Getting to Know My Language Partner

Other than studying for classes, the other major part of TISLP has been spending time with language partners. Our language partners are students at National Cheng Kung University who have agreed to spend the summer with TISLP participants, answering questions, helping with homework, and just hanging out with us.

My language partner’s name is You-Chen. I am constantly blown away by her kindness, generosity, and patience with my slow Chinese! I’ve been able to pick up bits of popular slang from her, such as 吃貨, the Chinese term for “foodie”—both of us enjoy trying new food, so it’s a very important term in our conversations. In fact, we went to Da Dong (大東) Night Market together this past week. Da Dong is one of the most popular night markets in Tainan, and a must stop if you’re ever in the city. I filled up on pan-fried dumplings, fried sweet potato balls, banana fried crepe, and of course, a Taiwanese street food favorite: two flavors of ice cream, peanut shavings, and cilantro, all wrapped up in a thin tortilla. I also got the chance to pick up some Sailor Moon stickers for my sister while there.

While we do love food, You-Chen and I have found that we share other interests as well. We both love history, so she’s been able to fill in a lot of the blanks in my knowledge of Taiwanese history. A couple of weeks ago, we visited the National Museum of Taiwan Literature. There was a special exhibit on traditional Taiwanese ghost stories there that I really wanted to check out. At the museum, I was impressed by her knowledge of Taiwanese and Chinese literature—I did not even need the digital audio tour that I had picked up in the lobby. I found out that in Taiwan it is generally required that college students take literature classes, something that I think would be good for American universities to adopt. Being the 吃貨 that we are, the trip wouldn’t have been complete without some mung bean ice afterwards at a nearby well known shop! I love Taiwanese mung bean desserts, so I’ve been having them in some form almost every day that I’ve been in Tainan.

We’ve also sampled a bit of American culture together, going to see the Incredibles 2. It turned out to be an appropriate mix of cultures, as the animated short at the beginning of the movie prominently featured an animated Chinese bun.

Thus far I have really enjoyed hanging out with You-Chen, and I’m excited for our future plans this summer. We intend to take pictures at the lake by Anping Tree House (安平樹屋) in dresses inspired by traditional Chinese clothing. I’m sure we’ll have lots of other opportunities to visit more museums, and of course, great restaurants.

By: Tiffany Barron

Program: Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program

Term: Summer 2018

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