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Best Alternative to Study Chinese in Taiwan?


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Hi everyone,

Firstly- I'm grateful to find this website. As a resident of New York, to find such useful information about a continent on the other side of the globe is an incredible feat. I appreciate everybody's willingness to contribute to the growing site.

While I'm not exactly sure if this topic belongs in this sub-forum, I wasn't sure where else to place it. I'm currently a junior in college (in the States) who is interested in going abroad to study Chinese. At my university, I enrolled in a Chinese 1 introductory class but didn't fare well due to pledging a fraternity... I regret the decision in placing my life around Greek Life and now would like a second stab at learning the language. Currently, I'm interested in applying to Tunghai's Winter Semester (February-June) in Taichung, Taiwan, but was wondering if there are any other-perhaps, better- alternatives around in China. I've looked at the Normal University as well as BLCU but decided that those programs aren't the best for me as I need a non-distracting environment with a staff that's willing to put pressure on me to learn (I really preferred to attend the CET Beijing program but applied too late). I'm looking exclusively to study from any time from January to June but the options seem limited, especially with the time needed to apply.

Are there any alternatives as of this time that might be better than Tunghai Uni in Taiwan or is that my best bet?

Also, if anybody has personal reviews or experiences in attending Tunghai, that would be great.



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If you are going to study in Taiwan, Taichung is probably the 2nd best option for you (behind Taipei)... the reason being is that the further away from Taipei you get in Taiwan, the more Taiwanese and less Mandarin is spoken.

If you are looking for a good place in Mainland China to study, I've heard good things about Zhejiang University in Hangzhou

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I was in Tunghai fall '89. [Yes, '89, that's not a type-o :P]

I picked that program because it was one of the few (if not the only) programs that allowed you to live in the standard dorms (at that time). If they still do that, I highly recommend the program. I think living in the dorms was the best part of the program. [The dorms themselves, however, were not the best. But you're young, and you can survive. And I hope they've been upgraded since then.]

I assume you are planning on enrolling in the Chinese-for-foreigners program there, not in regular classes?

Don't worry about Taiwanese. Pretty much everyone speaks Mandarin. The only exception you might encounter is an occasional person that grew up in Taiwan pre-1949.

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Thanks for the prompt replies, much appreciated.

jbradfor- 1989 was a while ago (~20 years ago!). I'm actually unsure if I should decide to reside in dorm housing... while I know that my Chinese would become improved from living with 3 or 4 other students, I barely have any Chinese language under my belt and I'm not sure if I'd be comfortable with constantly living around other students (though I may reconsider). I am planning to enroll in the Chinese-for-foreigners program (the CLC to be exact)... from your recollection, what was your general experience with the classes themselves? They offer group classes and individual classes... did it require much self-discipline to pick up the language or did the staff also put constant pressure on you to memorize chapter lessons? I would be staying from Feb- June so I'm hoping that I get a lot accomplished in that time though I also know that I'd need some sort of system that makes sure I stay diligent in my studies.

Any other experiences with the program would be very helpful as well. I've looked at Taipei and Zhejiang though I'm not sure they have open scheduling for my exact timeline.

Thanks once again-


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When I took the program, it was done as an exchange program through Dartmouth (no, I did not go there); it's probably done differently now. They had only group classes, about 4-7 students per class. We had 3-4 hours of class per day, 5 days a week. I remember we had classes in newspaper reading and 文言文 -- I remember those 'cause they kicked my butt. I think we also had conversation, writing (by hand!! the horror!), and something else. I thought the classes were taught well. The teachers were the standard PYT that seems to be most Chinese language teachers, good accent, knew how to teach. It was a small class, so if you weren't prepared it was pretty obvious. There were several groups of students, each group taking the same classes together, so I assume they grouped people by ability.

I like Taichung. Back when I was there it was the vice capital of Taiwan; I have heard it has changed since then. [bTW, it's not nice to remind me how long ago it was :P.] It's a good sized city, big enough to have lots to do, but not overwhelming (like Taibei can be). I have heard that it is now the arts center of Taiwan, which is nice. The university itself is a bit out of town, but there are plenty of buses or taxis, and I've heard the city has grown so it's not quite so out of town as it was. It's also the home of Boabo (sp?) tea.

while I know that my Chinese would become improved from living with 3 or 4 other students, I barely have any Chinese language under my belt and I'm not sure if I'd be comfortable with constantly living around other students (though I may reconsider).

IMHO, all the more reason to live in the dorm. [bTW, it was 5 other students, plus me.] I went after have two years of university study, which I think is a good amount. If you have less, I agree that you will likely have some struggle to communicate if you live in the dorms. However, by the same token, if you don't have much language yet, and you don't live in the dorm, I expect that you will not make much more progress than you would if you stay in the US.

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Taichung would definitely be less of a distraction. Given what you said about constant pressure and wanting to avoid distractions it is my advice that you do not come to Beijing. I have seen too many young people come here and waste time in Wudaokou or elsewhere in the city. I saw something similar at Shida in Taipei.

With that said, in the right program (CET, ICLP, IUP, etc) you will have a lot of pressure... maybe more than you really want. I'm serious when I say that because I had classmates at ICLP who said they wanted pressure -- and then cracked under it when they realized they'd have to spend 3-4 hours in class everyday followed by the same amount of time on homework and lesson preparation, not to mention weekly essays. Frankly, those of us in grad school and those professionals who joined the program (and needed the language to keep their job) already knew what we were in for, while most of the undergrads (or recently graduated undergrads) did much better in a separate group of ICLP classes created for them.

It sounds to me like the Taichung program would be good for you. It is not an environment that will distract you with lots of other foreigners dragging you out to the bars and western food every night, and the immersion might help you improve quickly at least in spoken Chinese. Finally, I can't confirm this so take it with a grain of salt, but I have heard that programs in Taiwan tend to put more pressure on their students - and I'm not just speaking about my classroom experience. I heard that at Shida and TLI, the smaller classes are taken seriously (< 8 people). The only way to know what your program will be like, however, is to ask the school or program if you can speak to other foreigners who were in the program previously.

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