The number of foreigners taking a Chinese-language proficiency test developed in Taiwan has been increasing year by year, with the total number of test-takers expected to surpass 150,000 by the end of this year, the Ministry of Education said on Tuesday.
A total of 29,688 people took the Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL) — developed by the Taipei-based Steering Committee for the Test of Proficiency-Huayu — between this January and last month, a 20 percent year-on-year increase, the ministry said.
The committee is responsible for developing and promoting the language proficiency test for traditional Chinese. The test is required for foreigners hoping to apply for Taiwanese scholarships and those who want to study in Taiwan, the ministry said.
Taiwan and China are two major destinations for foreigners seeking to learn Chinese.
About 30,000 to 40,000 people take the TOCFL each year, compared with up to 180,000 people who take a Chinese-language proficiency test developed by China every year.
Despite the huge gap, Taiwan has an advantage in offering a traditional Chinese character system, as well as democracy and a free learning environment, a ministry official told a news conference on Tuesday held to mark the growing number of TOCFL test-takers.
Learning Chinese is not just about learning a language but also about getting to know a culture, said Bi Tzu-an (畢祖安), an official with the Department of International and Cross-strait Education. Taiwan’s democratic and free environment is an attraction, he added.
The government is also planning to launch a new program in an effort to attract more foreign students, he said.
Several foreigners who have taken the TOCFL test attended the news conference. Pasida Denkijkul from Thailand said it was very challenging to learn traditional Chinese characters at the beginning, but she said she later found the traditional characters more meaningful and beautiful than simplified ones.
Abdou Naze from Burkina Faso said writing traditional characters is really hard, even though he spends a lot of time practicing.
However, teachers in Taiwan are very patient and he has enjoyed learning Chinese here, he added.
The TOCFL can be taken in Taiwan and many countries around the world, the ministry said.
The commission is scheduled to begin computerized TOCFL testing next month in cities in Vietnam, Thailand, Germany and the US, the ministry said.
It is also developing a new computerized adaptive system for the TOCFL that will be available for people taking the test overseas.