With the advent of the new computerized Chinese Proficiency Test (CPT), the nation's language teachers said that they hoped Taiwan would now get a foot in the door of the international Mandarin-teaching market, where it faces fierce competition from China.
The test was launched in 2003 by the Center for Chinese Language and Culture Studies at National Taiwan Normal University and started out as a paper test. Last year, the Ministry of Education decided to recognize the test, allowing results to be used as official documents in applications to universities and language centers around the country.
The test has been computerized this year, the first step toward competing in the global Mandarin learning market, said Chou Chung-tien (
The computerized exams can be taken anywhere throughout the world and results are received immediately after the test, unlike the paper tests which took several weeks to process, Chou said.
There are currently two major international Mandarin proficiency tests, China's HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) and Taiwan's CPT exam, he said.
China's test is offered by Confucius Institutes throughout the world, and teaches simplified Chinese.
The institute's headquarters are in Beijing, but the Chinese government has plans to establish 100 branches worldwide by 2010.
Chou said that more than 500,000 people take the HSK every year, but now with the computerized CPT, Taiwan's test can be taken worldwide too.
For example, the test can now be taken in Thailand, South Korea, Japan, the UK and Los Angeles, California, starting this year, Chou said.
Chou said that compared to China, he felt that Taiwan had stricter Mandarin ability evaluation standards and also longer and better experience in Mandarin instruction.
The director of the Chinese language department at the Taipei Language Institute, who asked only to be identified by her surname Yeh, also said that Taiwan provided the best environment for Mandarin language learning.
Yeh said that Taiwan was a more open society and that most foreigners would prefer to come to Taiwan because they would feel more comfortable here.
Education ministry officials said that Taiwan had preserved Chinese culture better than China because the Cultural Revolution destroyed many historical treasures and traditions.
Foreigners should therefore come to Taiwan if they want to discover well-preserved Chinese culture, officials said.
Also, the simplified Chinese characters taught by China's language schools do not have historical roots and meanings, unlike the traditional characters taught in Taiwan.
They also said that Taiwan's open society helped foreigners feel at home.
The ministry is currently working on training Mandarin-language teachers to raise the nation's language-teaching quality and to send teachers abroad to teach.
Susov Fedor, a Russian exchange student at National Chengchi University who has studied Mandarin in both China and Taiwan, said that he felt Taiwan provided a better environment with its open culture.
Fedor also said that he felt interaction between people in Taiwan was better, especially in his Mandarin classes.
"Here we have smaller classes and more opportunities to practice and the teachers have a friendlier attitude as well," he said.