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OneEye

Mandarin Training Center, National Taiwan Normal University

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OneEye

Hanyu pinyin is used in all the textbooks at MTC that I've seen. If you start from scratch then you're taught bopomofo, but most people also learn pinyin at that stage too. Sometimes the teacher will ask at the beginning of the term if students would prefer one over the other, but every class I've been in has used pinyin.

That being said, I would strongly recommend learning bopomofo. At least learn to read it, which takes very little effort. It comes in very handy in Taiwan, not least of which because it will allow you to read the 國語日報, which has bopomofo pronunciation beside every single character. You'll also see it on signs sometimes, like at the milk tea shop I was at the other day which sold 百香ㄉㄨㄞ ㄉㄨㄞ (duāi duāi). Duāi is an onomatopoeia for elasticy things, like the 珍珠 and other stuff in the tea. It will also come in handy if you ever have to type Chinese on one of MTC's computers. If you go to the zoo, there is bopomofo on all the signs next to the animal names, so little kids and foreigners know how to pronounce them. Etc.

Edit: Also, it will reduce confusion when you ask someone how to pronounce a character and they say "Zhōng. Zhī wū ēng. Zhōng." That's because if you convert each sign directly into pinyin, it's zhuēng (ㄓㄨㄥ). Don't ask me why.

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etm001

Hi,

I did not learn bopomofo before coming to Taiwan, and I have yet to teach it to myself; I believe this to be true for the other students in my current class. (As OneEye noted, if you start at the very beginning level, then you will be taught bopomofo, but I did not start at that level).

That said, I agree with OneEye - it takes little effort to learn bopomofo, and being in Taiwan, it can only help to know it, because:

  • All Taiwanese will know bopomofo (setting aside non-Mandarin speakers), but not all will know pinyin (I don't believe pinyin is taught in Taiwanese schools).
  • As OneEye noted above, there will be occasions where you will not know how to pronounce a word, but the bopomofo will be provided.
  • I have a few friends who, after learning bopomofo, say that they prefer it over pinyin for text input.
  • It will be MUCH easier to use the MTC computers if you know bopomofo.

On that last point (MTC computer text input): I had to use the computer lab once, and swore I never would again because it was so frustrating to use the pinyin IME that was installed. Party this was due to my inexperience (I have a Mac and use the (newly updated) OS X pinyin input editor, or I use IMKQIM), and partly because (I think) the pinyin IME that they have installed is a bit old, and/or it just plains stinks. (Obviously I have a strong opinion about this).

I would like to balance my comments above and re-iterate that I do not know bopomofo, and I don't believe it has made a material difference in my daily life. If your time is limited and you want to do the one thing that will help you the most in coming to Taiwan, then I would suggest getting up to speed on traditional characters, as that will have the largest and most immediate impact on your life here (assuming you've only been taught simplified characters).

So having said all that...I think I'm going to teach myself bopomofo during my upcoming school break, just to know what I'm missing, lol. I'll let you know the results if you are interested.

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kimmieting

Hi, I'm Malaysian and have am studying at Mtc right now,have u already started your semester?

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cpsm

Thanks for your answers, OneEye and etm001. I'll try to familiarize myself with some bopomofo then. Regarding traditional characters- is there an option to just learn simplified in class? Then again, would it be possible to get around Taiwan without knowing traditional characters (eg. Reading signs, menu, etc)?

kimmie- I'm still in Kl. Hoping to come for the spring term next year. How long will you be in Taiwan for? Can you give me your email add? I don't have enough posts to send you a direct message.

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OneEye
Then again, would it be possible to get around Taiwan without knowing traditional characters (eg. Reading signs, menu, etc)?

I'm always surprised by this question. Of course the answer is no. The good news is that it's not as hard a transition as you might think.

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etm001

Hi,

I'll re-iterate what what OneEye said (seems like I'm always doing that, lol): transitioning to traditional characters is not so hard. I would say that I adapted reasonably well by the end of the second week of class. Perhaps it benefited me slightly that I was within the beginner range of Chinese learning, and I did not have an extensive vocabulary. As I noted in a posting earlier in this thread, your MTC placement test will use traditional characters, so if you want to score well on that test, then it's best to learn them before coming to Taiwan.

Although this thread is not the place to discuss the pros/cons of learning traditional vs. simplified Chinese characters, I will say that after three months of study, I'm firmly in the camp that learning traditional characters is highly worthwhile (although there are times, such as when I'm writing a 20+ stroke character, that I wish I was learning simplified. If you want to have some fun, try writing the traditional characters for "turtle" or "depression" :)

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cpsm

Alrighty then, to my flashcards I go :)

Just out of curiosity though, are you able to read simplified texts easily after learning traditional characters at MTC?

Most of the Chinese media in my country is in simplified... so am wondering how that would work out when I get back.

Also, do any of you know how long it takes for MTC to reply once you have sent in your application?

Thanks for all your input.

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imron

There are only around 500 characters that are significantly different between Simplified and Traditional (see here), the rest are either simplified in a standard manner 言 to 讠 etc, or are identical. Learning them won't affect your ability to read Simplified. For example "THIS IS ONE WAY OF WRITING", "this is another way of writing", despite the fact that uppercase and lowercase letters mostly look different, learning one doesn't mean that you'll forget the other. Same goes for Traditional and Simplified, which is actually no where near as big a deal as many people make out. Once you know one, learning the other is relatively straightforward. I've never learnt Traditional, but can read them more or less fine (albeit more slowly than Simplified due to lack of exposure).

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etm001

Hi,

In regards to how long it takes MTC to reply: I think I waited ~4 weeks after sending in my application, then I wrote an email to the admissions office asking when I could expect a response. They replied telling me that I had been accepted, and ~2-3 weeks later I received my acceptance letter.

As for being able to read simplified characters: at the moment I use a browser plug-in that converts simplified to traditional characters. :) At some point I'll sit down and learn the 500 significantly different characters (as noted by imron), and the standard substitutions (言 to 讠, although I know many just from reading simplified texts, it's not hard to figure out). I think I'm going to wait for my vocabulary to be a bit large before I spend much time on this, though.

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OneEye
Same goes for Traditional and Simplified, which is actually no where near as big a deal as many people make out. Once you know one, learning the other is relatively straightforward. I've never learnt Traditional, but can read them more or less fine (albeit more slowly than Simplified due to lack of exposure).

This. Except I'm more comfortable with traditional. I'm fairly slow at reading simplified because I've done very little of it, but I can read it just fine. I'll be reading more of it during the next few years so I'm sure it will get easier, though probably never as easy as traditional.

As for writing complicated traditional characters, there will come a point that it's easier. 龜 and 鬱 aren't such a big deal once you've written them enough times, especially if you learn what sorts of shortcuts are acceptable in handwriting (I'd say wait on that until you can write well in regular script though).

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cpsm

Good to know that it is possible to switch between characters even with a traditional foundation.

Based on etm001's experience, the application processes takes about 1 1/2 to 2 months... I suppose I should get my application sent in soon then!

Thank you all for your feedback :)

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roddy

Fantastic write-up.

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Daan

Great job! Thanks.

Oh, and one more thing: MTC has replaced two of the four elevators in the Bo-ai building, and the upgrades to the remaining two should be completed within the next two months. For anyone who has ever had to endure the old elevators, then you know how truly exciting this is.

Ah. Yes, those elevators. We'll all miss the old ones terribly, won't we?

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rmpalpha

I'm considering the MTC as an option for studying Chinese in Taiwan this upcoming summer. It is somewhat cheaper than my hiring a private tutor for one-on-one lessons (which is what I did last summer). My concern, though, is that I wouldn't benefit very much from the classes themselves since I'm deaf and can't follow lectures and the like. However, the set curriculum and course pace as well as having actual classmates are all quite attractive features to me, so I'm debating the two options.

OneEye or etm001, do you have any thoughts on this?

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OneEye

I'm afraid I couldn't even begin to help you there. I'd recommend emailing the office about it.

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Meng Lelan

From my experience at Middlebury (and maybe OneEye would think the same of his school there too), the classroom environment is an extremely auditory-verbal experience. If I were you, if it is the total classroom experience that you are looking for, then I would be wanting a Chinese sign language interpreter for the classes at MTC. Have you ever had CART (computer assisted transcribing)? If CART were available in Chinese that would really be something useful, but I don't know if that is available in Taiwan.

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etm001

Hi rmpalpha,

I read the write-up of your trip to Taiwan, and I have to say, it sounds like a really great experience, in large part due to the fact that you were able to tailor your experience to your learning goal/needs (and it sounds like your teacher was great too). It almost makes me want to leave the MTC classroom environment and switch to one-on-one tutoring exclusively...

....but in the end I'm sticking with MTC for now (even though I'm disappointed with my current teacher) for some of the reasons you mentioned: the pace of learning, the verbal/aural interaction in the classroom, and the relationships I have made with my classmates (more so with classmates from last semester than the current one).

My gut feeling: the best bang-for-your-buck is probably one-on-one tutoring, because verbal/aural interaction is a core component of the classroom experience, and as you've already noted, this type of interaction is of limited use/interest to you. I do recognize, however, that one-one-one tutoring does not afford the opportunity to build relationships with classmates, although from your previous post, it sounds like you had no problem engaging with people and building relationships while in Taiwan.

Good luck!

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aushaun

Thanks to OneEye, etm001 and others for the fantastic writeups on MTC - very informative. I'll be heading there for the Spring semester in Feb/March this year and am quite nervous/excited.

Would any of you recommend the use of a voice recorder in classes? I'm looking at one of the LiveScribe pens to keep track of my notes and listen over classes - iPhone could work but my experiences with using them in meetings hasn't been great.

Thanks again all! Hope I can also provide some feedback and advice once I arrive in Taipei.

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OneEye

I've tried recording lessons before, but I've found that I never go back to review them. I'd say before you spend money on a voice recorder, use your phone and see if you think it's actually worth the money to get one.

Good luck!

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