The number of foreign nationals studying Mandarin in Taiwan during their summer holidays under a government-funded program grew to more than 500 this year, up from 263 in 2010 and 444 last year, the Ministry of Education said.
About 508 students from 10 countries took part in language courses this year under a sponsorship program which attracted about 1,500 visits by foreign students between 2008 and last year.
The program began in 2006 and encourages foreign students to learn Mandarin and travel around Taiwan. The ministry said it wanted to promote Taiwan as a global hub of Mandarin learning.
Under the program, students from Asian countries are eligible for weekly allowances of US$57, while those from outside Asia receive US$90.
The ministry said students typically stayed in Taiwan for six to eight weeks during summers and attended a three-hour course every weekday.
A student from Japan, which sent the most participants this year, said his Chinese had improved significantly three weeks after he began the summer course. Even though he had been learning Chinese in Japan for four years, he said, he could not hold a basic conversation when he first arrived in Taiwan.
Another student from the US said she was more confident about her Chinese abilities after attending the program, adding that studying in Taiwan was a special life experience.
The language courses sponsored by the program are available at universities such as National Taiwan University, National Taiwan Normal University and Chinese Culture University.