Taiwan as a place to learn and practice Chinese

Taiwan is an okay place to live if you don’t mind the air pollution, especially on the west side of the island, and especially in the south, where the pollution levels are almost always as bad if not worse than those found in Shanghai, China.  The people are friendly enough.  You can find many places to learn Chinese, lots of opportunity to practice, and lots of eager students willing to help.

There are several problems with learning Chinese in Taiwan, however.  The first problem is they use traditional Chinese characters there, while the rest of the Chinese-speaking work is using the simplified characters developed on mainland China.  Unless your ultimate goal is to go into classical Chinese, the traditional characters are quite unnecessary.  The second problem with learning Chinese there is that they don’t use “hanyu pinyin” to teach Chinese. They use a system popularly called PO BO MO FO.  It has a whole new set of characters you have to learn in order to help you learn how to pronounce Chinese.  It seems to be an unnecessary step, and only the books produced on that small island use it.   The third problem is language change.  The words and phrases they use to describe things, for example, the word “yogurt,” have changed.  They are not the same as those used on mainland China.  With the population of the whole island being barely larger than one city, Shanghai, in China, you will be saying things differently than most the  Chinese-speaking world. Fourth, they say they are the gateway to China, but in fact they did not go through the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution, and they hold a great distrust of their mainland compatriots.  Therefore, you won’t get much of an understanding China living there.  Finally, living in the environment and speaking Chinese with people everyday, you will begin to speak Chinese with the same accent the locals do no matter if you learn the proper pronunciation at first.  That is you will start speaking Chinese with a Taiwanese accent.  It is okay, however, Chinese speakers around the world will understand you. And there is nothing wrong with it. However, let me put it this way.  If you went to America to learn English, would you like come back with an Alabama accent? If so, great.

When I produced Mandarin Click by Click, I had to make several trips to Beijing to make sure that the words,  phrasing, and pronunciation were okay.  Except for lesson one, all the the lessons on the website are recorded by native Beijingers.  Only the first lesson is recorded in Taiwan, and it was actually also recorded in Beijing, but on that day they brought in a guy from southern China.  He, himself, had a heavy southern Cantonese accent, and it wasn’t quite acceptable.  When I got back to Taiwan, I re-recorded it to make it more acceptable.  Even at that, the next time I make a trip Beijing and I have my recording equipment with me, I will redo it as well.

Sure, you can learn Chinese in Taiwan. It is lots of fun. However, be prepared for these small disadvantages.


Happy Birthday Chairman Mao

Dec. 26 is Chairman Mao’s Birthday. Let’s celebrate.

Wikipedia Biography of Chairman Mao


The Long March

Great Leap Forward

Loss of Power

Chairman Mao Swims the Yangzi River (Regaining Power)

Cultural Revolution

A Tribute to Mao and His Accomplishments


Regardless of what you may think, Mao remains a symbol of China’s determination to achieve greatness. 

Happy Birthday Song Mei-ling

Today, March 4th, is the birthday of Song Meiling, daughter of one of the wealthiest families in China.  Born in China, educated in America, and married to General Chiang Kai-shek.  Her two other sisters had equally glorious lives, one married into a family of equally great wealth and worldwide interests in banking. The other, Qingling, married Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a revolutionary and the first president China.

Song Meiling was beautiful and well-spoken, and was well-known to people around the world during the World War II as she and her husband rallied support from the allied governments, fought against the Japanese invaders, and tried stop the rise of the communists China.  They fought bravely, but a great number of communist sleeper spies planted in many parts of the government and military just got up joined the communists in their fight for power.  Song Qingling stayed in China. Song Meiling and Chiang Kai-shek and their nationalist loyalists retreated to the island of Taiwan to re-arm and re-take China.  It never happened. She died a recognized war hero in NYC at the age of 106 years old.

Here is her story.  An interesting read.



Chinese New Years Has Not Passed Until Lantern Festival 15 Days After Lunar New Year

An old taxi driver told me for the old folks Chinese New Years hasn’t passed until the 15 lunar day after the Lunar New Year. That day is known as Lantern Festival.  Actually, Lantern Festival is more of a kick than Chinese New Years. There are lantern making contests and eating round moon-shaped dumplings.

Enjoy this Slide Show on  Lantern Festival.


2010 Lantern Festival in Chengdu

Sending Your Wishes in the Sky in Taiwan

Here is how to make a simple Chinese lantern with red construction paper, pink paper, scissors, ruler, and tape.



Learn the Chinese New Years Song

You hear this song all over the place on Chinese New Years.

People greet each other by saying “Congratulations to you”  (Gongxi ni) .  It is traditionally spoken to congratulate others for survival the monster that goes New Years Eve.  The firecrackers are traditionally set up to scare him away.  The phrase in often followed by “Good Fortune” (Fa cai).  “Gongxi Facai.”

With pingyin.

Cartoon with characters and English Translation.

With beautiful girl and beautiful voice.