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poisonedantidote's avatar

How can I learn traditional Chinese, as spoken in Taiwan?

Asked by poisonedantidote (21549 points ) October 13th, 2012

You would think a simple Google search would provide an answer to this question, but you would be wrong.

As some of you know, my girlfriend is from Taiwan. When we are together she some times teaches me some Chinese, and I have learned a few basics.

My girlfriend is now away from me for the next 6 months, back in Taiwan finishing her masters degree.

I would like to learn more Chinese while she is away, but I have a bit of a problem.

When I try to find courses online or software or anything like that, I never know if what I’m learning is simplified Chinese, as spoken in China, or traditional Chinese as spoken in Taiwan.

As China has way more population and is bigger in general, most to all of the courses seem to be on simplified mandarin as spoken in China.

I could really use a solid course, that takes you from beginner to intermediate or more, in traditional Chinese, the mandarin version used in Taiwan.

If anyone can point me in the right direction I would appreciate it.

My Google searches all throw up 3 minute Youtube videos that teach you how to say hello for the millionth time, and the pros and cons of simplified vs traditional.

Any ideas?

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7 Answers

Coloma's avatar

I have traveled in Taiwan and I think the preferential dialect is Mandarin. The Taiwanese do not associate with the chinese and are greatly offended at being called chinese. Mandarin is the ticket.

lifeflame's avatar

Taiwan’s official spoken language, Mandarin – aside from regional idiomatic variations- is really the same thing as Putonghua. So you should have no problem with a conversation course.

As for the simplified vs complicated issue, I would either: a) find a Taiwanese descendent in Chinatown to tutor you or b) get your gf to send you textbooks from Taiwan or c) google translate the characters. There’s a sort of logic to the conversion, and once your understand how the radicals convert, there’s a method to the madness. Also, your teacher at language school might actually be able to help you, so it’s worth asking too.

Kudos to you for taking on Chinese. It can seem tough at first, but once you get the knack of it, it’s truly a really cool language. Especially the pictogram aspect of the complicated characters…

lifeflame's avatar

No idea if this software is any good at all, but http://www.wenlin.com/ supports both simplified and complicated characters.

selfe's avatar

By clicking on http://www.atanet.org/onlinedirectories/individuals.php you can search for professionals that work with languages everyday. I see that there are 43 ATA-Certified Translators listed for the English into Chinese language combination. They might be able to point you in the right direction.

I would look for somebody who grew up in Taiwan or an expert. A descendant of people from Taiwan most likely will not know that language as well.

Good luck and kudos for your interest in her language!

lifeflame's avatar

I just re-read your question, and wanted to clarify. You said that “I never know if what I’m learning is simplified Chinese, as spoken in China, or traditional Chinese as spoken in Taiwan.”

The simplified/traditional issue applies only to the written form. (i.e., they have different characters for writing.)

The spoken form, called Mandarin by the Taiwanese and Putonghua by the mainland Chinese, is essentially the same.

By the way – how is your search going?

poisonedantidote's avatar

@lifeflame Actually, according to my girlfriend who is Taiwanese, there is some difference to how it is spoken too.

From some courses I have showed her online and things, she says “no one in Taiwan would speak like that.”

However, they do seem to be 99% the same.

lifeflame's avatar

Yes, definitely differences in vocab due of the influence of Taiwanese Hokkien and its history/proximity to Japan. Also, according to wiki, some grammatical and even pronouciational differences: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwanese_Mandarin

But, for the purposes of communication, Putonghua will get you off to a great start, and you have your gf to help you out.

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