Where to Study Mandarin?

I took it and had a great experience. But that was because I had a great teacher. I just couldn’t afford to keep going and guting is far from where I work. The ads are annoying but I really did have a good instructor. I didn’t have any of the issues mentioned, we didn’t even write a single word and the teacher said we wouldn’t until book two.

We learned from the book, but the teacher was willing to stop and teach things we wanted to learn and that were more practical.

She was a young teacher and a graduate from NTU masters program in teaching Chinese. Apparently she worked as a researcher at NTU and at the mandarin center part time for extra cash.

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This guy seems to have it figured out: https://storylearning.com/learn/chinese/chinese-tips/

There are a lot of better resources that have come out since ~2016, which was when I was teaching Chinese. Before that I felt like the options were ChinesePod, ChineseClass101, and a few other mediocre to bad and over priced programs.

There is also something called 5Q channel, which has comics in trad and simp, pinyin and zhuyin. They do idioms, stories, journey to the west, etc. If you watch the videos and follow along to audio with the worksheets with your choice of phonetic system, you don’t necessarily need to know a lot to learn a lot. It looks like they switched to a subscription model, but I think a lot of their resources are still free.

I didn’t try story learning (Chinese class ad) for Chinese, but I did try their German free trial and they seem to have a good idea of how to use large amounts of language from the very beginning, for total beginners. I didn’t think it was worth it for me to give them my credit card info for the Chinese program, since my Chinese is going to be above the level they go to. And it’s in simplified. But the guy who created the program seems to have his head on straight about how to learn languages and I basically learned from pretty much nothing to an A2 level of German in about a week (on a week where that was all almost I was doing)

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Okedoke! I will at least give it a try. The worst that can happen is that I spend a month hating it and don’t come back…

How do you get massive comprehensible input when you have no Chinese to start with? You find a qualified CI teacher. That’s what I do. We handle all the grammar in the first five chapters of “Integrated Chinese” in the first few hours, through concentrated, highly comprehensible input, and it sticks. No homework, either. :grinning: The whole job of a CI teacher is to speak Chinese in a way that you can understand, ALL THE TIME. From the beginning. It’s more than possible.

I’ve been teaching Mandarin this way since the early 2000s. It works well. I have “beginners” at 50-60 hours of class who just did an SOPI and are awaiting results. I would guess intermediate mid, because they circumlocute very well and have real control of the highest-frequency verbs, including modals like “have to”, “should”, “want to” and so on, plus they are really, really good at subordinating "的“ which opens up all kinds of possibilities for expression. Oh, and they read Simplified and Traditional characters equally well. We don’t place much if any emphasis on writing characters by hand from memory tbh.


If I ever go back to the US to teach Chinese again, I want to be your best friend.

[[quote=“nz, post:36, topic:222264”]
Anyone know about TMC (Taipei Mandarin Center)? They post their ads here about once a month but I don’t hear them mentioned at all

I went there for 2 months and wasn’t impressed.

We spent an inordinate amount of time on honorifics and sports despite both topics being irrelevant to everyone in the class. The teacher refused to go ‘off book’ and adapt the material to our needs and interests.

I can’t remember any student - student interaction. It was exclusively drill and kill, teacher - student.

The final straw was when the teacher played a patronising video (“I like bananas, do you like bananas too?”) and expected us to sing along.

Finally, every month I get the same LINE message - “do you join the course in August?” - despite myself and others pointing out the grammar error.

It might be very different in high-level classes and with a different teacher.


I start with short simple dialogues or stories that come with audio, transcript, a translation (or better yet with a built-in pop-up dictionary). Once I can more or less understand the dialogue/story with the help of the transcript, I listen to the audio alone (perhaps at 90 percent speed to begin with). I’ll keep coming back to the same dialogue or story, perhaps listening to it dozens of times. I don’t try and memorize individual words. Chinese characters a special issue: if I were learning Chinese again I’d probably start by familiarizing myself with pinyin and basic pronunciation and then start with dialogues/stories with pinyin transcript, coming back later to learn characters by “overlaying” them on audio/pinyin dialogues with which I was already familiar. I’d only refer to the pinyin when beginning a new dialogue/story or when there was some part of the dialogue/story audio I didn’t understand. Repeated listening to just the audio would predominate over listening to the audio while reading pinyin.

At some point it’s going to be necessary to actually start speaking with natives and, as you say, make mistakes and learn from them. The question is whether this can be put off until relatively late in the learning process. My answer, based on my own experience and that of others who have efficiently mastered one or many foreign languages, is that it can be. When I arrived in Russia, for instance, I’d never spoken a single word of Russian with a native speaker but, having already immersed myself in the grammar and sentence patterns through listening and, again through listening and reading, having acquired a large passive vocabulary, I was soon speaking much more fluently than grad students from places like Harvard who had had years of classroom instruction and in-country conversation practice in Russian. Ditto for other languages I’ve mastered. So it’s absolutely not necessary. Is it useful, if you have access to native speakers willing to put up with simplified conversations? Many people might find it motivating/fun to start having conversations relatively early. They might find it boring to listen/read without speaking for months or years. Fair enough. Also, if your goal is short term improvement (hare vs the tortoise), then actually speaking is the way to go (for example my Japanese conversation ability right now is no doubt inferior to people who’ve had a lot of conversation practice - but from past experience I’m confident that if I go on listening and reading then when the time comes and I’m ready to speak then I’ll soon surpass those people). If the goal is to genuinely master a language as efficiently as possible, and you’re a motivated independent learner, then I would suggest concentrating on listening rather than speaking until you’ve reached a relatively high level: I don’t think that conversation is the most efficient way of exposing yourself to the 10 thousand or more words from various fields that you’ll need to start having serious discussions and follow native-level material.


Again, this obviously isn’t the case. I myself learned Chinese without classes or a teacher and I passed HSK 6 after about 2 years (I probably could have passed it well before then). I wasn’t even using the more efficient self-learning methods that I applied to subsequent languages (I spent a lot of time writing by hand which I would definitely not recommend now and I was reading physical books and looking up words in physical dictionaries). On Youtube you can find many examples of people who, having failed to make much progress in a classroom setting, finally mastered one or many languages when they began learning on their own.

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Ok I’ll give it a shot. It’s basically how I teach English so I guess it makes sense, I guess I just thought you needed at least a basic foundation first since my students all do and still struggle a bit. But I’m willing to give it a shot!

It’s been my experience learning languages as an adult that reading and writing tend to come easier than listening to and speaking. That’s how it was was when I was l learning German and how it is with my Spanish (although I learned a lot of Spanish since infancy, for some reason I really struggle with speaking Spanish. Only seems to get harder the more languages I learn even though both my parents are fluent speakers, my mother is a native speaker)

I need someone to light a fire under my ass. It took me three years to go from zero to reading research papers in Chinese w/ the support of a Chinese teacher. While nine years later I can speak and write very intelligently, my reading hasn’t gotten “anywhere”. There’s something about reading Chinese texts, even while listening to them, that is a blockade on my brain. But I placed ACTFL advanced-high years ago. Sometimes I wonder if the HSK 5 and 6 are just too much of a “challenge” compared to real world texts though. I can understand 95% or more of what’s going on in DLI (https://gloss.dliflc.edu/ ) 3 and 3+ Chinese texts, but HSK materials are boring and never worth listening to and reading over and over again in comparison.

I think the Taiwanese take pride in grammar errors with English sometimes. Just look at the high school entrance exam. It does always make me worry that my Chinese materials coming from a Chinese-language source are worthlessly bad too though sometimes.

Oh jeez is it really? I’ve never seen the test. I guess that would explain a lot

“Choose the correct picture: ‘My grandpa has a circle yard’”. Will forever be burned into my brain. The irrelevance of that sentence to the wider world, plus the incorrect use of adjectives, is telling. One day I actually took a red pen to the practice test I was supposed to be giving them. Regret throwing it in the trash instead of posting my grammar corrections to social media. Every ten or so questions, there would be one that was error free. It’s embarrassing.

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I do remember something about nitrogen and fertilizers from the HSK exam, so not the kind of thing you’d usually chat about every day - but overall I would’ve thought HSK 6 is still very far below the kind of reading proficiency an educated native speaker would have. I never prepared specifically for the test (I wouldn’t have been able to read without falling asleep the tedious HSK materials) - I just took the test because I had a need for it at that time, well after I already had a pretty decent reading vocab from reading many books in Chinese on different topics.

You mention that you don’t have any problems speaking and writing for most purposes but have some problems with difficult texts. I think that’s pretty normal.
Just think about the types of words you might find in English literary texts and textbooks: tantamount and trachea, trepan and trepang, tribadism and pterodactyl and tweed. An educated native speaker is going to know many tens of thousands of such words. Likewise reading widely in Chinese you’re going to encounter all kinds of words (including a vast number of chengyu) that most people don’t use in their everyday conversations.

Many language learners might decide that they can communicate well enough without attempting to acquire anything approaching the level of reading comprehension of an educated native speaker. Which is fine. But if that is your goal, then I think that downloading Chinese ebooks etc to your pleco reader or wherever you can look up unknown words and read, read, read is the only course to take: the bu4er4-fa3men2. I’d recommend reading books for native speakers on topics that interest you - not deathly dull readers etc prepared for foreigners. Also, when I suggested listening to the same audio many times I meant in the initial stages. If you’re advanced enough, I’d suggest just binge reading stuff that interests you without worrying about going back and reviewing what you’ve read.


15 posts were split to a new topic: Do Chinese/Taiwanese/pan-Chinese/etc. hate foreigners?

Ok world, I just wanted to throw out there my first experience at TMC, which I mentioned/asked about up thread and decided to sign up for one month of classes at.

My level: ACTFL advanced-high and probably still there since I last tested to that level years ago

Location: near shida. At most five min walk from various bus stops/the MRT.

The classroom: if I hadn’t lived in Taiwan as long as I have, i wouldn’t have entered the building. The classroom is on the fifth floor in a mixed use building that is circular and open to the outside in the center. (and has no windows. I question the fire department inspection standards. The whole construction of the classroom space is ??? to me. Even the door from the outside on the fifth floor was made of plywood on small hinges). There were a bunch of what could be individual desks shoved together to form a giant table in the middle. We used a large computer monitor to view the textbook (and also had to buy the textbook ourselves). The teacher used a Wacom tablet to write characters. Or he typed them into a slide. This worked for the space because there were only three students including me. I wouldn’t say anything is too out of the ordinary about any of this for Taiwan, but I do want to make sure the sketchy building set up is known to anyone thinking of coming from abroad to study Chinese.

The class itself was great. We discussed the topic within the textbook rather than analyzing grammar or being tested on vocab. This was excellent for me because I could not care less about cramming either of those things. I worried a little that I was paying to just talk and no one would actually help me acquire new words or suggest better/more precise ways to say things. In that case, just hanging out with Chinese-speaking friends here would have been equally sufficient. But the teacher was pretty good about pointing out tones and helping to introduce new vocab related to the text (but not in the text itself). If I’m really going to hunker down and improve my Chinese, I probably need someone to submit essays to and go over those essays with them each week, but that’s not the fault of this school. A conversation class where my use of language is being directed towards better accuracy/precision is great. As long as I continue to listen to and read the text before class to prepare to discuss the topic, this way of learning will work for me.

當代中文 level 5 has some seriously politically charged / relevant to being able to talk about current events lessons. There are three reading segments in each lesson, along with a decent amount of questions and conversation topics. Some of the topics for discussion are stupid, but there’s enough content in the book that those topics can be skipped over. This level is on the easy side for me when it comes to the text itself, but the topics are certainly topics that i dont have a lot of vocabulary for, so class itself isn’t boring/below my level. My classmates and I are all at about the same conversational level, which is definitely something I worried about not happening given the stories on this site. I get that it’s hard to place people, but this one worked pretty well for me.

My biggest complaint is the teacher providing words to us while our brain is doing the perfectly normal act of recalling a word slightly more slowly than a native speaker would. It’s not interruption level, but when you’re learning an L2, you need time to think about what you’re saying and I think the teacher was a little overzealous on not allowing that time. But this is something that I will bring up with the teacher (in private, after class) if it starts to actually annoy me.

I’ve only had one class so far, but I would say that the experience in the class itself was good. Ill post further updates if they become assholes about money or my teacher starts to criticize me for how I dress or the opinions I shared about the topic in the class or any of the other problems people have outlined about mandarin classes at shida, et al.


It has been a few months I’m attending chinese classes at Lingolab, near SYT memorial hall in Daan. The building is a nice office building, 10F in a “business centre”, classroom are normal rooms with a long table, whiteboard, tv. The teacher I have is decent imo, albeit very young (still doing her master’s in teaching Chinese to foreigners) and her English when needed is a bit limited, but we only talk in Chinese during class.

She gives me ample time to get my words when talking and helps me with characters when writing. Preparing TOCFL 4, which I thought was similar to HSK 4 that I already passed but, oh boy, it seems more like HSK 5.5!

I’m doing private 1-to-1 classes, I’m rather fast at learning thankfully.

Only thing I do not appreciate that much is that before starting reading and discussing the topic of the class, she does not let me have a look at the new words, so it takes very long time for me to read the piece. Otherwise, pretty satisfied.

Btw is there any school or program available in tamsui? Just curious (currently not in my budget, but maybe in the future).

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Wait it’s not in Tamsui?! Dammit

I know a japanese girl who rented her apartment in Tamsui only to findout the classes were in dongmen :joy:

Thanks for that Marco, good to know I am not the only person who feels like this. I have felt like I’m going nuts recently. I’m at MLC not MTC but there is still too much emphasis on tests unfortunately.

My classmates are Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. Today we did a test and a bunch of them got 100% (of course my score wasn’t close to that) despite me not being able to understand a word most of them say half the time (yet the teachers speaking is crystal clear to me) Due to this its made me question my listening ability, and this test result - with the worst offenders getting the highest scores really made me lose my last marble and again question whether I am behind the lot of them.

The benefit of having asian classmates is you cannot default to English and have to use Chinese to communicate. The drawbacks are you start to question yourself, you don’t know whats good chinese anymore and whats nonsense and you just start losing the plot.