Coming to Taiwan in order to learn Mandarin Chinese is an experience that I never could have imagined for myself when I was younger, but it’s gladly working out in my favor. However, it is admittedly not an easy journey. Back home, I’ve been learning Chinese from a mainland, Beijing perspective. If you know anything about the Chinese spoken in China, you’d know that their are 10 different dialects of Chinese, many that are so different that they have been considered their own languages. The Chinese spoken on Taiwan is arguably just as different. Of course, I can communicate and understand well enough in order to live comfortably day-to-day, and I’ve improved much more since the first week, but it’s quite obvious to local Taiwanese that I was not taught their version of Chinese once I speak and use a Beijing accent and colloquial phrases. Therefore, I believe the most challenging aspect of this language immersion program is the subtle differences between the dialects of Chinese and knowing which ones to use in certain situations.
Despite this minor roadblock, my Chinese has greatly improved and I have gained a better understanding of linguistics and traditional Chinese. Not only do I get the three hour class of spoken Chinese everyday, but I also get the opportunity to have a language exchange partner and practice my Chinese while making a lifelong, local friend. Speaking of the three hour class, the typical class period for most college students at NTU is in fact three hours per period. Multiply that by two or three more classes and you have a workload that is infamous for how stressful it is. In fact, the academic culture here compared to the U.S is rigorous beyond belief. With a high population, competition to get into the best schools and jobs is always at its highest, therefore, it’s rather normal to see junior high and high school kids going to “cram school” right after their regular school for 3+ more hours in order to get better grades.