The title looks scary, right?
One of the main reason for coming to Taiwan was because I want to improve my Mandarin, or Chinese as they call it here. I figured if I live here for long enough, I should be able to learn it much faster. After all, my mother, who was pretty much illiterate, went to England over half a century ago not speaking a word of English, and she ended up looking after our shop, chatting to customers and often passing on gossips that she picked up from them. So surely I should be able to achieve the same or even better in Taiwan.
在這裡住近半年，每天看電視和聽收音機，我發覺己中文確實有進步，有時不用很留心也能聽到內容。另外我發現語言交流真是超棒的學習方法。我兩個伴兒常幫我改正發音, 跟我解釋台灣文化及俚語好讓我更容易融入生活。在家裡我自己也有學習中文, 本來我是學漢語拼音, 因為它用英文字母, 對有英文底子的我應比較簡單。例如 Wǒ xiànzài zhù zài táiwān 是 我現在住在台灣。然而，我卻發現有時我習慣了的英語發音跟漢語拼音有些微不同，令到我有點困擾。
Nearly six months on, I think my Chinese has improved through watching lots of rather boring TV and listening to the radio. I also found myself a couple of language exchange partners which I think is the most wonderful idea. Both my partners have been great in helping me with my pronunciation and understanding the local culture and lingo. I am also learning at home myself. Originally I did it the easy way and used the Pinyin method which is using the roman alphabets to pronounce the Chinese words. For example, Wǒ xiànzài zhù zài táiwān is I live in Taiwan now. However, I found that sometimes I mixed up the English pronunciation with how it should sound under the Pinyin system so I wasn’t making much progress.
除此之外, 我選擇漢語拼音是因為另一個語音系統是ㄅㄆㄇㄈ，也即是注音符號。我第一次看見那幾十個不知是甚麼的符號時，真的嚇了一跳, 所以想也不想就朝使用相熟英文字母的漢語拼音飛撲過去！後來我發現原來那幾十個符號也不是那麼可怕。現在轉了學習系統後，我在一個星期內已學會全部符號，在認字方面幾星期的進展竟然大大超越之前幾個月前的進度。當然我還有漫漫長路要走，但好的開始就是成功的一半噢。
The other reason I went for the Pinyin system was because the alternative was Bopomofo ㄅㄆㄇㄈ ie the Zhuyin sytem taught in schools here. I took one look at the weird characters, immediately thought no way and ran a mile! Well you know what? Since I switched over to learning it, they’re not actually all that scary and I managed to learn them all within a week. I think I have made more progress in the last couple of weeks compared to the past few months combined. I still have a long way to go, but Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Over half a century ago my parents travelled from Hong Kong to England for a better future, but neither of them knew any English. My father had this teach yourself English guide which was published in 1947. It seems he spent a lot of time up to page 17 as the book is quite tired up to here, then I don’t know… Maybe he had to work and didn’t have time, or maybe his English started to improve. The effort and sacrifice by my parents and the opportunity they gave me, have now allowed me to make a reverse journey from England back to Asia. Only this time I have much less pressure than them as they’ve taken the brunt of the hard work years ago.
Thank you for all that you have done.