Mon, Dec 27, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan ideal place to learn Chinese

FOREIGN-FRIENDLY The nation's safe environment and excellent teachers make Taiwan a better place to learn Mandarin than China, foreign students say


Many Chinese-language students think that Taiwan is a better place than China to learn the language, given Taiwan's safer environment and better teachers, among other reasons.

Febrana Tanudjaja, an Australian of Chinese origin who is currently a student of Mandarin at Tunghai University in Taichung County, said that it was her parents' wish that she learn Chinese in Taiwan so she could acquire a proficient command of the language used by their ancestors.

Tanudjaja said although she could have studied Chinese in Australia, she found it difficult to secure a Mandarin-friendly environment there because few people speak Chinese there.

Many people within Australia's Chinese community suggested she go to Taiwan instead of China to study Chinese because Taiwan is safer and has better living conditions, Tanudjaja said.

Shida Akinobu who hails from Japan and is also a student at the Tunghai Mandarin-language center, echoed Tanudjaja's sentiments, saying that Taiwan is a better choice for foreign students trying to learn Chinese.

Akinobu, who studied Mandarin in Harbin, northeastern China during his college years, said the Chinese spoken in Taiwan is easier for Japanese speakers to master because the retroflex sounds are milder.

A Rotary Ambassador Prize winner, Akinobu said he found that the number of foreigners coming to Taiwan to learn Chinese has not declined since China opened its doors to foreign students.

Akinobu said that he went to Harbin to learn Chinese on a student exchange program because he had no other options. However, he said, he decided to come to Taiwan to learn Chinese after he graduated from a Japanese university.

Meanwhile, both Tanudjaja and Akinobu said that the Tunghai center is by no means inferior to other schools in Taipei or elsewhere, because the center's teachers are superb.

Tanudjaja attributed her ability to deliver a speech in Chinese after only three months of study to her demanding lecturers at the school, who stressed the importance of proper pronunciation and use of tones.

Akinobu said that Taiwan's use of complex Chinese characters, as opposed to the simplified characters used in China, as well as its National Phonetic Symbols make it easier for foreign students to pick up the language and speak it more proficiently.

Akinobu said he strongly encourages Japanese and Korean students to learn Chinese in Taiwan simply because the Mandarin phonetic symbol system used here is the most efficient system for helping foreigners pronounce Chinese correctly and eventually conversing with Taiwanese people in the shortest possible period of time.

Max Woodworth, an American who studied Chinese culture at Washington's Georgetown University, is a prominent example of a foreigner successfully learning Chinese.

Woodworth went to Beijing and Nanjing to study Chinese for a year after his third year at Georgetown.

Five years ago, when his Mandarin studies in China concluded and he had acquired a good command of the language, his Chinese teacher suggested he go to Taipei and attend National Chengchi University's Sun Yat-sen Institute of Humanity and Social Studies, which has maintained academic cooperation ties with Georgetown University.

Woodworth said he found the Chengda Mandarin Language Center to be one of the best in the world in terms of learning Chinese.

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