Foreign students praised the Ministry of Education's Mandarin learning program and shared what they have learned in Taiwan at a ceremony yesterday before returning to their home countries.
"These have been the most special years of my life," said Sascha Heusermann, a German who spoke on behalf of the foreign students in a ceremony marking the conclusion of the summer program.
Heusermann delivered his speech in fluent Mandarin. He has spent two years in Taiwan.
To promote Taiwan's Mandarin teaching programs, the ministry started offering scholarships to foreign students in 2005.
Ministry statistics showed that 423 university students from 10 countries arrived this year to participate in Mandarin programs at local universities.
Of the students, 299 came for the summer programs ranging from 21 to 55 days. The students came from countries such as the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, Japan, Slovenia, Russia, Poland, Costa Rica, Austria and Kiribati.
Without the scholarships, it would have been difficult for many of the students to join the programs, students said during the ceremony. Several said that the learning environment in Taiwan had been more than they had hoped for.
"Promoting Mandarin learning is a Ministry of Education policy and to that end, there are 48 Taiwanese Mandarin teachers working in Thailand," Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) said.
Tu said he was aware that China has been the most common destination for foreigners who want to learn Mandarin.
However, "from what I heard from foreign friends, Taiwan is one of the best, if not the best, destinations as it offers professional teachers and teaching programs and an environment friendly to foreigners," he said.
Heusermann, 22, said he had learned more than Mandarin in Taiwan. He also said he had discovered why many Taiwanese have difficulties learning foreign languages.
"I think most Taiwanese are afraid of making mistakes. In fact, that is the last thing you have to worry about when learning a new language," Heusermann said.
Heusermann plans to stay in Taiwan and major in Business Management at National Taipei University of Technology.