January 21, 2013

Learning Mandarin - and why in Taiwan?

Why mandarin, and why in Taiwan?

Well, looking back at what I have done in my life, it is really only one thing that I regret: That I didn't study more languages.  Study them well so I could become completely fluent, and not having to think about it, just talk. I am going to repair that now, it is anyhow time for a break, if I don't do it now I am afraid I am going to get stuck, just because life is so comfortable here.

Taiwanese temple roof with dragon decorationI want to speak Chinese and be understood, and I also want to be able to read and write in mandarin, and to be able to fully learn the language, I need to be able to focus on it. I can not expect to pick up a language that is completely different from my own language at an evening class once a week, while I am busy doing everything else, and that is one of the reasons I want to take time off to study  It is a big challenge, I know, with the language being so far from the western languages I already speak, but I am know I can do it, if I only set my heart on it - and my heart is set.

Chinese (mandarin) is a language spoken by an enormous group of people, can you imagine how fascinating it must be to be able to have a conversation with all the people that speaks mandarin either as their first or second language? A whole new set of doors will open, regardless if I chose to go back to the "corporate world" after I am finished with the first year or if I decide to do my own thing and work in another field it will be useful, and it will be useful regardless if I use it for business or just for private reasons. You can never learn too many languages!

In Taiwan Mandarin (Chinese) is the official language, even if people especially in the south also speak Taiwanese. An advantage with Taiwan is also that they write traditional Chinese, while mainland China with Beijing uses Simplified. It is more lines to learn, but on the other hand many of the signs/characters are easier to understand, because they resemble what they actually mean. This in itself is a good reason to chose Taiwan. If I am going to make the effort, I may just as well learn the traditional language, I imagine it must make it easier to read older Chinese texts.

Busy Taiwanese street with a lot of neon signs and traffic
Tainan, Taiwan. Look at all the street signs!
Another good reason to study in Taiwan is the mere fact that it is easier to come and go in Taiwan. If I will have visitors they can just travel in, at least as long as they are travelling on a European passport, and get to stay in the country for 90 days (some countries only 30 days) - that makes it so much simpler. To visit mainland China you need to apply for a visa before hand (with the exception if you are travelling through China, then you can enter for 72 hours without visa, at least if you travel through Beijing (these rules tend to change though so check the embassy if you are thinking about going). Also, also the student visa in Taiwan suits me better, at the moment I would get, for one year, a one entry visa if I studied in Beijing for a year, and that would not work; I am am in Asia I want to visit friends and family, and I travel quite frequently; I can't allow myself to feel stuck in one country for a full year, without having the possibility to easily go and visit other areas - even though I will have less money when I study I will still want to travel around and see things. Now I know, the visa requirements may change, but I can only look at what the situation looks right at this very moment

The fact that Beijing on top of it all is freezing cold in the winter and dessert hot in the summer is also a contributing factor, as fascinating I am sure Beijing is, I am not very good with cold...

All in all; I am very very excited about this opportunity to learn a new language, learn mandarin, and I am very curios to see where this road will take me.


myneonsignlullaby.com said...

I wish you well with learning Mandarin in Taiwan. :) In Taiwan, they use traditional Chinese characters, that's true. I feel traditional Chinese characters has a lot of meaning with history. I might be going to Shanghai, though, due to the fact that my husband may accept the job there. :) Taiwan has been good to me. I'm happy for you. :)

TravellingAK said...

Thank you! I am very excited to be heading out there this year. Shanghai is an interesting city as well, and I am sure you will enjoy it. I suspect it will be quite a change after Taipei, but change is what makes life interesting!