Simplified or traditional?

Hi LTL friends! I’m a brand new student starting with zero knowledge of Mandarin at all. I took an introduction class years ago and I remember that pinyin exists… This is the extent of my Mandarin knowledge. It’s very sad for two reasons:

  1. I’m half Chinese. I grew up in an English-speaking city and never learned the language. :frowning:
  2. My partner is Taiwanese and speaks fluent Mandarin. His family does not speak English at all.

I’d like to surprise my partner and learn enough Mandarin to navigate Taiwan and hold a solid conversation with his family, so I set a goal to work my way through the HSK… But then I realized that Taiwan actually uses the TOCFL and traditional characters, while the HSK generally uses simplified writing. I’ve already got the HSK1 books!

Does it make sense to work through LTL’s traditional character curriculum while “following along” with the HSK books? I really like the idea of keeping track of my progress with the HSK, because it’s harder to find TOCFL books and materials where I live. But I also see that it could be confusing as a beginner to use both sets of characters as I study. What do you think, forum?

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Hey Kat, welcome to the LTL forum :star_struck:

I love your reasons for studying the language. Family is such a great motivator that I can also relate to, having an Italian wife.

I couldn’t communicate with my mother-in-law once upon a time but having studied Italian (and her English) + a lot of time together, we can speak about most things and it’s such a great feeling to be able to do so.

The surprise you have in mind is beautiful and it’ll be enough to motivate your journey, which is a huge hurdle for many language learners.

Regarding your studies, I would indeed go through the Traditional Mandarin curriculum with Flexi Classes. Ignore HSK and TOCFL. You aren’t learning the language to pass an exam (at least to my knowledge), you are learning it to communicate with people.

I’ve never taken a language exam myself and don’t think I ever will. The beauty of language is in the communication with native speakers. Although of course these exams have their merits and allow people to prove their level for jobs/education etc.

With that being said, there is no harm in tracking your progress with your HSK books and learning both simplified and traditional together. If you learn both as you go, you’ll start to see patterns which may help. I’m not a teacher so take this advice with a pinch of salt, but I think it might be a cool way to learn both.

I would put the main focus on speaking and running through the LTL traditional curriculum though, and then every so often take a glance at your HSK books.

Hope this helps - and remember. This is just my thoughts, I’m a fellow student, others may have different views!


Double everything Max mentions. Focusing on traditional is def the way to go for Taiwan, but taking both classes works. I take just simplified with LTL but on weekends I take in person Taiwan sponsored classes. It’s very interesting to see how not only characters differ but some words are pronounced differently etc… have fun with the journey and be patient :slight_smile:

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