Learning new languages

I am just curious…how many people in your circle of friends have never taken the time to learn any Chinese after living here for a number of years, and how do they get by everyday if they have never learned any? Do they have any reasons for never learning? Just an observation on my part!

That’s some kind of rhetorical question, then?

I’ve been in Taiwan for almost 4 years now and still can’t speak proper Mandarin. Well, most of the time I force the locals to speak in English. For more complicated issues, I usually have a friend or someone in the office translate for me.

I haven’t really had enuff time to study the language, but I am determined to at least speak rather standard Mandarin when I leave Taiwan.

Of the non-native mandarin speakers who I’ve known over the past 7 years, I’d say about 1 in 5



Not required at work: foreign rep office, households where employer speaks enough English, based here but business is in China or HK, or teaching English/Spanish/French too much

How get by?

With a little help from their friends, officemates, church

Foreign language “enclaves” – Shihta area, WTC, Chungshan Secs 3 or 6

Been here just over 8 years and my Chinese is diabolical. No reading or writing; enough spoken to get by/get myself into trouble.

Reason: i’m just not very good with languages…never have been and never will be. I don’t lose sleep over it.

I would love to have better Chinese and particularly read and write but i don’t think it’s ever going to happen.

Language ability is not a major criteria for me in judging a person. Hope others don’t judge me on mine (other than discovering that i’m shit at languages)

My god, Mark, I could have written your post word for word, except I’ve been here for nearer 14 years.

I can just about get by in English, most of the time, but Chinese?

Funny thing is, I was top of my year in Latin for three years at high school, but I never got very far with French. Go figure.

Having said that, though, I did hear a funny Chinese idiom last night – “you don’t need to take off your pants to fart” – means “you don’t need to make such a fuss” as far as I know.

Well, it made me chuckle, anyway.

It annoys me that some of my friends haven’t picked up the language even after several years here, but there’s not much I can do about it. It’s not just the attitude that they can get by without it, it’s more that they don’t seem to know what they’re missing, or just don’t care. Living in an expatriate bubble for too long doesn’t seem good for one’s mental state, and having to be led around by your Taiwanese girlfriend every time you go out can’t be good for one’s confidence. Perhaps that’s why so many foreigners picks “causes” like Taiwanese independence or foreigners rights.

Yes, but just think of girlfriend’s power over them! :smiling_imp:
my guess is that wix99 (of wix and the stalker thread) probably speaks mandarin pretty well now…

really, those i know who’ve been here ages and don’t speak mandarin are just lazy fuckers with no motivation to bother learning, and they’ll tell you the same thing.
after 4 or 5 years, why bother, right? especially if friends and girlfriends, bosses, etc, can take care of things for them.

there are also those overzealous types (like a friend of yours, poagao) who irritate the hell out of me when they first get here and like to start conversations with us old timer waiguorens in mandarin… :unamused: what’s that all about?

or, like one of my closest friends here (who’ll recognize herself if she reads this) who can read chinese quite fluently, but tends to avoid speaking it even though she’s studied it for like ten years.

and myself, who can get on quite well in mandarin with strangers, but who will prefer, when someone (bf) speaks english better, to just use that. lazy fucker? perhaps.

yes, it can be detrimental to have the lingua franca as your mother tongue…

I think he was just joking with you, Alien. The only place I would speak Chinese with a foreigner would be when we are in a group of mostly Taiwanese people, just to be polite. Or with Taiwanese in America, just to be rude.

Lingua Franca? You mean French? I never picked that one up.

Don’t you think that’s simplistic? :?I think most residents, foreign or otherwise, support Taiwan’s right to self-determination, which is often clumsily expressed as supporting Taiwan Independence. I believe that if Taiwan, without the threat of coercion, invasion, missile strikes, etc. truly wants to form one nation with China, that is their right. I also believe that if the people of Taiwan want Taiwan to be recognized as the independent entity that it is, that is their right also.

Regarding the advocacy of foreigners’ rights, why would that be the domain of someone who can’t be bothered to learn the local language(s)? In my experience, it has been just the opposite. Anyway, ensuring that locally born racially mixed children get equal treatment in the eyes of the law should be everyone’s concern. Ensuring that Taiwan’s laws regarding foreigners are fair and in step with that of other countries should also be everyone’s concern. Making Taiwan’s working regulations streamlined, fair and accessible works to the beneffit of Taiwan’s development as well as the people to whom those regulations apply. As it stands, there are only a few people tireless and brave enough to work (usually for free) for just treatment, and they almost invariably have very competent language skills. I think your hypothesis is critically flawed. :expressionless:

Yeah, you’re probably right about the foreigner’s rights bit. I still wonder about the TI theory, though. Still, that’s another thread.

Most of the foreigners I know well have been here over 10 years. In that group, all speak excellent Mandarin , some speak pretty good Taiwanese, and all support TI .

Learning a new language is really not for everyone regardless what kind of environment you have. One thing I want to say is (hope I don’t get beaten up by saying this) Taiwanese, overall is more generous toward the foreigners when it comes to language. In another word, Taiwanese tolerates foreigners lack of Mandarin speaking ability more so than Americans tolerates foreigners in the States. I’ve known many Chinese got rejected for a job because of their “poor” English where Taiwanese prefer you speak none of Mandarin if you teach English here.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen two sides of the coin. A Taiwanse girl who I knew for a few years received a Ph.D. in Biochem from Cornell U. and worked at Johns Hopkins U. for two years and is a professor at NTU. Great credential! She spent nine years in the States but her advisor said he could hardly understand her English after having her as a student for seven years.

I personally don’t think you have to speak the local language if you choose not to; however, you might miss a few jokes here and there, but that shouldn’t be a life-threating issue for you. :blush:

I know what you mean. I used to interview people at Ogilvy to judge their English ability. All of them were women, which is no suprise considering the gender make-up of that company, but even the ones with advanced degrees from well known universities could hardly put together a coherent sentence. It makes me wonder how they did it, and whether Taiwanese guys do the same thing.

sandman: and mark . me too. will never master it either. so what? does it matter. yes and no. for me, no.

cant speak at all.

How do you wrote that idiom in roman letters? sounds like a good phrase to learn: can you write it out in abc? Thanks


Having said that, though, I did hear a funny Chinese idiom last night – “you don’t need to take off your pants to fart” – means “you don’t need to make such a fuss” as far as I know.

Having said that, though, I did hear a funny Chinese idiom last night – “you don’t need to take off your pants to fart” – means “you don’t need to make such a fuss” as far as I know.

Well, it made me chuckle, anyway.[/quote]

I love that idiom, although I think it means doing superfluous stuff… You don’t really need to pull your pants down to fart (although it helps with the ignition if that’s your goal); you’re just wasting your effort.

tuo1 ku4zi fang4pi4

Personally (and no offense to anyone), I find myself losing a touch of respect when I meet someone who has been here for years and can’t speak more than ten phrases (or who hasn’t even tried). To me its not only a matter of convenience (which is their own issue), but a sign of basic respect for the country you’re living in. But maybe I’m too critical…

And as for the US accepting others who can’t speak the language vs. Taiwan, that might be true. But on the other hand, many Chinese people think its literally impossible for a foreigner to learn the Chinese language, so…

Whatever, dude. Personally, I find it hard to respect people who can’t swim. Sheer bloody laziness, I say. Or cook. That’s even more unforgivable.

Y’all know this already, because this is my personal soapbox, but the way Chinese is taught, it’s a wonder ANYONE learns it. The day the language schools look at the brain research and really survey the students to find out what their goals are, and also survey fluent foreign users of Chinese to find out what they need and what they DON’T need, then they could put out a course that would be efficient. But most of the teachers in those schools are doing the best they can just teaching class every day, and for what they pay those people, I suppose I wouldn’t be making a beeline for the library either.

Anyway, I like best the ones who say they “can’t learn a language”. My cousin, who is severely dyslexic and in his 50s, learned some basic Chinese with me this summer. Of course, what he wants to learn is Mohawk, but I can’t help him much on that one. :unamused: But if you really want to learn Chinese YOU CAN, and if you don’t get into that whole character thing, it’s even PRETTY EASY!

slap…slap…ok, I’m feeling much calmer now.

Sorry, Sandman, didn’t mean to offend. I guess what I should say is that I don’t appreciate it when people who have lived here so long haven’t even made an effort to learn the language. I’ve met some long-timers that have tried to learn for a while and for whatever reason gave it up; that’s cool. I guess it’s the effort rather than the actual ability.

The other thing is attitude; I’ve seen people who have made no effort to learn Chinese get pissed at 18 year-old 7-11 clerks who can’t understand their English, and have actually said things like, “I don’t need to learn Chinese; English is the international language” out loud. That kind of attitude seriously bugs me-- you don’t want to learn Chinese, fine. Don’t demand everyone else in Taiwan to speak English.(fortunately those with that kind of attitude don’t stay in Taiwan very long)

I have many friends who rely on their partner for everything that would require Chinese, everything from ordering the food to picking up the clothes at the dry cleaners. Some of these women spend quite some time with my friends translating Chinese to English and then back again.

Sounds like tough work for me!!