Learning Mandarin F/T for one year

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.

for this part, I would recommend you to find classes provided by community or hobby groups of locals. Local community centers often provide classes of traditional instruments, calligraphy, photography, sports, etc. There may be one or two persons who speak English well enough to communicate with you, but if you say you want to practice Chinese, they will use Chinese.

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Yea it would never do if the OP learned to speak Chinese.

Hi Steve

Thanks for the advice, and understand what you are saying about the beauty of a place and how distracting it can become. Going for a ride along the coast would not be a bad weekend reward for 5 days of study.

I don’t suppose you are still in the area?


Hi Tango

Thanks very much. I am interested in bushwalking, and a keen birdwatcher. That is why Hualien appeals to me. In addition, my money would go a lot further as opposed to living in Taipei.


I did over a year full time in Korea and actually finished the language program at one of the universities. I did a year in Taiwan full time after that. My situation was slightly different with the two countries. These are my recommendations based on the different experiences. My Korean ended up much better (but I’m losing fluency with my time here in Taiwan), and these recommendations are related to that better end result with Korean.

I would recommend going to a language center to take care of your visa and also for the structure that that would provide.
I would recommend working as little as possible (none if you can afford it).
I would do as much socializing in Chinese as you can. Volunteer? Toastmasters for Mandarin speakers? Church with Chinese service? Dating?
I would avoid language exchange.
I would spend a decent amount of time each day with reading and writing practice. Your speaking and listening will end up much, much better in the end.
I would find something in Chinese on TV or on YouTube that you can really enjoy.


Hi Marasan

I agree with your advice.

I have taken an interest in Hualien, but it would appear to have only one Mandarin school, Tzu Chi University. I would prefer a language school over a university, as I suspect it would be less formal and more flexible.

I may have to look at studying in a larger city, and find somewhere that would meet my requirements. I think other members on here were right. By having a school to cover my visa requirements, and a tutor to reinforce my language skills, I would become proficient much quicker.


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Its not a complex language. Its a simple language. Tones are tricky but everything else is pretty straightforward unless you want to learn to write.

Thanks bear

I actually found the writing easier, but that may be because I am a visual learner.


First, just as there are differences in English (Singapore, Malaysia, US, Australian, British, etc.) there are differences in Mandarin (Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Beijing, etc.) Likewise, there is a big difference in speaking “business” Mandarin and “general conversational” Mandarin. Also, trying to learn “business” Mandarin outside of Taipei will result in disaster - poor vocabulary, grammar, and a Taiwanese accent.

Most foreign business people I know only have time and need to learn enough Mandarin to conduct their particular business. I rarely run across a foreign “business person” in Taiwan or China that can speak fluent Chinese - there is no need.

The most important thing is - do you have any business skills to offer - speaking Mandarin is a plus, but not essential. Also, be aware that Chinese business culture is based on relationships and it is a much better strategy to decide where you want to start building those relationships with real business people than worrying about the fluff - time in money!

Finally, a better strategy might be to search out Mandarin-speaking business people for advice rather than relying on advice from academic types who have never actually conducted business in Mandarin. And you definitely don’t want to fall into the English teaching trap - five years down the road you may be able to speak some Mandarin, but the only viable Chinese business experience you’ll have is teaching kiddy English. I can guarantee the response may not be what you are expecting.

Now, of course, the above advice is given assuming you want to conduct some sort of viable business in China. If you’re goals lean towards the academic side it is another story.