Edit: This mission has ended – I reached a lower intermediate level of Mandarin after 3 months and used it to successfully travel China and interview people! This video shows the level I had just before leaving Asia.
As explained in the video, I’m currently in Taipei, Taiwan, and this is day one of my mission to speak fluent Mandarin in 3 months!
That’s fluency as in being able to do most of what I can do in English, in social situations in Mandarin. I’ll still make some mistakes, but I won’t hold up the flow of conversations (on either my side or the person I’m talking to) i.e. conversational fluency rather than professional level fluency. (Or something along the lines of level C1, specifically for the oral component of the European Common Framework of languages testing system, although I don’t plan to sit any tests this time).
As always, I’ll update you with videos as I progress, starting with a quick look at my home in a week or two, which I’ll be giving on camera entirely in Mandarin (with a script prepared in advance), and hopefully ending with a spontaneous interview with a native at the end of March! This is coming from a start point of only knowing “ni hao” as I boarded my flight!
And yes, I will be incorporating reading abilities into this mission, as I’d otherwise be illiterate, and not able to function socially. My priority will be to be able to read menus and signs, but soon after, I do want to be able to get the gist of almost anything I see, with an effortless ability to recognise the most common 1,500 symbols (about half of what most people would consider the number needed to be proficient, so I won’t call my reading abilities fluent). For this mission I won’t go as far as to try to be able to read the likes of full newspaper articles beyond headlines, as that will take too much focus away from my main spoken objective.[Edit: People are suggesting that I focus on the first 500, as that will be enough for my purposes and the extra work would take away too much from my spoken mission, so I may stick to just 500 to start with and see from there if I’ve learned quickly enough to learn some more.]
Also note that I am learning traditional Chinese, which is used in Taiwan and not the simplified one (used in mainland China), further complicating the reading aspect of the mission! The good news is that this investment will make it easier to learn simplified Chinese, and even read Japanese, whenever I decide to go in that direction for a later mission.
I chose Taiwan, rather than mainland China, because a communist country with many Internet restrictions do not work well for someone who is a full time blogger, and an outspoken loudmouth in what he writes about (Yes, there are workarounds to access some sites, but they seem rather annoying and inconvenient to apply all the time, and I’d be breaking the law and doing it publicly). Also, I’ve had no bureaucracy at all to get a passport stamp on arrival (no visa) to stay for 3 months, which is not going to happen in China. Also, for the reason given above, I’d prefer to start with traditional rather than simplified Chinese.
But forgetting about such nitty gritty things, the real reason I’ve come here is because I’ve heard so many good things about the Taiwanese people, and have met a few in my travels and wanted to get to know the country and culture much better! So here I am
Having said that, I will still definitely visit China for a week or two, possibly immediately after this mission.
I don’t ever consider my language missions to be linguistic objectives, but rather social ones. Everything I work on will be for the purpose of improving my ability to interact with the Taiwanese and ultimately have deep friendships, without limiting myself just to those who speak good English as too many expats would.
I plan to use all the techniques discussed in depth in the Speak from day 1 & Language Hacking Guide package, however, I will make regular updates about how I’m tackling issues specific to Chinese, and if I have really good ideas I’ll make videos about them to add some to the blog and most to the Speak from Day 1 series.
As you can see, I’ve already got some material I’ll use to help me learn, and I’ll be sure to keep you up to date and let you know which books or other resources I’d recommend!
Thanks for reading along, and I hope to successfully reach fluency in Mandarin in 3 months! Any thoughts, or advice? Let me know in the comments below!