Taiwan is a place with breathtaking scenery, food beyond imagination at night markets and scary earthquakes. But what most impresses many foreign students in Taiwan is the compassionate Taiwanese people, whose timely help often warms their hearts, students said at a speech contest yesterday.
About 30 foreign students from around the world stood on stage and tried to speak perfect Mandarin or Taiwanese as they shared their impressions and experiences in Taiwan.
Organized by District 3520 of Rotary International, a global service group, the "Mandarin and Taiwanese Competition for Foreign Students" drew students from Japan, Korea, Indonesia, India, the US, Belgium, Brazil, Senegal, Germany and Israel to show off their language talents.
"What I love most and will always remember is the friendships I have in Taiwan. My friends in Taiwan always encourage me, helped me practice my speech every night, and even give me blankets because I am not used to the cold here," said Abraham William, an Indonesian who came to study Mandarin at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) through an exchange program six months ago.
William earned third place in the speech contest. Lee Jina of Korea won first place, followed by Huber Andreas of Germany. Both delivered speeches in Mandarin.
Wearing traditional clothes from Indonesia, William also expressed appreciation for Taiwan's assistance in tsunami relief efforts.
"This is what the traditional proverb says: a friend in need is a friend indeed," he said during his Mandarin speech.
Philipp Marxen, a German who is also a student at NTNU, said he is impressed with the typhoons here, since he never experienced such weather in Germany.
"Another interesting thing is that many people ask to take photos with me," he added. "So you may see my photo at your friend's house one day."
Jay Huang, a US-born Taiwanese who came to Taiwan last August, is a kung fu fan. He talked about his newest hobby in Taiwanese.
"My aunt asked me to join her tai chi class," Huang said. "I thought it was one of the traditional Chinese kung fu styles, so I said `OK.' Later I found out that the class is at 5:30am every morning, which is too early for me."
"But now I have developed my interest in practicing tai chi, and will keep going to the class," he added.
Korean student Lee Dong-chul, who has been studying Mandarin for four years and is currently a junior in the department of diplomacy of National Chengchi University, called Taiwan his second homeland.
"I love the hot springs on Yangmingshan," Lee said in fluent Mandarin. "I would also recommend that my friends in Korea visit night markets for various delicious foods. But my favorite part about Taiwan is its vitality and the wonderful people here."
Fang Shu-hua (
"Accurate pronunciation is basic but not necessary in the speech contest," Fang said. "We want students to deliver a natural and interesting speech. It's better than speaking perfect Mandarin or Taiwanese with no emotion."
Both Marxen and William said that Mandarin intonation is the hardest to learn. It's also difficult for them to learn Chinese characters.
"Mandarin was not my first choice when I considered learning a second foreign language besides English," William told the Taipei Times. "But I grew to love this language and now learning Mandarin is pleasant."
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