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 Double Ten Day China’s 1911 Overthrow of the Manchu Empire–A Teresa Deng Song for You

Teresa Deng, loved on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, sings a Mandarin Chinese song about one of China’s National Flowers.  No matter how harsh the weather (hardships) this flower will keep blooming.

Pinyin Lyrics

Méihuā méihuā mǎntiānxià yù lěng tā yù kāihuā

méihuā jiānrěn xiàngzhēng wǒmen wēiwēi di dà Zhōnghuá

kàn yā biàndì kāile méihuā yǒu tǔdì jiù yǒu tā

bīng-xuě fēngyǔ tā doū bù pà tā shì wǒ di guóhuā