2023 Chinese Learning Plans: I’m Moving to Taiwan!

Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

Over the past few weeks I haven’t posted quite as often as previously. There are two main reasons for this.

The first is that I was struggling for motivation. Having achieved my new year’s resolution in 2022 to get my spoken Mandarin to a level where I’d be comfortable hosting podcasts in the language I felt I’d documented how I went about it pretty comprehensively and needed a new challenge.

The second reason is that I found that challenge and have been busy preparing for it: moving to Taiwan.

I took a three week trip to Taiwan in April 2019 shortly before the pandemic hit. I’d been learning Mandarin for a couple of years but, as I’ve blogged elsewhere, the trip only served to remind me just how limited my Chinese level was. Outside the classroom and in the wild I could understand close to nothing, and native speakers could barely understand me.

Upon my return I vowed to continue studying Chinese with the hope of one day returning to Taiwan as a fluent speaker. Soon afterwards the pandemic arrived and all travel plans were postponed indefinitely.

Then, last summer, just as Taiwan decided to lift its travel restrictions, I was granted six months of development leave from the university where I work. I’ve been accepted onto the Mandarin Spring course at National Taiwan University which starts in February and plan to use my time there to immerse in the culture and take my Chinese to the next level.

I have two main language learning goals. First, I want to get comfortable living my daily life entirely in Mandarin Chinese. Although I am conversationally pretty fluent now, there are aspects of day to day language it’s difficult to pick up when studying from abroad and I will need to plug these gaps quickly in order to navigate renting an apartment, travelling and generally surviving.

I also hope to become proficient at reading traditional characters, having initially studied simplified, as well as raise my overall literacy level to a point where reading most modern novels without the aid of an online dictionary doesn’t feel like work.

So the time has finally arrived to fly out and I’m very excited. I’ll mix travel with study while blogging about my experience on here. Meanwhile, I’ll continue developing the Mandarin Retreat project I’ve been working on for the past few months.

Together with co-founder Karl Baker and our team of volunteers we’ve organised several immersive Mandarin learning trips in the UK, and have many more planned over the coming months, enabling learners of all levels to replicate the experience of living in Chinese speaking countries, being surrounded by the language for a whole weekend.

How about you? What are your language learning goals for 2023? Let me know in the comments!

*Sign up to our Chinese Masterclasses teaching you the key techniques needed to master Chinese tones and sentence mining

*Join our Facebook community to connect with other learners and get access to our weekly group language exchange call

*Subscribe below for regular podcasts, blogs and updates from our community pinged straight to your inbox

7 Thoughts

  1. Congratulations! This sounds so exciting. I hope you find the time to post some updates. Safe travels, and have a wonderful time.

  2. Hi Mischa,

    Super cool you’re going on this journey to Taiwan! I’ve done a similar thing; I came to Taiwan for the December semester at the National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Centre (MTC). My learning background seems to be quite the same as yours, also only simplified characters. I successfully passed the HSK 3 exam before coming to Taiwan.

    Not to spoil the fun, but my experience with a Taiwanese university was not great. Very disappointing actually. I had never focussed on writing characters, but am ‘fluent’ at typing. I quickly learned however this is an issue at NTNU MTC, where they’re almost obsessed with writing. (with a pen that is) We had 3 hours of class a day, and almost every other day there is a written exam. Once a week there is a written exam that will take up to a full hour. Having never learned how to write, let alone traditional characters, there was no way I could pass any of these exams. We got about 50-70 new characters a week, plus about 10 grammar patterns weekly. The style of teaching was really cramming, and to me it felt very rushed and I think it was really quantity over quality. The teacher would do 90% of the talking, and there is close to zero conversation practise.

    After 5 weeks I reviewed my progress vs the time invested and came to the conclusion that this system isn’t what works for me. I requested to join a more practical program, but the program I was in was all they offered. Quite surprising given MTC is a well known institute. I left MTC and am back to taking online classes now, combined with practising on the streets of Taipei and while travelling the country.

    If you start from scratch I think the method and program at MTC could work, but joining a higher level after studying the HSK system just doesn’t work. MTC has not adjusted their programs to accommodate the many students that can not go to China at the moment, and who are looking for a practical program that doesn’t require writing.

    I really hope for you the National Taiwan University has a different approach for advanced students joining their Language Centre. But I’ve heard it’s quite the same at all Taiwan Universities. (due to Visa requirements for some students) So you may want to have a plan B ready in case your experience is similar to mine.

    Look forward to reading up on how you go at NTU.

    Best regards, Jasper

    1. Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experience. This has been something I;ve been concerned about. My situation is slightly different in that I’m sort of at an HSK6 level for all aspects except writing by hand. It will be interesting to see how they accomodate students in my position. I did email them in advance about this and they told me they regularly have students in my position. It won;t be a problem for the online placement test to assess my level because that doesn’t require handwriting. However, I may be expected to learn to write by hand. On the one hand I kind of welcome this, because I feel like the other aspects of Chinese I can improve on my own but handwriting is something it would be good to get feedback and instruction on. On the other hand I have other priorities I’d like to spend more time on, e.g. I’d really like to be able to understand the TV news without strain by the end of my time here. I’ll keep you updated on how I get on!

  3. Mai Hoang says:

    Hi Mischa! Im also doing the same thing. i was in Taiwan for 2 years from 2015 to 2019 to study master programme. I fell in love with Chinese language and Taiwanese culture. At that time, i learned to speak Chinese from local people living around me. Even Hualien ( a province where my university is located in Taiwan) is my second home. After 5 years leaving from Taiwan. I decided to come back to take a course of Chinese. I will move to Taiwan at the end of this May ( i applied in Tzuchi University, it is also located in same city where i learned 5 years ago). I feel excited to come back there soon and can speak, learn Chinese as well as Culture. So nice to read your posts

Leave a Reply