So I’m back in Seattle now and enjoying the crazy roller-coaster of jetlag. I’ve got a couple of weeks until I have to be in to work, but plenty of planning and stuff to do before that starts up again. I’ve had a couple of days to think about my time in Taipei; here are my thoughts.
I had a good experience with Taipei Mandarin Institute (TMI). I got a super convenient room with a private shower, and the kind of lessons I wanted for the price of USD $400 per week.
When I showed up, I made it clear that I didn’t want to be spending any time reading any boring ass insulting useless bullshit dialogs and readings that I’m accustomed to. So my classes were mostly conversation: me talking my face off for hours at a time. My teachers didn’t expose me to any new grammar, instead they gave me room to practice the grammar I had already been “shown.”
Here’s the deal; a lot of programs show you a bunch of stuff; they say “Look, here’s 了, here’s 才，here’s 把 and 被”… and then they brush the dust off their hands, pat themselves on the back and say that they have taught it to you. They conflate showing with teaching, and when the student doesn’t master it by the Friday quiz, everybody blames the student. It’s like showing someone how to drive but then not letting them get behind the wheel; or showing someone how to dribble a basketball without letting them actually dribble a basketball.
In my one-on-one conversation classes, they put me behind the wheel; they handed me the ball and let me dribble it. The teachers and the curriculum were not pushing me into new territory. I had plenty to say, and the need to communicate made me stumble onto important new grammatical territory myself. My biggest area of growth was in my ability to discuss movies, which is something I did both during and outside of class.
As for reading, I didn’t do a lot of it. However, my teacher sent me the link to a bunch of stories and fables on PDF, which I’m now reading voraciously. The link is a little 複雜 hard to navigate, so I’ll post them here as I download them. The thing about reading them on PDF is that I can zoom in on the characters and see them… my eyes are getting old.
As for my speaking, my Chinese is a lot tighter now. I think I’m now capable of being interesting to hang out with in Chinese. I can be charming in Chinese and not have to rely on my good looks or money to keep people’s interest. I think. My tones are tighter, my sentences are tighter, and I’m using a lot more vocabulary.
Finally I have to say something about Taiwan. That country is safe, clean, modern, convenient, friendly, and inexpensive. The food is good, it’s easy to make friends, there’s plenty to do, and plenty to talk about. I saw a lot of Mandarin learners making some counterproductive learning choices (like over-studying, or defaulting to English), but Taiwan is still a really good place to be. On “Conducive to Language Learning,” Taiwan scores a 9/10, right below Italy.
If you have questions about my stay in Taiwan, just ask. Remind me to blog about: Immersion by Relationship, Overstudying, Default to Target.