In an attempt to increase our interactions with the local people and culture and make the most of our time in Taiwan, we have been studying Chinese for the past year. We study with private tutors two hours a day, two times a week. But, let me tell you, Chinese is one difficult language to learn.
After a year, it is still sometimes a struggle for me to explain what I want to the Taiwanese. This often ends up in a very discouraged, near-tears Sarah. Throw in our inability to read Chinese characters and we’ve got an even bigger problem. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to not understand what someone is saying, only for them to grab a piece of paper and write it down in characters. If I cannot understand what you say, I won’t be able to read it in the hugely complicated system of writing. Every day, though, with the help of others, this problem lessens.
Thanks to our tutor, we can read bopomo, the phonetic transcription of Mandarin used in Taiwan. I believe this helps with our pronunciation and our basic understanding of characters. E had the genius idea of writing a lot of yellow sticky notes using the bopomofo transcription of Mandarin words for common household items. These are stuck around our house, helping us to learn the new vocabulary. It’s a slow process, but we are getting there.