Scot Details his Journey of Learning Chinese in Taiwan

Background and Initial Approach

Fraser Stewart, a former patent examiner from Scotland, embarked on a new journey when he moved to Taiwan to pursue a career in teaching English. In 2008, during a visit to China with his ex-wife, Fraser delved into the realm of learning Chinese. His methodical approach centered around immersing himself in reading and writing the most common characters of the Chinese language.

  • Started learning Chinese in 2008 during a visit to China
  • Focused on reading and writing common characters
  • Did not use flashcards or spaced repetition techniques

Fraser discovered that the ability to recognize and write characters significantly enhanced his communication skills and allowed him to differentiate between words that might appear similar. Opting out of conventional methods like flashcards or spaced repetition, he dedicated his efforts to continuous reading, writing, and practical application of the language.

Transition to Traditional Characters

Transitioning to life in Taiwan, Fraser made a shift from simplified to traditional characters by immersing himself in a Chinese version of “Wind in the Willows” and diligently referencing a dictionary for unfamiliar characters. Despite facing challenges in writing compared to reading, he persisted in honing both aspects of the language. In his learning journey, Fraser received invaluable support from his ex-wife, who engaged him in rigorous pronunciation exercises focusing on tones, an area that he initially struggled with but acknowledged as crucial for mastering accurate pronunciation.

Having achieved proficiency in Chinese, Fraser now navigates his daily life in Taiwan with ease, seamlessly communicating with locals, landlords, bank representatives, and colleagues in Mandarin. His language proficiency not only facilitates his personal interactions but also enhances his professional endeavors as an English teacher, where effective communication with non-English-speaking peers is fundamental.

Reflecting on his learning experience, Fraser recognizes the significance of early tonal emphasis for pronunciation refinement. He acknowledges that a greater emphasis on this aspect in the initial stages could have expedited his language learning process. Fraser’s journey underscores the importance of language immersion and the continual pursuit of improvement through diverse language exposure, interactive conversations, and ongoing study.

In summary: Fraser Stewart’s dedication to mastering Chinese through a character-focused approach, language practice, and eventual immersion in Taiwanese daily life underscores the enduring commitment to continuous learning and improvement.

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