I am 25 years old and from the Netherlands. I have recently been to Taiwan and love the country. Previously, I have studied Mandarin in Shanghai and Beijing and am currently working towards HSK3 (lower-intermediate level).
I have experienced that, although you have a certain grade in Mandarin, your fluency and understanding of the language can still lack behind.
Therefore, I am planning to go do Taiwan for one-year of full-time studying and learning Mandarin. My idea is to immersive myself as much as possible in the language, and also want to find a host family, to further accelerate my learning.
I will go together with a friend, and we have promised eachother that upon landing in Taiwan, we will only speak Mandarin.
Could you give me some pointers on the following:
- Good language schools in Taiwan (important: intenisity, immersion, HES scholarship institution).
- Ways of finding host families.
Me and and my friend want to be in an environment that will accelerate our learning, so we want it to be as immersive as possible. We are willing to live anywhere in Taiwan.
If you have any recommendations or experiences please let us now!
Thanks a lot, Pieter
whats not immersive about living in a mandarin speaking country? speak with the locals, make local friends, watch tv, read the menus ect. shouldn’t be too difficult…
Thanks for your reply. Living in the country is obviously already immersive, so it is about maximising immersion. Where would we have the most opportunities of speaking and learning? In the North or the South for example. Living with a host family or living in a dormitory.
I’d say get away from busy Taipei where most people are too busy or their house is too small to invite you over for intimate conversations with the family.
I say pick a smaller town in Central or South or Eastern Taiwan that you like and then try to engage more with the local community and make friends and maybe get to hang out on a daily basis. Southern Taiwan people are more warm easygoing and friendly and people outside of Taipei are more inclined are invite you home or to events.
And then just jump into random activities like a cooking class or a dancing class or a badminton meet up or church or whatever even if you don’t like it and don’t care, just go.
Taipei is okay and great for basic learning but once you get to a certain level you get tired of talking to the waiter and waitress and Taxi Driver about random stuff. Get to smaller towns and you’ll have a lot more interesting experiences. People have more time especially older people and you can talk about almost anything and get invited to almost any kind of activity.
Kaohsing would be okay but there’s an active expat Community and you might get hung up with them. Tainan has expat Community but not as much. Or even go smaller to some interesting Community somewhere.
I’ve heard that intensive course of taiwan university’s language center is really intensive.
I don’t know how to find a good host family. I think many foreign students share an apartment with local students.
If you don’t want locals understand/speak some English, south may be better.
There are host families around but I think they mostly work with universities in other countries to have a formal exchange, not just letting random people into their home.
I think there’s some websites but I don’t know them.
My circle of friends in Kaohsiung speak taiwanese to each other as opposed to mandarin which has slowed my uptake of mandarin. A lot of families will talk taiwanese to each other here. My brain can’t handle trying to learn two new languages at the same time. Although I find taiwanese easier to pronounce than mandarin.
yea as knob said, the flipside of living in the south is more taiwanese is spoken.
people are always gonna suggest not living in taipei(for learning chinese) due to staff in McDonalds and Starbucks speaking to you in english, their being more foreigners than the rest of the country (but still jack shit compared to the other asian country’s we are surrounded by) and the usual isolating small towns being more immersive theory’s. i think people make more of a big deal out of it than it really is.
taipei is fine for using chinese. people are not going to have a problem with it because most of them feel nervous about using english anyway. go south if you want better weather and prefer using scooters instead of modern public transport.
Go to Taichung, Ilan, Hualien, or Taitung.
I’d say Kaohsiung or Pingtung or Tainan, but like the others, your roommates may speak more Taiwanese.
Do not do a host family. You may have obligations to do things with them, or even speak/teach them English.
Find local roommates of college or post-college age. Easy to find room-for-rent ads when you arrive.
Join local recreation activities like cycling, hiking, etc. for example, local hiking clubs in all cities go on day trips over the weekends by bus somewhere. You most likely being the only foreigner will have all kinds of conversations with locals. That is just one example.
Screw schools. Nothing beats living in the native language country. I went to a Korean university for 6 months (taught language the wrong way). After I left the school and worked in Korea and spoke, read and wrote Korean for a few years I became fluent. But I spoke Korean 99% of the time.
Chase girls. Work with people who don’t speak English. Have fun - that is the best way to learn.
I am currently doing a quick tour of Taiwan Mandarin Schools and Universities, as I am planning the same thing as you. I went to Kaohsiung, Taipei and Hualien and talked to various language centres. Tzu Chi University in Hualien is my pick for four reasons. No visa runs, it’s really cheap, and Hualien County is a beautiful place with no air pollution.
I loved my time at Tzu Chi and in Hualien. There are innumerable opportunities to speak/listen to Mandarin; my opinion is that your progress depends more on you, on your own determination to use the language, than on outside forces. Sure, there will always be clerks and such who insist on using English, but there are still millions of other people in Taiwan who won’t, or who will switch to Chinese after they exhaust their stock of English. Good luck and enjoy!
Thanks for your reaction! Why would visa runs be necessary, wouldn’t you get a student visa for the duration of your course?
Thanks for your message, I totally agree. It is was I have experienced myself too. I spoke more Chinese with my Chinese colleague in Amsterdam, than I did with people in Shanghai.
I will do both, schools and living in the native country. As for working with people goes, we are planning to do some community work.
Thanks for your reply!
Thanks for your message! Yeah we will probably go to Hualien, also based on themudpicker’s comments. Your comment on host families is something we hadn’t thought of, good point!
Hello again Pieter
At both language schools and universities you can apply for a student visa before you arrive. At both you will get a student visa if you have enrolled and paid upfront for a semester, and also have evidence of sufficient funds for your stay. However, if you study at a language school your maximum stay is 180 days, and that will depend on your passport origin, and how many hours you do p/w (minimum 15 hrs p/w). At a university you can apply for an ARC after four months of continuous study (min. 15 hrs p/w), and never have to leave and come back as you would at any language school. A lot of schools will be accredited by the MOE, but only universities will allow you to apply for an ARC.
This is why I will go to Tzu Chi. They make it easier when it comes to visa applications, and were very helpful and knowledgable in this regard.
I found TLI (Taipei Language Institute) to be a really valid system. I tried quite a few schools/language centers and actually I can say that the majority aren’t really focused on your learning but rather on your money. TLI has their own books and teaching system which is mostly concentrated on conversational mandarin and gaining knowledge on new vocabulary and correct frasing order. There isn’t much writing unless you join that specific class with that specific intent. The fee if I remember correctly is 11k ntd per month for a 3h daily class (5 ppl per class on average) or 30k per 3 months if you purchase the package all at once.
They first will access your chinese by talking to you and place you in the correct class.
I suggest trying it out for a month to check out if the method they use suits you.
Good luck in your journey.
OK, now the facts…LOL
Immersion is not the fastest way to get a new language. You have no idea what most things mean. You want a situation where there is a balance between getting new language and being told what the heck it means. That’s usually about 85-15 or 90-10 (Chinese to explanations in your native or fluent language that you can understand).
Virtually all language schools in Taiwan are completely alike. Same approach, same books and materials in many cases. Slight variations in class size or tuition cost or location. Tuition and class size may vary with time or availability at the same school, too.
So bottom line: pick a school that’s convenient and fits your budget. Show up to class all the time. Find one where the materials and teacher will explain things in a language you already understand well. That’s about the best you can do in Taiwan at the moment IMO.
I agree with the people who suggest going to the south and more off the beaten path, and with the OPs idea of living with a host family. I would not think too much about wether its a Taiwanese or Mandarin environment. I learned my Mandarin in a town in China that is not Mandarin speaking. I got full immersion however as no one in the town or in the family I lived with spoke any English. I didnt need any of it to be explained to me in English, I got it from context, and from asking what words and phrases meant, they just explained in Chinese what stuff meant. If you are in a place where people can speak more English they are more likley to talk to you in English from the start and switch to English when you get stuck.