [quote]Forget about locals until your Chinese is very good.[/quote]

I disagree, my Chinese isn’t brilliant but I have had pleanty of conversations with local people. Any place where you go regularly like noodle bars or coffee shops people will chat.

Also in many situations people can see that you can communicate in Chinese so will start to chat (I find the lift girls in SOGO quite chatty).

I must admit I was embarased at first but I think hairy knuckles gave sound advice:

Hmmm…I think it’s true that it can be difficult to make friends (in the Western sense) with Taiwanese, because in 99% of cases, you always wonder if it’s you or your English they really “want”. That’s not always true, of course. Actually, my closest and best Taiwanese friend started out as a language exchange (Spanish for Taiwanese, how weird is that?) and now it’s a very solid friendship of over 7 years, and mostly conducted in Mandarin with some Taiwanese when we want to confuse others or when she wants to give me some grief.

I now have a wonderful Tagalog tutor (not exchange, I don’t have time just now) who is such a nice person, I feel certain that we will become or already are friends, although that will probably be “conducted” in English. But then again her English is so good, it’s just logical to handle things in English (although to her everlasting credit she valiantly attempts to speak Tagalog to me even outside of class…the woman is some kind of saint, I think.) :laughing:

I think you want to separate the two categories: “friend” and “language improvement”. For “language improvement”, I’d recommend either exchanges (yeah, it can take a few to find a good one, but keep trying!) or taxi trips. I enjoy getting into a taxi to go somewhere, always with a spiffy question ready to fire off. What do you think of the referendum? What’s the deal with advance check-cashing services? Whatever. Most drivers I’ve encountered are pretty interesting. At the very least, if you’re at a lower level of Mandarin, you could get through the whole “where are you from” thing. Remember to ask HIM questions too, otherwise it’s just the usual parrot routine we get everywhere. Remember that in Taiwan it’s OK to ask what we consider to be very personal questions, so “How much does a taxi driver make every month?” or “How does the bus company figure out who has to wear the Santa suits?” is fair game. (BTW, the bus company has a lottery, and about 50% are the “lucky winners” to date.)

Also – this is just my gut reaction as a Western woman, of course, but why in the world shouldn’t you have female friends? If your GF can’t trust you, what’s the use of being in a relationship with you?? Or, if she won’t trust you, what’s the use of being in one with her??

Don’t give up on the “casual conversation” route. As a foreigner, seems like we have carte blanche to talk to anyone, and most people will reply. A good number will even reply thoughtfully! I wouldn’t like my chances addressing 50 people randomly on any subway system in the US, but in Taiwan you can meet some interesting people. Have those fake name cards ready in case you need to repel anyone, though… :laughing:

[quote]If someone who said himself is a open-minded but he never open his eyes and mind to look around where he is. even he didn’t respect local culture. If this man can learn Chinese well, I will give him my head.
[/quote]
This is without a doubt the best incentive for learning Chinese that I have ever heard.

[quote=“headhonchoII”]I’ve been working in a Taiwanese working environment for quite a while but my Chinese is still pretty poor.

I’ve read that some people here say that having Taiwanese friends is the best way to learn Chinese.

I would never be able to make friends for the sake of learning Chinese like that. That seems to me to be using them.
I find most Taiwanese quite boring and interested in stuff that is different from me- working hard all day, KTV, family stuff, shopping, playing computer games (I’m not including Taiwanese girlfriends in this analysis). They don’t really play sports and don’t like going to pubs so much. For economic reasons most of the population has not travelled very far so we dont have much to talk about in that sense.
A lot of the men seem to be intimidated by western males so only girls in general hang out with foreigners. I can’t have many girl friends because I have a girlfriend already so that cuts me out of most opportunities to hang out with locals.
The other problem is that the Taiwanese friends I have are my friends BECAUSE they are more open and international and as a matter of course speak English well. The only real Taiwanese friends I’ve had have lived or studied overseas or are western style with great English. My other friends are all westerners. English speaking westerners. The non-native English speaking westerners tend to be very cliquey and not very numerous, if we meet we will always use English and not Chinese.

This is the conundrum of the situation. How the hell to learn Chinese when you don’t really connect with a large proportion of the population and the portion you do connect with speak great English?[/quote]

I am a local Taiwanese male working in an English learning publishing company. I used to be an English major and interested in linguistics; therefore, I’ve always trying to improve my English.
Before I started this job, I looked forward to it, because I thought I would get a lot of chances to practice English with foreign English editors. However, it was another story after I started my job. Culture gap deterred my friendship with foreigners. I found the philosophy of getting things done is often different between Chinese and foreign colleagues. And supervisors of the company usually treat local and foreign employees differntly. In my company, one of the supervisor trains her local subordinates to report the strengths and weakness of the foreign workers. It seems as if they were spied on by the locals. How could you expect you could earn friendship with locals in this kind of working environment?

Given that “racism” (as one of my Canadian co-worked call it), language is still a problem that causes misunderstanding. I always want to share life experiences and philosopy with my foreign coworkers, but I just can’t make it with my limited English proficiency. Any way, I thinky deeply in Chinese, but speak poorly in English. I think that’s how you feel most Taiwanese are boring.

I can appreciate how you feel, because I’ve also tried hard to get along with foreigners in Taiwan. I think it is really hard to cross the culture gap. All you can do is be freindly and be patient.

I’ve rarely run into this problem, but then again I kind of go out of my way to make friends who can’t speak and have no interest in speaking English. When people do speak to me in English (like one of my professors, who shouldn’t be since we’re in the friggin’ Chinese Literature Dept.), I almost always reply in Chinese. None of my classmates has EVER even attempted to speak a single word of English with me … although that might be because Taiwanese students in the Chinese dept. are notorious for having the worst English on campus. I think it all depends on the environment you are in or put yourself in.

Not true, at least not for any of the non-native English speakers I know (and I am one myself). The point is, why should a non-native English speaker speak Chinese with you, if your Chinese obviously isn’t that great and his/hers probably isn’t either. It’s far more easier to speak English. In Taiwan I hardly ever speak my mother tongue (expect with my parents on the phone once in a while) and everytime I go back home, I feel, that my language ability in my own mother tongue as deterioated. It’s a shame…

Anybody from :moo: -country out there? I wanna do language exchange… :shock:

I learned Chinese by moving in as a boarder with a young Taiwanese couple who spoke NO English, and living with them for five years. Even when I felt lazy, I had no choice but to use Chinese to communicate. To avoid s/sh-type pollution, since their pronunciation was pretty poor (by Beijinghua standards), I assiduously looked up every word I learned, checking the pinyin so as to know whether to juan3she2. In addition, I studied books and tapes, and met with conversation partners regularly.

The result is that I speak fluently, with good pronunciation. So I think that if you want to learn from locals, they can be an excellent resource. You don’t have to “use” anybody. Speaking in Chinese is the preference of the majority of the population here, and there’s nothing wrong from learning from them. If you have a conversation partner or friend who wants to learn English, you do it in a fair exchange, one hour dedicated exclusively to each language.

When it comes down to it, the key factor in success will not be which method you use, it will be how much effort and discipline you put into it.

Good luck!

Not true, at least not for any of the [color=blue]non-native English[/color] speakers I know (and I am one myself). The point is, why should a non-native English speaker speak Chinese with you, if your Chinese obviously isn’t that great and his/hers probably isn’t either. It’s far more easier to speak English.[/quote]

There is a vast difference between non-English speakers which is what I wrote and non-native English speakers which is what you refer to. I meant someone who does not speak English and thus does not give you the easy option of using English.

You need comprehensible input to learn a language. If you’re chatting at a bar and you understand what they’re saying, you’re doing something right. If you don’t know what’s going on, then you might as well try another way to learn.

Some studies show that the people who chat with their friends in English don’t improve their English skills. But the people who do extensive reading improve a lot. If you get basic Chinese skills and want to get a lot of improvement, read all of the children’s books you can get your hands on, assuming you can read bopomofo.

On that note, does anyone know of any free chinese language online children’s books? If they are HTML I can convert them to show the chinese characters’ pronunciations using Word. At my level, I really need pictures to make me confident that I’m reading the story correctly. If you know of such a resource, let me know!

If you already understand every single word then perhaps your language ability is not benefiting from such a conversation. What do you think about Krashen’s concept of ‘roughly tuned input’? (In the quotation below, he talks about children learning their first languages, but in its context he draws conclusions which are applicable to language learners of all ages.)

“Children progress by understanding language that is a little beyond them. That is, if a child is at stage i, that child can progress to stage i + 1 along the “natural sequence” (where i and i + 1 may be a block of structures; more correctly the child who has just acquired the members of i can then acquire a member of i + 1) by understanding language containing i + 1. The child understands language containing structure that is a bit beyond him or her with the aid of context.”

A little later, he states that language input at a level somewhat beyond ‘n+1’ may be even more useful;

“A very interesting hypothesis is that the net of structure cast by caretaker speech in an attempt to communicate with the child is of optimal size. A wider net might contain too much noise, too much language that is not understood by the child, for optimum acquisition. A more narrow net, a “finely-tuned” net hitting i +1 and little else, may also be less efficient. The caretaker’s net may have these advantages: by including some of the i - n and i + n structures, by including more than i + 1, it provides built-in anticipation and review, which may be useful. Second, the wider, roughly-tuned net guarantees that i + 1 will always be covered.”

(From chapter nine of this book; sdkrashen.com/SL_Acquisition_and_Learning/ , the whole of which chapter I think you’d find interesting and useful)

Dispensing with conversation altogether seems like a drastic step to me. It may well be that the people with whom you’re speaking don’t take your needs as a language learner into account, in which case it could be good to find other conversation partners instead or as well. But I certainly don’t see that having conversations needs to be opposed to any other ways of learning languages. I have benefited to some extent from listening to conversations of a level well beyond total comprehension, in both Mandarin and Spanish.

Reading children’s books could well be useful, but I think you need some kind of spoken input as well.

I would be extremely surprised to find a study which opposed conversational practice to reading and found in favour of the latter at the expense of the former, as you seem to imply above.

There must be a case for having a good teacher and classes in addition to the above two practices, or at least following some kind of structured course.

By the way, thanks. It was replying to your post that lead me to find the Krashen text quoted above, which I’m reading with great interest.

Krashen’s “Natural Way” of instruction seems to be that he asks the students a barrage of questions until they understand what’s going on. He doesn’t really ever teach what the vocabulary items are, so the students have to be a little confused. But he asks enough questions until they do understand what the day’s new vocabulary is. Beginning students can answer yes or no questions. Over time the students’ responses get more robust.

So this is his n+1. The students understand everything except the “new thing”. Then he asks questions about everything, perhaps using a picture or story as reference, until they comprehend everything, except whatever the new "new thing"s are.

Some people complain that this will make the teacher less confident, because the teacher never formally introduced the vocabulary at the beginning of the lesson. Krashen’s method is useful to see how people can learn vocabulary that noone has ever told them about. It works, and provides for long term retention.

Many people claim Krashen is the “King of Language Acquisition”.

Another relevant piece from S.D. Krashen’s website is this;
sdkrashen.com/articles/what_ … index.html

He describes the case of “Armando, a 29-year-old immigrant from Mexico who has lived in the United States for 12 years. Armando, who attended school in Mexico up to grade nine, has worked in an Israeli restaurant in Los Angeles nearly the entire time he has lived in the United States. While Armando speaks English quite well, he says he speaks Hebrew better.”
So well, in fact, that two out of four judges listening to a 5-minute recording of his conversation in Hebrew guessed that he had been born in Israel.

Krashen gives this as evidence that adult second-language learners can attain high levels of proficiency through aquisition alone, with no formal learning. Yet this is a special case: Armando had a great deal of exposure to the target language and in addition felt a part of the group of Hebrew language speakers, thus had what Krashen terms a ‘low affective filter’. Even then, it took him 2 or 3 years to feel comfortable speaking Hebrew.

It may seem that the case contradicts what Krashen has written on the need for ‘comprehensible input’, because of course at the beginning Armando did not know a word of Hebrew, and comprehension must have come painfully slowly. Krashen writes this;
“Of course, Hebrew was not comprehensible for him right away. His great accomplishment was due to patience, being willing to acquire slowly and gradually with a long silent period (or period of reduced output). With a “natural approach” language class Armando would have had comprehensible input right away and would moved through the beginning stages more quickly, and real conversational Hebrew would have been comprehensible earlier.”

In general, in terms of my own progress in learning Chinese, if Krashen’s views are valid then my own reticence to speak Chinese to people who speak fair English is not necessarily a bad thing, and perhaps I can ease up on myself a bit for what I had percieved as ‘laziness’. Yet on the other hand I should be providing myself with much more language ‘intake’ with all the criteria for useful input such as interest and roughly-graded comprehensibility. A lot of TV broadcasting is still a bit beyond me, so maybe I should be trying language exchanges, in which I can possibly do something like Cromshaw’s ‘Intercambio’, described by Krashen thus;
“In intercambio, as it is
practiced at USC, Americans studying Spanish as a foreign language are teamed
with Spanish-speaking ESL students, and are encouraged to converse on various
topics. The rule is: speak your own language! Cromshaw reports that even less
advanced students exchange enormous amounts of information with each other, and
often, involuntarily, begin to speak in the target language. These approaches have
been validated only informally, but early reports of their success have been quite
encouraging.”