Greetings from Tainan, Taiwan! This is the first time I am updating my blog since coming here. The program is definitely keeping me busy, but I am having a great time and learning a lot.
When I first stepped in Taiwan I was hit with a wall of bustling streets and humidity. Taiwan has shops lining the streets, each with their own charm and delicious smelling food. There are also a lot of stationery stores, clothing stores, and everything in between.
Before I left for Taiwan, a lot of my friends told me about Taiwanese hospitality. I never thought I would get to experience it first-hand, but a lot of people have been very polite and encouraging of the students here to keep practicing speaking Chinese. There has not been a moment that I felt insecure for not knowing a word or phrase. Everyone is very welcoming here and is willing to help out with improving your Chinese skills!
In order to officially start our program at National Cheng Kung University, we had to take a placement exam to test our Chinese abilities (reading, writing, speaking, and reading comprehension). It was nerve-wracking but we were able to find out our placements later that weekend.
Our class sizes are a good size for instruction. It feels very personal and the teachers here do their best to help their students understand the class material. In the morning, we have 一對一課 (one-on-one class) with a teacher who helps us improve our reading and speaking abilities. After one-on-one class we have 大課一 (first big class), where all of our level’s students meet and get instruction on that day’s vocabulary and grammar. 大課二 is drilling class where we must apply the new grammar and vocabulary into our responses. Our last class of the day is 討論課, or discussion class. I enjoy this class the most because we discuss current and relevant topics happening in the world.
Depending on the day of the week, we also will have 文化課, or culture class. There are many different classes such as Mahjong, Chinese chess, and Taiwanese Language. All of the classes are very interesting and engaging.
Overall, I really enjoy the classes at this program! I feel they are effective, and the teachers encourage us to do our best every day.
Language Policy and Challenges
At the start of the first week of classes we agreed to a language policy, encouraging us to only use Chinese to communicate. It sounds very intimidating at first, but once we got into the swing of classes it wasn’t very hard to use Chinese to communicate with teachers, classmates, and Tainan locals. Speaking only in Chinese is definitely a challenge, but it will help to greatly improve your language skills in the end.
Another challenge I had was to assimilate into everyday Taiwanese life. I definitely stuck out as an American at first, but soon you learn the ways of how your city’s locals navigate their daily lives.
This past weekend, I had the privilege to stay with a host family in Yunlin County. Living with a host family gave me a preview of what everyday life is like in a Taiwanese family. My classmate was assigned the same family and they were very accommodating and patient when we were trying to explain our thoughts.
Our host family also brought us different famous places in Taiwan, such as Bai He, Pineapple Hill, and Whiteman Toothpaste Factory. They also took us to some traditional Taiwanese eateries in their neighborhood, all of which were very delicious. I found that Taiwanese food is a bit sweet compared to the Cantonese food I am used to eating at home.
By: Emili Yiu
Program: Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program, Tainan, Taiwan
Term: Summer 2019