Thinking of learning Chinese, but want to go to somewhere less typical? Consider Taipei, the capital of Taiwan!
Currently, several languages are spoken within Taipei, but Mandarin Chinese is still the main language of the city. However, due to the heavy existence of foreigners (mostly from Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines) in Taipei, English is widely spoken.
Despite such linguistic diversity, Taipei’s main language remains Mandarin Chinese. This version of Mandarin Chinese however, is still criticized by mainlanders to not be the most “standard” form of Mandarin, although both forms are mutually intelligible. Regardless of this distinction, the Mandarin spoken in Taipei is considered legitimate and Taipei is a fantastic city to learn Chinese abroad.
If you are coming to Taiwan with any sort of experience under your belt, you are going to have to adjust to traditional characters if you were taught simplified beforehand. It’ll be a challenge, but traditional is just as important as simplified is! Below is an overview of your course options in Taipei:
Private tutoring/group courses
Both of these are great options for those who are not able to attend universities. These can also take advantage of the small amount of people and encourage communication between students, which tends to be the best environment for language learning. Beware however; private tutoring tends to be double the price of group courses.
Taking language courses at a university happens to work best for learners currently enrolled in a college or university, since many universities can place their students in institutions overseas. These programs are easy for university students because students are able to transfer credits gained abroad in their respective home universities.
Popular programs within institutes and universities include National Mandarin Institute, International Chinese Language Program (within National Taiwan University), the Mandarin Training Center (within National Taiwan Normal University), and Taipei Language Instituted. Taiwan also has a surplus of Chinese language Centers! Choose one that works best for you.
Language study & culture combination programs
Many programs offer language and culture combos, giving you a clearer idea of what life like is Taipei! Not only will you improve your Chinese proficiency, but you’ll also learn how to walk and talk like a Taiwanese.
- Since when...? Mandarin was introduced as the official language in 1945.
- Did you know…? The Dutch first created a colony near Taipei in 1624! The Dutch East India Company did so in order to trade with China and Japan and thwart Portuguese and Spanish activities on the island at the same time. However, they weren’t welcomed and eventually were driven out by Koxinga 37 years later.
- Don’t miss: Taipei 101, once the tallest building in the world.
- YUM: Taiwanese Shaved Ice! There are many different varieties, but is usually composed of condensed milk, fruit, red beans, and rice balls over crushed ice! Delicious.
Taipei is a very cultural, historical, and proud place. Taiwanese are both proud of their roots and advocates of their own independence and identity. There are tons of museums, parks and temples, as well as festivals such as the Taipei Lantern Festival held at the end of the Lunar New Year, along with Pingli, an event that releases thousands of lanterns into the sky!
The city is also well known for its nightlife and party atmosphere. The Shilin Night Market is one of the largest and most famous night markets in the whole world, selling delicious street food, clothes, souvenirs, anything you can think of.
Where should I stay while learning Chinese in Taipei?
Neighborhoods include the Xinyi District, a modern and business-focused district; Daan and Songshan districts are famous for shopping, and Zhongshan is more Western than the others.
If you want to practice your Chinese and get a more traditional experience (which is why you came to Taipei in the first place, right??), try the Wanhua, Datong, and Zhongzheng districts.
Tips for living in Taipei:
Taipei has a pretty expansive expat community. Most foreigners who decide to live in Taipei do it either to teach English or learn Chinese -- like you! There are a ton of online resources for anything you can think of; such as asiaxpat for housing and InterNations to meet up with other expats.
Taipei also has one of the most extensive public transportation systems in the world! You can literally get anywhere by either DORTS or TRTC. If you buy an Easy Card, you will get an automatic half-price discount on connecting bus routes from anywhere.
It's super affordable to live in Taipei. Rent will run around 15,000 to 19,000 NT$ a month ($500-600 US dollars) for a one bedroom apartment. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant is roughly 88 NT$ (around $3), while water is 20 NT$, eggs are 50 NT$, and milk is 77 NT$. Transportation is also very affordable, a mere 20 NT$ for a one-way ticket on a bus.
Some scholarship options for learning Chinese in Taiwan include:
- Study in Taiwan has a long list of scholarships for learning Chinese at various Taiwanese universities.
- The Taiwanese government also provides funding for Chinese learning These include Embassies and Missions Abroad and from the Department of Education (Taipei).
- There are also scholarships that Taiwan Insights cite, including HES, Taiwan Scholarship Program, LEP, and MOE Language Scholarship.
- If you are a student in the United States, you may qualify for the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships Program, sponsored by the US Department of Education, or the Critical Language Scholarship Program, which focuses on intensive language study over the summer.