Dave and I have been working on learning some basic Mandarin phrases in preparation for our trip. I have borrowed every resource available from the library. However, the best program I have found for learning the language on our own has been Fluenz. This is a software program, written with a business person or traveler in mind: the goal is to help you learn phrases and words that will help you the most when trying to communicate while traveling. To complement Fluenz and make sure we are saying the tones correctly, we found a Mandarin language tutor in our area who is originally from Taiwan. She has taught us phrases to help us order off the menu at restaurants, shop at night markets, buy train tickets and ride the subway, and also understand numbers and currency. The Fluenz program teaches some phrases that are more formal than what would be spoken in Taiwan, and having a language tutor from Taiwan has been helpful in learning these differences. Will we be fluent by the time we leave for Taiwan? No – definitely not. But we are more confident about our language skills and hope we can communicate with people in Taiwan on a basic level.