What's the best place in Taipei to study advanced Chinese?

Has anyone studied at Tamkang University’s Chinese language centre before? (what is it… CLP??)

I am an advanced level student, and am trying to find somewhere not too expensive.

ANY advice on courses for advanced level students would be very appreciated!


The pickings are slim indeed.

If you mean the TKU center in Taipei on Lishui St., it depends on what you mean by “advanced”. The courses don’t go up all that high for what they call “advanced”.

The other problem (a perennial one) is that it’s almost impossible to form any kind of group. Even to get one other like-minded individual to take classes with you to reduce the hourly cost is very difficult. So for the most part you’re looking at dreary one-on-one lessons, in which case IMHO if you don’t need the visa you’d be better off to hire somebody directly instead of giving the school a cut. Anyway meeting in McDonald’s is more convenient in terms of available drinks, right?? :stuck_out_tongue:

No matter which school you go to, in most cases you get a “buckshot” or random approach. In many “advanced” classes, the teachers think it’s OK to just photocopy an article at random from the newspaper for that day’s class. While this may have some content that is valuable, personally if I were paying $350 or more an hour, I would like to be taught in a more prinicpled way. But the common complaint is that “there’s no market for advanced Chinese” so people keep churning out cloned books for beginners. Oh well.

So my view is: get a private teacher. Failing that, simply pick the cheapest and/or geographically most convenient institute and do what you can. With luck you might stumble onto a group (larger institutes probably hold more chance of that, but usually demand more admissions procedures.)

Just my NT$0.66.

After seven hard, long years of studying Chinese, I think I’m finally at the ‘advanced’ level, meaning I can read (for instance) newspaper articles without too much difficulty, or books in subjects that interest me reasonably well. My listening is okay – can understand almost everything that anybody says to me, but I can also watch fairly long segments of the TV news without catching more than a few phrases here and there. I can express myself in speech well in a few subject areas (like English grammar!) but rather haltingly if I venture out of these areas.

My seven years have consisted of four in college in the US (where I minored in Chinese) and three of studying on my own in my spare time (i.e., when not teaching English) since moving to Taiwan. Studying on my own here has consisted mostly of reading books in Chinese (of the same kind that I read in English) and shoving as much vocabulary into my brain as humanly possible. I’ve made a huge amount of progress in this fashion, but I’m starting to think that I need a change in my study routine – not necessarily more structured, since I’m already plenty disciplined, but maybe more speaking practice in unfamiliar subject-areas, maybe more (or I should say “any”) writing practice (not writing characters, but writing sentences, paragraphs, …), and who knows what else.

So, I want to ask if anybody has any suggestions. I know there are a number of schools where you can study Chinese here, and there have already been plenty of posts about them, but most of these posts are discussing the programs at these schools from the point of view of the beginner, so I suspect they’re not very applicable to my situation. Specifically, it seem that NTU’s and Shida’s programs have some stuff aimed towards advanced learners, but I’m not sure how they compare to each other. Are there any other schools that I should be aware of?

Or would I be better off just skipping any of these programs altogether and doing something like taking (Chinese language) university classes in subjects that interest me, just for the fact that it would force me to use Chinese?

I appreciate everybody’s help!

Chinese universities use a variable amount of English – it depends on what classes would interest you (and whether the prof can avoid switching on his three words of English when he sees a foreign face in front of him).

For any language school, if you’re advanced you’re pretty much on your own for a class unless you can hunt up other likeminded people to fill out a class. That means one-on-one tuition costs. Personally, since most of the language schools don’t have much of a clue about Chinese teaching at that level anyway, I’d just get a serious language tutor and pay the same amount direct to the teacher. I hated paying NT$350 and knowing that the teacher gets only like $120 of that.

You could also look into the taped/CD lectures from “Shehui Daxue” and other similar programs. They have lectures on all kinds of things. If you can get to a library, you could probably borrow them (they were fairly expensive last I bought some), or try the used bookstores on Dingzhou Rd; sometimes there will be a pile of those tapes or CDs there.

Voice of America also has lots of interesting things to listen to. Granted they do flog the American point of view at times, but they have programming focused on finance, law, cross-Strait relations, and other topics at set times. It’s also useful to hear Chinese that is not 100% Taiwan Mandarin. You can look at their program offerings at voa.gov. It’s available online, and I’m talking with them about getting the broadcasts in .mp3 format for downloading.

Hi everyone,

I graduated from university in the UK with a major in Chinese, and I’ve now got a MOE scholarship to study Chinese for a year in Taiwan. My focus was more on Classical Chinese and literature, so my reading ability is fairly good, but speaking and listening less so. I’d probably say I was at the lower-advanced stage (though of course this is very hard to judge!). At any rate, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Has anyone had any experience with the more advanced classes available in Taipei? From the looks of it, the best places are either the Mandarin Training Center (MTC) or the Chinese Language Division (CLD). ICLP is out of the question because it is too expensive.

Update: CLD have emailed me their class levels and courses.

At intermediate level:

Practical Audio-Visual Chinese IV
Practical Business Conversations I
Far East Everyday Chinese III
Mini Radio Plays
Learning Chinese with Newspaper I, II, III

At advanced level:

Introduction to Classical Chinese
Newspapers and Magazines
Advanced Selected Readings

They don’t list the textbooks for any of the advanced-level classes, so I’ll ask them about that. They seem to be focused mainly on literary Chinese, anyway. Has anyone had any experience with any of these textbooks or courses?

Hi, Horza
I am so surprise that you are interested in Classical Chinese and literature. As I know, even a lot of college students of Taiwanese are not interested in classical Chinese and literature and not capable of reading those things. However, I have to say that the training of classical Chinese for a Chinese learner is pretty much similar to the one of classical piano for a musician.

Hi Horza. I took 3 classes at ICLP and have taken 2 at MTC. While I haven’t taken any CLD classes, I can assure that if you have majored in Chinese, these introductory classes are probably too elementary for you. All of the Chinese language centers in Taiwan seem to cap off around ‘intermediate advanced’… or ‘advanced-intermediate’… ahh… uh… Well let’s say 90% of the way there! I’m currently taking “Television News” at MTC, which is the highest level class offered, and while I don’t know 100% of the material, it is not at all challenging to me.

However, I would still like to plug MTC. While I wouldn’t call it cheap, it’s cheaper than many alternatives. The (advanced level) teachers are typically laid back and fun, and willing to adapt class to your needs if there aren’t many students.

But the real key to improving your Chinese at this point, I would say, is keep watching TV, reading books, and above all else, find some intellectuals to discuss challenging topics with (i.e. political theory, world history, philosophy). I figure that at this point, if I’m not struggling through a conversation in Chinese, it’s probably not worth having.

My two cents.

I’m actually looking at taking advanced Chinese classes as well, has anyone ever taken the advanced class at wenhua university? Unfortunately the only time offered is freaking 8 in the morning… ughhh. I’ve already done the Shida thing and it wasn’t bad but I’d like to try out something different. Any opinion of this exact class would be hugely appreciated.

Enroll in a regular class taught in Chinese in a subject that you like. Bite the bullet.

That is not the quickest way to improve. Just hearing people talk about topics you arr interested in is good, but the problem is that there is not enough repetition. As your level gets higher and higher, the items you do not yet know get less and less frequent in the language, and it is difficult to get enough repetition to master them instead of just looking thme up, writing the meaning down in your notebook, then forgetting them until you happen to flip open to that page again and think, oh yeah, that sounds vaguely familiar…

The problem is that I have yet to find an advanced level Chinese teacher who had any idea how to select materials so as to present vocabulary and usage in a spiraling manner. If all it took was one exposure and a quick dictionary lookup, we would all be dead fluent.

I would opt for a private tutor, pay them well, and try to communicate what you would like.

Terry, this is not directed at you (important preface), but I’ve never met any locals, even “CLL specialists”, who rose above cookbook copyists. A local CLL specialist who knows instructional design and can tailor a lesson plan for an advanced learner… that is close to fantasy stuff IME. Private Mandarin tutors that I tried have been little better than “language exchange”, where there is no plan. Ergo, language exchange directed to a subject of mutual interest … via a regular class.

Actually, I agree with you (and even though I try to be more than a cookbook copyist, sometimes I have days when I feel like I’m not even achieving that.) That’s why I’m saying, decide what you (the OP, that is) wants out of a course, and then communicate that to the “native speaking informant”. It’s unlikely, as you say quite correctly, that they will bother unless they are specifically instructed what to do. It’s bothersome, and irritating, but at least in my experience sometimes you can get what you want, pretty much, if you train your tutor.

If you’re doing oral work (as opposed to working on reading or writing), it can sometimes be useful to get an advanced level ESL/EFL or English for Special Purposes textbook and sort of work backwards from that. There’s been a whole lot more effort put into designing good ESL materials. I had a very simple technical English textbook (stuff like how to express exponents, fractions, basic chemical concepts, etc. etc.) that worked well for me in the past. I also spent a whole summer doing sight translation into Chinese with a native speaker correcting me, using fifth-grade textbooks from the US as source material. Fifth-graders talk about a whole lot of things and the vocabulary is very challenging for work into Chinese.

But as for getting a teacher who had any inkling why I would want to do that… and there was no sort of repetition or reinforcement involved other than what I imposed on myself.

If you are at an advanced level, IMO take the cheapest class you can find and then simply do a lot of self studying, go outside and hang out with people and enjoy life while partaking in the entertainment. Best thing to do IMO, and its what I’m planning to do. If you can easily get a Visa, then I might not even take a class…but of course you either already need to know a lot of people who live there, or you need to be a realllly sociable person. I’d say taking a class is helpful only because it’ll help introduce you to others from which you can fan out and form a network.
Once you are at an advanced level, the best way to truly go further is to start using your current skillset to learn more; just like having a lot of money easily begets more money, having a solid foundation and advanced level of language will build on itself.

This is so true! And it shouldn’t be that hard. Especially since quite a lot of material is very repetitive. For example, I’m wading through a 300-page finance report (on securitization issues) in Chinese, and the finance terms are repetitive enough that if you didn’t know 30 words in the first 30 pages you’d see them repeatedly throughout. Instead the newspaper article books are a variety platter of topics and terms that are unlikely to be ever repeated.

A novel would have helped, if not for the teachers’ insistence on choosing the writer that uses the most chengyu as opposed to choosing someone with a simple style. We read some 4 pages a day of a novel in an advanced class, which is really pitiful actually.

The previous posters have all added valid posts, but I have a few things to add.

  1. From my experience, people who studied in the UK or America have decent reading skills and may be able to translate classical Chinese to some extent, but their speaking is quite poor and would benefit from taking intermediate spoken Chinese courses. If you go to larger language centres in Taiwan you will be more likely to find a course suitable for you.

  2. I am currently studying in China and while I think the courses in Taiwan are more organized, there are teachers who can teach more advanced reading and writing skills. Generally, as Taiwanese language centres have much smaller class sizes people will, or at least I did, learn better spoken Chinese. In China many people seem to learn formal Chinese quicker, which is good for reading and writing, but at the same time you learn how to speak about more advanced subjects and learn vocabulary based on articles written in Chinese rather than dialogues. I mention this so people are aware that there are texts that deal explain vocab for levels more suited to them than some of the books in Taiwan.

  3. As people have said, if you are actually an advanced student, rather than these odd rankings of “advanced” made by language centres, just take regular university level classes and be forced to advance more quickly than the language centre would make you.

Good look to you and enjoy Taiwan,