Saturday night I’m leaving Vietnam for Taiwan. I’m excited about Taiwan because I’ve spent a lot of years studying Mandarin on my own, and this is an opportunity for me to practice and improve. I hope I can find a class near my apartment so I can study more after work.
The greatest challenge I’ll face in Taiwan is that I’ve learned simplified Chinese characters and the island uses traditional characters. Just like Kanji in Japan, I’ll have a difficult time reading some of the characters. However, I still plan on studying the simplified characters because it’s what I’m familiar with. The important thing for me is to recognize signs and speak with people–I’m not planning on reading the local newspapers.
If I can’t find a class, I’ll continue studying with my usual mix of online resources.
Chinesepod.com is one of my favorite resources. The format has changed over the years, but they still offer a free trial. During that trial period, you can download a ton of podcasts and PDFs to help you speak Mandarin at different levels. I have a decent collection of podcasts for my MP3 player. I’m sure I’ll listen to it while riding the trains through Taipei.
Memrise.com has been another decent resource that I’ve been using for the last year. This website helps with character recognition and memorization. It’s easy to go through the levels while I have downtime at work. While the site does help with character recognition, pronunciation, and some meaning, it does not help at all for grammar and sentence construction. It’s still a helpful supplementary resource that’s easy to use.
Rutgers University’s Chinese Department has one of the best resources for students. It’s an entire textbook series online, and it includes audio. It isn’t as helpful if you don’t have some instruction first though. You certainly need some instruction in Pinyin pronunciation before beginning. However, it has plenty of dialogues, stories, vocabulary, and grammar explanations to last a long time. There are even grammar and vocabulary exercises included in each chapter. The online textbooks are similar to the books I had in China.
Of course, my favorite resource is meeting people and practicing what I know. At least when Chinese speakers don’t understand me, I can figure out what I’ve done wrong and what I need to work on. I’ve had some simple friendly conversations with Chinese speakers almost everywhere, including Iceland and Japan. But a single comprehensive learning program would probably be more helpful than everything I’ve been using.