Learning Mandarin F/T for one year

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.

Define “disaster”.

Not accomplishing the desired goals…
Standard business Mandarin
Global Chinese business practices as opposed to local Taiwanese practices
Speaking Mandarin with a heavy Taiwanese accent
Not learning simplified characters
etc., etc.

Thanks astute

I am not a businessman, and that is not why I want to learn Mandarin.


Sorry, I didn’t realize you meant just on a personal level.
My mistake.

So the goal is to make an investment in the future on a commercial level - in a way that is not related to business - by traveling to Taiwan to train a native English speaker in the correct use of the army based flying input methodology that you know nothing about but that seems to be founded on about 10,000 days of bushwalking, motorcycle rewards and keen birdwatching and that will result in the ability to speak Chinese without the worry of picking up a Chinese accent. That’s what people are talking about right?

Yes, that sounds about right.

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If you are still in Australia, there will be a three-day conference in January in Brisbane (and another one in Melbourne) about Comprehensible Input methodology in teaching various languages. We have more Chinese teachers than any other language in Brisbane (Indonesian has first place in Melbourne). I’ll also be in New Zealand for a few days talking to teachers and administrators there.

Yeah, it’s hysterical – but it works, unlike (for most people) the traditional methods.

Comprehensible Input methodology seems like a good way to go if you want to communicate.

If you want to be a professional translator or write books in Chinese knowing every single nuance of every single piece of grammar and slang and the way people really speak, then go to a University for 4 or more years and learn all the intricate details.

Taiwan Universities focus on making everyone a perfect translator word for word, grammar for grammar, but unnecessary if you just want to communicate and read most things.

This is why language schools are better than Universities for most people who have the goal of communication.

Um, have to disagree here.
You are assuming that comprehensible input only applies to beginner oral work. It does that very well. But comprehensible input also includes later stages which are more likely to be extensive reading. That’s precisely how I became an interpreter. Going to university for four years and learning all the details will not really be of much help to making someone a professional translator.

Since I am a professional translator and interpreter and train them, I have some perspective on this. And your idea of what makes a “perfect translator” is a little scary to me, actually. That’s largely what we fight in the T&I graduate programs in Taiwan: what’s been created in the universities.

I’ll defer to you on all points. I’m just someone trying to learn to communicate in Chinese and I’m not an expert on “best way to learn Chinese” at all not even close.