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【Topic】Come to Taiwan for Learning Chinese—Combing Learning and Life into One

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“The reason why I come to Taiwan to learn Mandarin? If you’re a beginner, Taiwan is just right for you as it combines language and daily life into one.” We sat in Hsiang-Hua Chou’s renovated cozy classroom at Tamkang Language Center, interviewing him about his recommendation of learning Mandarin in Taiwan.

Hsiang-Hua Chou had background of international relationship, and he took over Tamkang Language Center as the chief director for 7 years. Chou had great understanding about the challenges foreign students would face while they were learning Mandarin. He thought the learning environments as the most crucial thing to the beginners. The language foundation could only be laid when learning became a habit as the teaching materials were strong connected to the daily life. “This could be our advantage comparing to those who also had Mandarin programs such as China,” Chou smiled.

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Hsiang-Hua Chou, the Chief Director of Tamkang Chinese Learning Center

The history of Mandarin teaching in Taiwan across half century

Does learning Mandarin in different countries matter a lot?

Doubtlessly the global “Mandarin trend” arose because of the economic rise of China. The world rushed to learn the second international language as it brought many business opportunities. In fact, Mandarin programs for foreigners had already been started in Taiwan in 1956. It was surely not the issue suddenly popped up in past ten years.

There were two language centers in Taiwan at times, National Taiwan Normal University Mandarin Training Center and Taipei Language Institute.

National Taiwan Normal University Mandarin Training Center (a.k.a. Mandarin Training Center) was founded in 1956. At the beginning there were only 12 students from America, Japan and Korea. The teachers all came from other departments of National Taiwan Normal University, as well as the textbooks published by Yale were taken as teaching materials. However, in these days, this place was called the origin of Mandarin teaching, having more than 50 times of number of students at the time it was founded. There were many outstanding Mandarin teachers graduated from National Taiwan Normal University, and it was also the first choice to foreign students concerning learning Mandarin in Taiwan.

Also in 1956, Taipei Language Institute was founded in State of New Jersey, and its counterparts in Taiwan was established in September, named Christian Language Institute at the time for training foreign missionaries in Taiwan. Its achievements in Mandarin teaching attracted many foreigners, so the name was changed to Taipei Language Institute in 1958 as the contract with US State Department was signed. Taipei Language Institute became the training center for foreign diplomatic personnel in Taiwan.

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The great history built firm foundation and innovation for Mandarin teaching, and made Taiwan stand out from Asian countries in the global Mandarin trend. The re-appointed prime minister of Australia, Kevin Michael Rudd studied China and the Mandarin culture in college. He even gave a Mandarin name to himself. The passion for Mandarin culture drove him to Taiwan for advanced language studies in 1980. The example of Kevin Michael Rudd proved Taiwan’s achievement in Mandarin teaching and the open-minded atmosphere. Taiwan had earned its place in global Mandarin teaching.

The innovation teaching style for students to build firm foundation

Dr. Chao-Min Shu graduated from graduate school of department of Chinese as a second language of National Normal University, and taught in department of Chinese language and literature of National Taitung University. He called his career “a beautiful misunderstanding” with a smile.

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Dr. Chao-Min Shu had been teaching Mandarin for more than ten years.

Chao-Min Shu was one of the first phD graduates from department of Chinese as a second language. Nevertheless he knew nothing about Mandarin teaching before graduate school. “I started teaching foreigners about Mandarin in my second year of graduate school. It gave me big shock as I got to know how foreigners perceived Taiwan and Mandarin, and I started to think about why people from different countries saw us in this way.” Shu still had the sparkles in his eyes when talking about his first experience although he had been teaching Mandarin for more than ten years.

When it came to advantages of learning Mandarin in Taiwan, Hsiang-Hua Chou and Chao-Min Shu all pointed out that the open-minded social atmosphere and brilliant teaching style, which made Mandarin learning a lot easier. “Mandarin characters are blocked pictograph, and this is exactly foreigners find it different and more difficult from phonograph,” Hsiang-Hua Chou emphasized. This was the reason why he recommended the beginners to learn in Taiwan. The unfamiliar language logic and cramming teaching methods would scare the beginners. “It would be very difficult for them to carry on,” he said.

There were still challenges for Mandarin teaching in Taiwan such as traditional/simplified character issue. Chao-Min Shu admitted that many students preferred simplified characters as they were easier to learn than the traditional. “However, according to studies and our own experiences, the time span for learning traditional and simplified characters is the same.” He claimed that simplified characters seemed to be easier, but there were actually no logic in the transformation between traditional and simplified characters as the pictogram and self-explanatory meanings were lost. Learning process would not be easy without logic.

%e5%9c%962_%e6%ad%a3%e9%ab%94%e5%ad%97_img_1417_fwebsite

“Both Taiwanese and Chinese teachers learned traditional and simplified characters fast.” According to his extensive experiences, Chao-Min Shu thought the quickest way to build Mandarin foundation was to learn the traditional characters first, and study their simplified counterparts later on. “Some teachers in Taiwan has already used the teaching method for simplified characters is the main stream after all, and we should provide students with what they need in the most efficient way!”

The most powerful support for teachers and students: the bold Mandarin teaching policy

The great teaching history, open-minded social atmosphere and innovative teaching methods were what Mandarin learning in Taiwan impressed foreign students. Moreover, people might not know that “Eight-year plan for Mandarin education industry achievements” held by the government from 2013 gave more supports to foreigner students in Taiwan. As the chief director of Tamkang Language Center, Hsiang-Hua Chou thought this plan very helpful for running the language canter. “The space for this interview was rebuilt according to demands of course, classroom and teachers, and it was actually supported by the plan.”

Chou was talking about the Taipei campus of Tamkang University, located on Yongkang Street, the prime location in Taipei city. It was the important base of adult education and Mandarin education. The interview was held under brilliant atmosphere. Laughter from the photos of activities and camps on the wall and students on the hallway went through the whole interview, showing the vitality of Mandarin teaching.

The eight-year plan not only sponsored teachers and students to come to Taiwan for language learning, also gave supports to teaching materials and methods. Most importantly, it held assessment for Mandarin education institutes. Those who passed the assessment earned “high quality badge” and continued to be testified to maintain the education quality. “The policy helps Mandarin teaching in Taiwan go to the world, it shows that our quality stands to any challenges.” Hsiang-Hua Chou identified the policy’s supports to both teachers and learners. It was no doubt a gift to students came to Taiwan for Mandarin studies.

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“Finally, I want to give the students another reason to study in Taiwan, that is, this island has everything they need, and the cost-performance ratio is high,” Chao-Min Shu banteringly grinned, “I do not brag about this. Such a small place has mountains, valleys, and all kinds of food. It is surrounded by the sea and very suitable for learning by playing.” He gave examples of his own students: the urban lovers stayed in Taipei and Kaohsiung City while some chose to be interns in eastern Taiwan as they were more interested in the nature and rural environments. One of his students, a surfing coach, even ran the surfing workshop in Hualien, and sharing the surfing knowledge with others while studying the new language.

Many of Hsiang-Hua Chou’s students also explored Taiwanese society and chose to be volunteers in different aboriginal tribes in their leisure time. At the end of the interview, Chou wanted to tell those hadn’t been to Taiwan, “learning Mandarin in Taiwan isn’t just about studying a new language but understanding the multi-culture in this country, and you may encounter the once-in-a-lifetime experiences no matter how long you choose to stay!”

Written by Chin-Hua Kuo

%e5%9c%960_%e9%80%a3%e7%b5%90%e5%b0%81%e9%9d%a2_img_1369_fwebsite

“The reason why I come to Taiwan to learn Mandarin? If you’re a beginner, Taiwan is just right for you as it combines language and daily life into one.” We sat in Hsiang-Hua Chou’s renovated cozy classroom at Tamkang Language Center, interviewing him about his recommendation of learning Mandarin in Taiwan.

Hsiang-Hua Chou had background of international relationship, and he took over Tamkang Language Center as the chief director for 7 years. Chou had great understanding about the challenges foreign students would face while they were learning Mandarin. He thought the learning environments as the most crucial thing to the beginners. The language foundation could only be laid when learning became a habit as the teaching materials were strong connected to the daily life. “This could be our advantage comparing to those who also had Mandarin programs such as China,” Chou smiled.

 

[caption id="attachment_12979" align="aligncenter" width="650"]%e5%91%a8%e6%b9%98%e8%8f%af_img_0534-fwebsite Hsiang-Hua Chou, the Chief Director of Tamkang Chinese Learning Center[/caption]

 

 

The history of Mandarin teaching in Taiwan across half century

Does learning Mandarin in different countries matter a lot?

Doubtlessly the global “Mandarin trend” arose because of the economic rise of China. The world rushed to learn the second international language as it brought many business opportunities. In fact, Mandarin programs for foreigners had already been started in Taiwan in 1956. It was surely not the issue suddenly popped up in past ten years.

There were two language centers in Taiwan at times, National Taiwan Normal University Mandarin Training Center and Taipei Language Institute.

National Taiwan Normal University Mandarin Training Center (a.k.a. Mandarin Training Center) was founded in 1956. At the beginning there were only 12 students from America, Japan and Korea. The teachers all came from other departments of National Taiwan Normal University, as well as the textbooks published by Yale were taken as teaching materials. However, in these days, this place was called the origin of Mandarin teaching, having more than 50 times of number of students at the time it was founded. There were many outstanding Mandarin teachers graduated from National Taiwan Normal University, and it was also the first choice to foreign students concerning learning Mandarin in Taiwan.

Also in 1956, Taipei Language Institute was founded in State of New Jersey, and its counterparts in Taiwan was established in September, named Christian Language Institute at the time for training foreign missionaries in Taiwan. Its achievements in Mandarin teaching attracted many foreigners, so the name was changed to Taipei Language Institute in 1958 as the contract with US State Department was signed. Taipei Language Institute became the training center for foreign diplomatic personnel in Taiwan.

%e5%9c%964_img_1362_fwebsite

 

 

The great history built firm foundation and innovation for Mandarin teaching, and made Taiwan stand out from Asian countries in the global Mandarin trend. The re-appointed prime minister of Australia, Kevin Michael Rudd studied China and the Mandarin culture in college. He even gave a Mandarin name to himself. The passion for Mandarin culture drove him to Taiwan for advanced language studies in 1980. The example of Kevin Michael Rudd proved Taiwan’s achievement in Mandarin teaching and the open-minded atmosphere. Taiwan had earned its place in global Mandarin teaching.

 

The innovation teaching style for students to build firm foundation

Dr. Chao-Min Shu graduated from graduate school of department of Chinese as a second language of National Normal University, and taught in department of Chinese language and literature of National Taitung University. He called his career “a beautiful misunderstanding” with a smile.

 

[caption id="attachment_12981" align="alignleft" width="650"]%e8%88%92%e5%85%86%e6%b0%91_img_0460-fwebsite Dr. Chao-Min Shu had been teaching Mandarin for more than ten years.[/caption]

 

 

Chao-Min Shu was one of the first phD graduates from department of Chinese as a second language. Nevertheless he knew nothing about Mandarin teaching before graduate school. “I started teaching foreigners about Mandarin in my second year of graduate school. It gave me big shock as I got to know how foreigners perceived Taiwan and Mandarin, and I started to think about why people from different countries saw us in this way.” Shu still had the sparkles in his eyes when talking about his first experience although he had been teaching Mandarin for more than ten years.

When it came to advantages of learning Mandarin in Taiwan, Hsiang-Hua Chou and Chao-Min Shu all pointed out that the open-minded social atmosphere and brilliant teaching style, which made Mandarin learning a lot easier. “Mandarin characters are blocked pictograph, and this is exactly foreigners find it different and more difficult from phonograph,” Hsiang-Hua Chou emphasized. This was the reason why he recommended the beginners to learn in Taiwan. The unfamiliar language logic and cramming teaching methods would scare the beginners. “It would be very difficult for them to carry on,” he said.

There were still challenges for Mandarin teaching in Taiwan such as traditional/simplified character issue. Chao-Min Shu admitted that many students preferred simplified characters as they were easier to learn than the traditional. “However, according to studies and our own experiences, the time span for learning traditional and simplified characters is the same.” He claimed that simplified characters seemed to be easier, but there were actually no logic in the transformation between traditional and simplified characters as the pictogram and self-explanatory meanings were lost. Learning process would not be easy without logic.

 

%e5%9c%962_%e6%ad%a3%e9%ab%94%e5%ad%97_img_1417_fwebsite

 

 

“Both Taiwanese and Chinese teachers learned traditional and simplified characters fast.” According to his extensive experiences, Chao-Min Shu thought the quickest way to build Mandarin foundation was to learn the traditional characters first, and study their simplified counterparts later on. “Some teachers in Taiwan has already used the teaching method for simplified characters is the main stream after all, and we should provide students with what they need in the most efficient way!”

 

The most powerful support for teachers and students: the bold Mandarin teaching policy

The great teaching history, open-minded social atmosphere and innovative teaching methods were what Mandarin learning in Taiwan impressed foreign students. Moreover, people might not know that “Eight-year plan for Mandarin education industry achievements” held by the government from 2013 gave more supports to foreigner students in Taiwan. As the chief director of Tamkang Language Center, Hsiang-Hua Chou thought this plan very helpful for running the language canter. “The space for this interview was rebuilt according to demands of course, classroom and teachers, and it was actually supported by the plan.”

Chou was talking about the Taipei campus of Tamkang University, located on Yongkang Street, the prime location in Taipei city. It was the important base of adult education and Mandarin education. The interview was held under brilliant atmosphere. Laughter from the photos of activities and camps on the wall and students on the hallway went through the whole interview, showing the vitality of Mandarin teaching.

The eight-year plan not only sponsored teachers and students to come to Taiwan for language learning, also gave supports to teaching materials and methods. Most importantly, it held assessment for Mandarin education institutes. Those who passed the assessment earned “high quality badge” and continued to be testified to maintain the education quality. “The policy helps Mandarin teaching in Taiwan go to the world, it shows that our quality stands to any challenges.” Hsiang-Hua Chou identified the policy’s supports to both teachers and learners. It was no doubt a gift to students came to Taiwan for Mandarin studies.

 

%e5%9c%963_%e5%a4%a7%e5%90%88%e7%85%a7_img_1418_fwebsite

 

 

“Finally, I want to give the students another reason to study in Taiwan, that is, this island has everything they need, and the cost-performance ratio is high,” Chao-Min Shu banteringly grinned, “I do not brag about this. Such a small place has mountains, valleys, and all kinds of food. It is surrounded by the sea and very suitable for learning by playing.” He gave examples of his own students: the urban lovers stayed in Taipei and Kaohsiung City while some chose to be interns in eastern Taiwan as they were more interested in the nature and rural environments. One of his students, a surfing coach, even ran the surfing workshop in Hualien, and sharing the surfing knowledge with others while studying the new language.

Many of Hsiang-Hua Chou’s students also explored Taiwanese society and chose to be volunteers in different aboriginal tribes in their leisure time. At the end of the interview, Chou wanted to tell those hadn’t been to Taiwan, “learning Mandarin in Taiwan isn’t just about studying a new language but understanding the multi-culture in this country, and you may encounter the once-in-a-lifetime experiences no matter how long you choose to stay!”

 

Written by Chin-Hua Kuo

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