Learning Mandarin F/T for one year

I have studied Mandarin to a lower intermediate level at a Western University in the past, and am looking at options for taking a year off and studying Mandarin full-time. I am prepared to spend approximately $600’000TWD to cover all my costs.

I understand there are some quite good private language schools around, and there is also the university option. Location is open.

This is a hypothetical question.

If you wanted to study Mandarin for a year and had the wherewithal and time to do it, what would you do?

What are your accomplishment objectives, writing, reading, speaking, listening, all or some? and objectives following that year?

After the year I want to be able to speak Mandarin competently, and be able to converse with Mandarin speakers on a commercial level.

The reading and writing I enjoy, but need a better grasp on grammar and structure.

The speaking and listening is where I need most improvement, and is where I would like to expend most of my effort.

I would go to a language school 2 hours a day to keep my visa status legal. Then I’d find a tutor or teacher who uses comprehensible input, and spend all the time possible with that person. The difference in methodologies is night and day.


Sound advice.

Thank you very much.

Is Hualien too small to find a good tutor and school?

There is a person in Hualien who is a developing CI teacher, but his language is Indonesian not Chinese. His English is excellent. However, that might help if you need to “train” a Chinese speaker to teach that way. Sort of like the old Army method of teaching, where you had a native speaker just providing language, a teacher who did the pedagogy thing, and then the student(s).


I think I would actually prefer a native English speaker as a Mandarin teacher, as they may be able to better understand the nuances of learning such a complex language.

I am interested in Hualien, as I like the outdoors.


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If I had unlimited time and money and your objectives, I would take a 2 or 4 hour a day Chinese class at a Language Center but not a University, and I would pay tutors or someone to spend two to four or more hours a day with me communicating in Chinese.

Kind of like learning to fly. The classes would be the instruction on how to operate the instruments, and the two to four hours with a tutor communicating in Chinese would be the hands-on actual practice flying.

It seems like Taiwan teaching style only follows one odd approach. They teach you how to use the instruments but they don’t actually take you up and practice flying.


That’s good advice. I am not rich, nor do I have unlimited time and money, but see this as an investment in my future. Now I need to sit down now and crunch some numbers.

The other option is to teach English, and study at the same time. The only problem would be time and distractions, and I am no spring chicken.


Hi Ironlady,

Would you have someone following that approach to recommend in Kaohsiung by any chance?

I don’t right at the moment. But we’re doing a short 1-day conference in Taipei in late January, so hopefully I’ll be more aware of who is working to learn this approach in Taiwan after that. Maybe we can start some sort of directory or something for those who might be interested.

There is also a woman whom I trained who teaches via italki.com on the Internet…native speaker of Mandarin, but killer sense of humor and pretty darn good at the comprehensible input thing. She’s located in Guangdong but if you’re physically in Taiwan you don’t need to worry about getting “Mainland accent” really anyway.

The other thing I’ll say is that if there were a way not to go to the language school at all (re-enter the country every so often?) I wouldn’t bother. Use that money to get tutors who will speak slowly and clearly, repeat more than any human should have to, and really get your grammar completed and start you toward a broad vocabulary. Those things aren’t going to happen at the language schools right now (though we are in discussions with one to change their entire beginner program to comprehensible input, nothing certain yet).


Ummm…had to read this over a number of times. So you want to come all the way to Taiwan to learn Chinese from a native English speaker??? WHY??? Just stay where you are and find a Chinese teacher there!!! Much cheaper…BTW, my wife is a professional Chinese teacher - she’s a native Mandarin speaker, licensed by the MOE and teaches U.S. foreign diplomats Mandarin - she would be happy to teach you via Skype, thereby saving you the expense of coming all the way to Taiwan. Let me know if you are interested.

Thanks astute.

The reason it is so difficult to study and learn Mandarin in an English speaking country is, you’re not listening and being forced to use the language everyday.

When studying here in Australia, you get no time to practise speaking outside the classroom. My writing and reading improved, but my speaking far less so. I visited China for five weeks as part of my degree, and quickly began having conversations with people in Mandarin which I was not able to do prior. That is the distinct advantage. To me there is no comparison to learning a language by immersing yourself in a culture abroad, or the alternative by studying at home.

It isn’t just about the language, I want to understand the people.


Hi ironlady

I would be interested in the outcome of your conference, and would be keen to learn more on any new approach to teaching Mandarin. For me, grammar, sentence structure and tones were the most difficult to comprehend. I was not alone in that, my classmates all had the same difficulties.

The tutor only idea sounds interesting, but I would be apprehensive about having to leave every 90 days. That wouldn’t be an ideal situation for me personally.


I’ll post here when I have the details.

As for leaving every 90 days – it’s not too hard to do a quick “visa run” to Hong Kong, but I totally understand if that’s not something you’d want to do. It would probably be cheaper than tuition at one of the language centers, but not necessarily.

If you do pick a language center – they’re all basically the same. Pick cheap or close, not “best”.

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Thanks very much

Ideally I would do what tango42 suggested, that is, combine a language school and a tutor. I will have to see whether that would fit into my budget, but will do some research on both options.

I am also interested in the ‘Comprehensible Input’ method you mentioned. I don’t know anything about this system of teaching.


OK…I understand I’m a foreigner who has been living and immersing in
Taiwan for over 10,000 days! My wife is licensed by the Taiwan Ministry of
Education to teach foreigners Mandarin (just like you) and has been
teaching U.S. State Department Diplomats and their families for the past 12
years - if you’re interested in any Skype lessons.

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I agree and I’ve been to 4 of them (and 2 universities). The noticeable difference is not really in the teachers or methods, but in other things like facilities, additional informal learning opportunities like school arranged field trips to night markets outside regular class, and number of students which is important if you want more students to help participate or socialize. Some schools per class only manage 2 students and some have up to 6 or so.

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Hi Tango

Thanks very much for your advice. I think field trips would be a valuable tool in learning Mandarin, and was sorry that was not part of our Curriculum when I studied.

I forgot to mention to astute. I appreciate your offer of skype lessons, but am completing the last six months of an accelerated degree, and have a heavy workload as you can imagine.

I have just emailed the Chinese unit co-ordinator at my uni, to ask if she has had any experience with IC. I have just had a quick browse on the internet, and it looks a very interesting way of teaching. Coincidentally, there was recently a presentation at my university on Australian vs Chinese language teaching methods. I did not attend, but am hoping to find out what was discussed.


This is a very valid concern. My first five years in Taiwan my Chinese stagnated because I taught English all day. After getting my APRC I took a year off work to study Chinese full time in Hualian; I feel I made much better improvement in my listening and speaking when I could avoid using English all day. I was 50 at the time, by the way.

One warning if you go to Hualian: The beauty and laid back lifestyle of the east coast might make you lazy. I gradually found myself studying less and riding my scooter up and down the coast more. Hopefully you’re more studious than I was.