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Taiwan oriented Chinese study resources


Meng Lelan

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I have a student in my beginning class who is going to Taiwan for a year. He wants to know if there are any study resources for an absolute beginner that are Taiwan oriented and uses traditional characters. I told him I have "Taiwan Today" but it is for intermediate level students. Also he would like to read a book about Taiwan's history (in English) but he can't find any. Recommendations would be appreciated!

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Pleco is a recommended tool for looking up unknown characters of either kind.

There are traditional character versions of the Integrated Chinese books.

Mandarin Chinese the Easy Way has some material on Taiwan. It's more focused on Pinyin, but the vocab at the back notes the traditional versions of characters, though it's character section is mainly simplified characters. Still a good book for a beginner.

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Yes, we are ordering the traditional character version of Integrated Chinese.

Forgot to ask if my student should learn zhuyin instead of pinyin? Also - does the Mandarin Training Center in Taiwan sell beginner's textbooks? My student and I are in the US.

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There are a lot of resources here: http://edu.ocac.gov.tw/home_en.htm

IIRC, the book Sounds of Chinese discusses the differences between Taiwanese Mandarin and Standard Chinese. It also provides detailed explanations on how to make some of the difficult sounds in Mandarin (though you can also get some of that here: http://www.sinosplice.com/lang/pronunciation/

The grammar book Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar has traditional characters (as well as simpl.) and is considered one of the best.

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The MTC has a series called (I believe) 視聽華語, I haven't used it myself but from what I've seen it's pretty good. It's in traditional of course, but it does teach the odd erhua where no Taiwanese would use it. An MTC book I used is 新聞選讀, slightly higher level, it teaches news reading and most if not all of the news used is Taiwan-related.

As to Taiwanese history, I would recommend Denny Roy's 'Taiwan: A Political History'. It gives a great overview, from the first migrants to Taiwan to the Dutch, Zheng Chenggong, the Japanese, the KMT, all the way up to Chen Shuibian. It also leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but as I said it is an overview and you can't have everything in one book. Another good thing about this book is that as far as I can make out it's neutral, neither blue nor green.

A strongly green book on Taiwanese history is Jerome Keating's 'Island in the stream'. Also gives a decent overview, but with a heavily green slant. (And I don't know if it's even for sale outside of Taiwan.)

If your student is going to go to MTC, learning zhuyin is not necessary. MTC is aware of the fact that not many people outside of Taiwan actually know or use it, and they teach in pinyin. When I was there MTC had a free class at the beginning of every semester where any student of theirs could learn bopomofo (zhuyin).

That being said zhuyin can come in handy when you study in Taiwan. Apart from Chinese teachers, hardly anyone knows pinyin while most people know zhuyin. Zhuyin is also not difficult to learn, especially if you already know Chinese and pinyin. So I'd recommend your student to at least have a look at it, and study the basics for a bit.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another series to check out is the Far East Everyday Chinese series. It's in traditional and and all of the dialogues have to do with Taiwan. I used book 3 of that series in one of my classes last semester and liked it a lot.

There is a bookstore on Heping Lu (the road that Shi Da is on) that carries a lot of Chinese textbooks and other study materials, including those for beginners. I believe it's actually the official bookstore for the MTC. It's called Lucky Bookstore (Shida Shu Yuan).

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks to all who replied. One more question - my student wants to get a traditional character Chinese-English dictionary. Any recommendations? We are in the US so going to Taiwan to buy it isn't an option right now.

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I have the Far East one, was recommended by my uni when I started my studies. (That was before the 現代漢語詞典 came out, which I prefer, but which is not in traditional). For beginners, the zhongwen.com dictionary is also good. Both are available abroad.

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