Taiwan has more than half of the century long history of teaching Chinese. According to the statistics from department of education, there’s at least 18 thousand foreigners come to Taiwan for learning Chinese.
Foundation for International Cooperation in Higher Education of Taiwan’s interview with Hsiang-Hua Chou, director of Chinese Language Center, Tamkang University clearly addresses the present situation. Chou thinks Taiwan has a unique advantage: the combination of language, culture and the daily life, which results in an excellent learning environment. Learning environment is crucial to the beginner. The teaching materials has to be closely related to the daily life, in order to make learning language a habit, as well as to build the firm language foundation.
The three interviewees taken by the Foundation for International Cooperation in Higher Education of Taiwan all agree with his point of view.
The blonde girl, Stephany Barnes came from Georgia, America. “I learned Chinese for one and a half year in the state, but I didn’t have chance to speak Chinese, so I decided to come to Taiwan.” Stephany majored in Japanese, and had Chinese as her elective course. A Taiwanese teacher recommended her to apply for the scholarship of National Chengchi University.
When she arrived Taiwan, she found herself with a problem: she couldn’t speak any Chinese.
“I went to convenient store to buy newspaper, and I remembered in Japan the newspaper should be taken by the clerk instead of grabbing it by myself. Therefore I wanted to ask the clerk whether I could get the newspaper to the checkout counter by myself.” Although she had learned Chinese for one and a half year, but she couldn’t come up with a logical sentence at the time. All she could do was accepting the clerk’s help in English with embarrassment.
Because of this experience, Stephany made up her mind to improve her Chinese speaking skills in the three months in Taiwan. She showed her progress during the interview. She could caught the meaning of the questions precisely, but also answered them in logical sentences with correct grammar. After a period of practice, she had completely get rid of the embarrassment she experienced three months ago.
The young man sat beside Stephany was Geraldo Bueno. He came to Taiwan in 2014. He didn’t have any Chinese learning experience like Stephany did. “I couldn’t speak a word in Chinese before I came to Taiwan.” Then why he decided to come? The humorous boy told us in fluent Chinese that everything started from a broadcast advertisement. “I got into a car jam when I was driving home after class, so I turned on the radio and heard about this ad, telling people to get the scholarship and come to Taiwan for studying.” He thought he was qualified, but he didn’t take it seriously until his classmate’s mother mentioned the program again, and encouraged him to give a try. He finally came up with the idea to go to Taiwan for learning Chinese.
The program Geraldo mentioned was “Dominican intense Chinese program” held by international corporation and development fund, ministry of foreign affair. It allows Dominican students to study language and get to know about Taiwan via one-year intense Chinese courses. The students will be study at the foreign language teaching resource center, Fu Jen Catholic, and they will be arranged into small scale classes, taught by a more solid teaching method.
After the program was finished, Geraldo chose to stay in Taiwan to attend classes at his own expense. He thought it was very worthy, “Learning Chinese is interesting, and the Taiwanese teachers’ teaching style are related to the daily life and easy to catch up.” The Vietnam student Pham Minh Trí strongly agreed with him.
Pham Minh Trí lived in Taiwan for three years, but he started to learn Chinese one year ago, and had a deep feeling about the differences between the days learning Chinese before and after.
Pham Minh Trí is now studying in Chinese Culture University. He runs a Youtubevideo program “Taiwan Insight” to introduce Taiwanese culture in his free time. His channel is popular with the Vietnam’s young generation. He also introduces himself as “A foreign student in Taipei; looking forwards to making more Taiwanese friends,” on Facebook. His passion for Taiwanese life is doubtless.
“I studied English Program of Global Business when I just came to Taiwan; the program is taught in English, so that it was okay not to learn Chinese, but I soon found out that Chinese was a must in Taiwanese life.” However, what made his mind to learn Chinese was the distance due to the language difference between him and his Taiwanese classmates.
“Although Taiwanese classmates were all friendly, but I couldn’t really get to know them, and all I could do was simple conversations. Therefore I thought I have to learn Chinese to fit into Taiwanese life.” This decision completely changed Pham Minh Trí’s overseas life. He got to share more and more thoughts with his classmates fluently and made good friends finally.
Pham Minh Trí chose to learn Chinese at Mandarin Training Center, National Taiwan Normal University at first, and then transferred to the language center of Shin Chien University because he attends Chinese Culture University. The enthusiasm and real life based teaching method drove up his Chinese skills in only one year. We almost thought he was a local student.
With excellent Chinese speaking skills, Geraldo is now preparing to apply department of applied Chinese language and culture, National Taiwan Normal University. “I think Chinese is really interesting and I hope to learn more about it!” The incidence two years ago brings up the passion and chance for Chinese learning to the young Dominican boy. In the future, after he gets familiar enough with Taiwanese culture, he may be one of those who promote Chinese teaching and learning.
Talking about the Chinese trend, Pham Minh Trí points out that Chinese teaching center in Vietnam becomes very common as the trend arises, but the quality is hard to control. Therefore, rather than staying in Vietnam, he recommends his classmates to come to Taiwan, where Chinese is the mother language, in order to build a firm foundation.
In fact, Vietnams’ young generation going studying abroad is a common phenomenon. Pham Minh Trí’s order brother has studied and worked in Shanghai for over ten years, and even been in a relationship with a Chinese girl. Many of his friends also studied in Canton and Hong Kong. “I didn’t want to be like them, so I chose Taiwan, and then I found out Taiwan was really suitable for studying.” He has visited his friends in other countries, and he’s sure that it’s relatively easy to strike a balance between having fun and studying in Taiwan with a variety of lifestyle. “Obviously I’ve made a very wise choice!”
Over the Pacific Ocean, Stephany tells us that American students’ first choice of second language is Spanish, and the second one is Chinese. Doubtlessly America and China will become even closer when it comes to politics and economics in the future. “If you are going to look for a job related to technology or business, learning Chinese is important.”
Nevertheless, Stephany points out that Chinese learning achievement in America is limited, just like her own experiences, “I’ve always wanted to try language exchange, but the Chinese students in my school were not interested in such a thing.” With strong determination, she thinks all she lacks of is the “last step,” which is going to Taiwan for learning Chinese. “The best way to learn a new language is to throw yourself into a completely new environment.”
Stephany finished the Chinese program for the season in November, 2015. She knew many friends from different countries; this was what she never experienced in America. “In America, people from the same country would gather together, and it was just hard to get along with friends from so many countries in one class.” This is also her first time to spend one of the most important days for American – Thanksgiving Day overseas instead of staying home with her families, but the living experiences in Taiwan also give her treasury memories with great appreciation. “I will come back to Taiwan again!”