This is the story about a German guy who went to Taiwan to make his lifetime dream come true - mastering the Chinese language.

Samstag, 28. April 2007

2 months at Shida...

Oh my goodness...

...has it really been 2 months already? I can't believe it. You know, the time goes by so fast, I already see myself sitting in front of my computer and writing a blog post with the subject "My first 2 years at Shida..." !

This whole thing is soo enjoyable! I don't want it to be over so fast! What to do?? Hm, well, what about just staying here in Taiwan and not going back, taking every single course that Shida has to offer, until they will tell me: "Sorry, Sebastian. It is REALLY time to move on, you have taken every course we offer, there is nothing more to learn!! GO HOME!!! THERE IS A LIFE OUTSIDE OF SHIDA WAITING FOR YOU!!!!!!"

Haha...let's see what life will bring. That's the exciting thing, you really never know. At the moment, I really feel like I want to go on with this life, going to Shida in the morning, and then after Chinese class to go Taida and do research. I lead a good life here now. But well, this can't go on like this forever. And that's also a good thing because I will graduate in the end of the year and will be a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering. Sounds like working life is coming closer and closer. I will keep you updated with my plans for life here. :)

So what about my Chinese? Did those 2 months at Shida really make a difference for my spoken Chinese?


And also I might say: yes.

I made a lot of progress in those 2 months. Especially in my spoken Chinese. The motivation throughout these 2 months always stayed high, because of the fun that we all had in class. I mention it in nearly every post here, just because that never gets old for me. It is one of the best things to directly practice the new vocabulary and sentence structures with your new friends that can just communicate with you in Chinese and not in English. Go for a class with Asians if you are a westerner. Find a class that doesn't have people from your homecountry or that has few or no people that are willing to speak your native language with you! This will force you to really speak Chinese, also in the breaks and I love to do that. That's why my spoken Chinese really improved.

My teacher is a motivational factor as well for sure. I had very good luck that I got her as my teacher and we all think like that. For the next semester we will ask the school to keep her and the class at it is now. You can keep your teacher and the same people if you find 8 ppl who share this wish and the teacher also signs this form. We will do it!

So now, you might be interested in how I use Chinese in my everyday life here. A good example that shows that I really dare to use it out in the streets: I found myself arguing with a waitress in an Italian restaurant here. No, didn't use Italian (which I cannot speak) but Chinese! The service really sucked and I had to release my anger and frustration. And I did that in Chinese. Wow that was interesting. Haha! AND? Yeah, didn't have to pay the 10% service charge because of my outburst of fury. It must have been super funny though. An angry Germany guy in an Italian restaurant in Taiwan furiously scolding a waitress in Chinese...haha!

Okay, looking forward for the last month of my first semester at Shida!

Bye, Sebastian

Samstag, 21. April 2007

Chinese Gadgets

Hello everybody!

Back to Chinese! Enough of room rental websites and so on... :) Who is still interested in how the room rental site is working out can check my blog about that:

Remember I told you about my flashcard system and that I wouldn't use any cool PDAs or smartphones but still really wanted to have one anyways? Well, I really couldn't resist to get one, I love gadgets and here is my newest one:

The Motorola Ming ! This is my first Motorola Cellphone and I love it! Well, the design speaks for itself, it is just awesome. But it's functions really gave me no other chance but to buy it.

It is small compared to other smartphones but still has all the PDA functions you would need. Calendar, Tasklist, Notes, Contacts, Email and so on and so forth. Of course you can synch all that to your Outlook over bluetooth or a standard USB cable. Nice. It also comes with MSN pre-installed, so you could chat with your buddies on the go as well. Of course it can playback MP3 and videos with its build in real player.

But what made it really appeal to me is its Chinese-English dictionary with handwriting recognition function. And it works like a charm. Whenever I see a character that I cannot read now, I just write it onto the big display and the phone will recognize it and directly give me the translation. Sweeet!! I love it.

And the price is also very good! You can get it at NOVA next to Taipei Main station for just 9000 NTD, without a contract! That is really a good price for this smartphone. If you get it with a contract, I have even seen it for 3000+ NTD (Taiwan Da Ge Da).

Okay, I can't write more now, have to play with my Moto Ming..

Mittwoch, 11. April 2007

You also have a Wii ???

Hello everybody!

I haven't written for quite a while now. Oh my god, was I busy! The other part of me, the one where I am this computer nerd got the upper hand least for the last week. I have been working on a web project of mine and once it is finished, I'll tell you about it. Back in Germany I worked part-time as a php programmer, you know that web stuff. It is still a big hobby of me now and from time to time I got some ideas and I need to realize these ideas or I cannot relax anymore. But once finished, I am always very happy and that moment will come soon. Having time to write this article indicates that already...

But back to my Chinese studies. Yeah, Chinese class started this monday again, after 5 days of spring break. It was hard to go back to school. No, not because I lost my motivation to study Chinese! The wheather completely sucked! It didn't stop to rain and it was really cold. Walking through the rain for 20 minutes to get to school on a monday morning is far from ideal...but I have to fight for my Chinese to improve! :)

Class is as great as ever before. Today I could witness the magic of language once again. I have a Japanese in my class, he is 32 years old but looks younger than me. I had never talked to him before, but today in our little break, we started to talk. Of course in Chinese. I found out that he is also an electrical engineer and later we discovered that we have more in common: we are both fanatic videogamers! Ah, how great that was for me to speak with a Japanese about videogames! You know, Japan is *THE* country when it comes to videogames. Actually, I had never in my life spoken to a Japanese before, have you? In Chinese?? haha... :) We share the same passion, and we both own a Nintendo Wii, a Nintendo DS and a Playstation Portable. Actually it was funnny. I asked him if he had a Nintendo Wii already and he answered: "OF COURSE!" At that time we became friends. :) Learn languages - make new friends! We will bring our Nintendo DS to class tomorrow....

Mittwoch, 4. April 2007

My Chinese Flashcard System

Hello everybody,

I didn't have class today and there also won't be class at Shida the rest of the week. It is spring break time! :) Normally I should be happy about that, but when the teacher told us on monday, I felt kind of sad...haha! I think that is the first time in my life that I feel like that about a school holiday, unbelievable!

But good, that gives me some time to tell you about how I study Chinese when I am on my own and not in class. I have worked out my own little Chinese flashcard system that I want to tell you about. Yeah, right, flashcards, no fancy PDAs or smartphones with Chinese software involved here, just basic flashcards. (I do want a fancy smartphone though...)

I was inspired to start with flashcards after I read a wonderful book called "How to learn any language". Mark wrote a very interesting article about it on his blog (click here) and I directly started to read it. It was a fantastic read and I can just recommend you to also read these 100 pages. Inspirational! So I adopted the best ideas and actually enhanced them for Chinese. Here are my 6 stacks of flashcards:

As you can see, there are 4 colored stacks and two white ones. That is not a coincidence but my system. :) I use the colored stacks for recognizing single Chinese characters and memorizing their respective tones. As you might know, Mandarin Chinese has 4 tones. So each tone has its specific color. In my case that is

Yellow - 1st tone
Red - 2nd tone
Blue - 3rd tone
Green - 4th tone

And believe me, that is really a very good system to remember the tones! It is so much easier to remember that a character was in the blue stack and therefore must be 3rd tone than just to remember something abstract like "3rd tone" on its own. I better visualize the character on its blue card. Works fine for me. Why did I choose those colors? Well, I like the 4th tone, therefore it's green (GO!). And I don't like the 2nd so much, hard to speak for me, so it became red (ATTENTION!!). :) The other colors are more or less randomly chosen. You could choose different colors for your flashcards though...haha!

Here is a colored flashcard's front. It just shows the character, and if there is a simplified version of it, I also put it on the right bottom corner. Might be useful sometime to also know about them.

On the back of the card, there is the pronounciation of the character and the most important words for which this character is used. I try to learn them all. I use to find all the different meanings.

The stacks don't have a special order. Actually I shuffle them from time to time, so that I don't just remember them because I know their sequence by heart already.

The two white stacks have the following purpose. One of the stack is my blank stack. It contains some blank cards, and whenever I want to say something but I don't know how to say it, I will write it down and the next Chinese speaking person that doesn't run fast enough will be interrogated. Most of the time that is my friend Curis or my girlfriend. Thanks for helping me so much! The other stack is just normal English to Chinese vocab. I will read the English vocabulary and will try to remember what is the Chinese expression for that. This is how I study the new vocabulary of my Chinese book.

Yeah, now you know about my Chinese flahscard system. Hope you might get a little inspired by it! :)

Bye, Sebastian