I have now been in Taipei, Taiwan for about a month. I currently go to school at National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center. Although it is comparatively more difficult here, I am pretty sure there are immediate and long term positive effects. What makes it more difficult is the certain changes in the environment that requires time to get familiar with.
One such change is reliant on the fact that I am located in a college for learning Chinese as a second language. So, instead of English being the connecting language between the students, it’s Chinese. This, of course, contributes to the pursuit of learning Chinese. Especially with such a diverse population of backgrounds in Hispanic, South East Asian, Caribbean, European, etc.
The second change is the increase in the difficulty of the subject. Not only are the classes only in Chinese with no English supplementary learning, but there is also the added hurdle of picking up on traditional Chinese characters. Despite the seemingly inane reasoning behind the increase in complexity of characters, at least in the future, the writing can not get more complex.
Lastly, there is a change of pace in the classroom that does not accommodate for the difference in familiarity. Even if theoretically, this sounds daunting, the actual execution makes way for faster learning and renewed efforts to learn. Even if I currently do not have a very thorough experience under this new environment, I am pretty sure that I am learning at a faster rate now.
All in all, I feel like this summer semester in Taipei will provide me with valuable opportunities to practice Chinese. Especially when considering the factors that facilitate language development, I have little doubt that I would reach a higher fluency in the given time. Additionally, with so much time in Taiwan, there is also the opportunity to build cultural knowledge that would lend itself to understanding the intricacies of the Chinese language.
Ander Tebbutt, BAccy 2022
Sigur Center 2019 Asian Language Fellow
National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan