12
Mar
10

Learning Chinese

So the summer long ago that I spent studying Chinese at Cheng Da, I indulged my nerdiness by enjoying the benefits of my library card.  (The library had a lovely sculpture of a swooping flutist in front of it at the time, too, which I’m kicking myself for not photographing).  With strong A/C, the library was a lovely modern space with some neat spaces to lounge about in the company of books.  I also had my first exciting experience with sliding stacks, which were quite cool.

Anyway, in addition to reading up on film criticism and helping my cousin with his research on Psycho and Gaslight (neither of which, I’m sorry to say, I was brave enough to watch on my own in the typhoon storminess of that summer…  What can I say, I’m a film-wuss, and too highly impressionable for my own good…  Where was I?  Oh, yes, in addition…), I looked up all the how-to-learn Chinese books there.  I already had a bit of a collection that I was studying on my own before going to Cheng Da and studying from the Shida book that is standard university Chinese fare in Taiwan (in spite of being kind of ancient).  However, being a bit of a research nerd, I came across this book:

It is probably out of print, and its phonetics are not hanyu pin-yin.  However, being a bo-po-mo-fo learner myself (which I think tends to make pronunciation better, though it has its confusing bits too), this wasn’t an impediment for me.  This is more of a character-writing book, with nice charts of radicals and their meanings as endpapers.  Also, I was delighted to discover that the author had a sense of humor, as evidenced by the entry for the character of “ghost,” which as evidenced by the blue dot, I was not the first reader to note:

Seriously speaking, I’m a fan of studying character etymology, and I don’t think it’s just because I’m an etymology language nerd.  I think the contextualization of why/how characters came to be is helpful in remembering them.  At Cheng-Da, there was a class with pretty pictures that showed the evolution of characters.  Back in the US, on a few rare occasions, my mom used to teach me calligraphy, though all I really remembered was fairly basic.  I practiced my characters with calligraphy in Taiwan too, just to make it a bit more fun and involve more gross-motor movement to try to remember them better.  Haven’t touched my calligraphy set for a while, and am not very confident that I remember all my characters that well.  Spent many an afternoon at my grandfather’s house that summer, practicing characters, which unfortunately tended to make me nod off a bit with all the repetition.  My piano teacher could probably vouch that I’m not so good with repetition.

However, I did have a fun experience at Cheng-Da in Tainan that summer, and was a huge fan of my teacher and our class.  It was a friendly department, and I would recommend it for other prospective students.

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9 Responses to “Learning Chinese”


  1. March 22, 2010 at 11:32 am

    cheng da is a really beautiful university 🙂

  2. 3 Lon
    March 26, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Your class was a huge fan of you too! In my experience, studying characters seems kind of boring until you force yourself into a routine, then you can get to that relaxed zen-like state. Kind of like doing calligraphy, but easier. 加油! 🙂

    ~Lon

  3. 5 LC
    March 29, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    You should say you are learning how to speak Mandarin 北京語and how to write Han Characters 漢字.

  4. November 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Wow I can’t believe I stumbled onto a blog with pictures of NCKU! I’ve studied at NCKU for four years now after returning from the US, and I absolutely love it here. Really glad to know that I’m not alone in appreciating this beautiful campus =)

  5. December 30, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    I have that book. I bought it in 2003, but didn’t get far in my studies at that time. When I showed my Taiwanese wife (who is a teacher), she said: “this is not a good book”. I think she is a little biased. It contains humor and mnemonics that appeal to the western learner. She gives me elementary school books to practice writing.


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