Studying Mandarin in Taipei, Taiwan: NTU CLD Chinese Language Division


Studying Mandarin in Taipei, Taiwan NTU CLD Campus View

If you’re considering studying Mandarin Chinese abroad, I encourage you to also consider studying in Taiwan. And, to first check out my previous post in this series, Choosing a Mandarin Chinese Learning Center in Taipei, Taiwan.

( Photo by *john668kimo, on Flickr )

My situation

I’ve been studying at CLD for just over a month now.

For better or worse I somehow tested into the most advanced class here. The bad part is that I’m clearly behind my other classmates in terms of proper study and general knowledge of the language. The good part is that it is pushing me to work hard to keep up.

I haven’t had a chance to meet too many first-year students just yet, so I will start with going over the program from my perspective, and will do a follow-up post after I talk to some more people who are just starting to learn the language here.

Studying Mandarin in Taipei, Taiwan NTU CLD Bike Rack

( Photo by *Roy0920, on Flickr )

Class format

Different classes with different teachers might vary, but we following a pretty consistent format that I’ll outline below.

Learning new words and characters

For each chapter we study, we first cover the new vocabulary and example sentences. This process can take a full class day or two since we cover it in such depth.

The teacher always pauses and takes the time to explain more culturally rich or interesting words/characters. This has actually been particularly helpful for me in remembering some of the more complex characters and words much faster than I would while self studying.

Dictation

During the following class days, we almost always have a dictation covering new vocabulary and idioms (chengyu). This basically means the teacher will read some sentences in Chinese and the students write down what they hear in Chinese.

I’m not sure what this looks like in beginner classes, but I imagine they would be using a lot of pinyin when first starting if they do dictations at all.

New grammar and sentence structures

Most chapters cover several new grammar points and sentence structures. It usually takes us a bit over a day to go through all of them since we do several exercises with them along the way.

Said exercises involve each student creating example sentences that use the grammar and new vocabulary from the chapter. Other times, the class is split into two groups and we have to play out various roles or hold discussions.

I personally feel that being able to use these sentence structures naturally is one of the most important part of learning Chinese and wish we focused a bit more on this in class.

Dialogue / Essay / Lesson Text

Only after we’ve covered all of the vocabulary and grammar do we cover the lesson text. Usually we take turns reading sentences/paragraphs from the lesson. Afterwards, we have an opportunity to clarify any points that we don’t understand or find interesting.

Then, we close our books and the teacher reads the text and we repeat after her. In the end, she asks the students various questions about the lesson test/essay/dialogue to test our comprehension.

Tests

We have a written test every two lessons, which usually comes out to be one test every other week.

The test itself is comprised of using Chinese to explain/define the lesson vocabulary, using the lesson vocab and sentence structures to create sentences, various short-answer questions, reading-comprehension, and sometimes essay-writing.

I personally have to study quite a bit to do well on the tests and find the character/vocab describing to be both the most difficult and most useful component.

In fact, if there was anything I wish I did while self-studying, it would be practicing using Chinese to describe any new vocab that I learned. This skill/practice has had a big impact on my ability to learn from every-day-life conversations.

Homework

Homework style and load varies from teacher to teacher. But, regardless of the class you are in, there will likely be a fairly significant amount of homework every day.

At an advanced level, we do listening and vocabulary/grammar drills from our workbook as well as essays. We also have a 10-15m presentation that we have to prepare every week which requires a fair amount of research and preparation time.

Every time we finish covering a lesson’s sentence patterns, we have to write an essay or dialogue using said patterns. I kind of dread this part because it takes me forever to think of a topic, but find a lot of value in the exercise.

Overall, I think most all of the homework is actually quite useful.

Studying Mandarin in Taipei, Taiwan NTU CLD Night Time

( Photo by *JeffreySun, on Flickr )

Class pace

The class moves very quickly. In our class, we cover about one lesson per week which means learning somewhere between 50-100 new characters / words per week plus new sentence structures and idioms.

There have a been a few times that I got lazy and skipped a few classes to hang out with some friends, and the class swiftly moved on without me. I ended up spending the following days cramming new vocab and sentence structures to survive the upcoming dictations and tests. Not a recommended approach 🙂

Teachers / Instructors

My teacher is a bit older and has been teaching for quite some time. She is always well prepared for class, patient, and explains things clearly. However, a couple of the younger students can’t relate to her humor and often end up taking advantage of her flexibility.

On the other hand, my friend in a different class of the same level has a much younger, stricter teacher. And, even though they are covering the same material at more-or-less the same pace, he says not 5 minutes go by in his class in which he isn’t dying from laughter.

Basically, like any school/university there will be some variance in the quality of teaching and teaching styles used. That being said, I feel like the overall teaching quality here is pretty high.

Class size and composition

CLD places a hard limit of 6 people per class, though most classes end up being 4-5 students in size.

The class composition is pretty diverse here, with people from all over the world in most classes.

My class was composed of two people from the U.S. (including myself), one person from Germany, one person from the U.K. and another from Vietnam. Another class I sat in was mostly people from Japan, and during orientation I sat around people from Korea, Mongolia and India.

In terms of age, most people are just finishing up college or on a sort of exchange program, so most students are somewhere between 20-22 years old.

That being said, a reasonable number of students are older and either studying in between jobs (myself included), learning the language for business reasons, and/or aiming to better communicate with family.

Students are allowed to sit in and switch classes during the first week of classes. I recommend doing this to get a feel of other teachers’ teaching styles, or if you’re not sure you fit in your with classmates.

China Chinese vs. Taiwan Chinese

The differences between Taiwan Chinese and China Chinese are quite similar to those you might find between American English and British English.

I feel like our class has done a pretty decent job of noting said differences and each chapter in our textbook contains a small table that contrasts the China and Taiwan variations of new words/characters.

That being said, there are still quite a few differences that you will just have to learn and accept. Particularly so when it comes to food/fruit/vegetable names as these can very quite a bit.

Studying Mandarin in Taipei, Taiwan NTU CLD Traditional Chinese Characters

( Photo by *maindo007, on Flickr )

Simplified vs. Traditional Chinese Characters

Simplified Chinese characters are used in Mainland China and Singapore while Traditional Chinese characters are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and by most overseas Chinese. Of course, artsy/scholarly types in China and anyone else interested in Chinese culture will probably end up learning both scripts.

Based on everything I read online, tests would be provided in both traditional and simplified characters, but this is not the case. Everything is in Traditional Chinese Characters.

As someone who enjoys the language and also has an interest in traditional culture and history, Traditional Chinese characters are the characters of choice (Simplified Chinese characters just don’t make sense for calligraphy and poetry).

Despite people’s claims that simplified characters are much easier to learn, I find the amount of effort to learn traditional characters to be more or less the same. The real downsides to traditional characters are 1. they require more time to write and 2. they are ridiculously hard to read with small font sizes.

My classmates and I are all coming from a simplified background, but I started to transition from simplified to traditional characters about a year and a half ago so I haven’t really had any problems in this area.

Also, about three weeks into the course my teacher noted that all of my classmates had converted about 90% of their characters to traditional.

Basically, If you’ve studied Chinese before and/or are concerned about using Traditional vs. Simplified Chinese characters, I wouldn’t let this deter you from studying in Taiwan.

If you’re not sure about which character set is best for you, I recently added a post to help you decide whether to learn Simplified or Traditional Chinese characters.

Usefulness / Effectiveness

It’s still a bit too early to fully evaluate the course, but I am no doubt learning a lot. And, a lot of what I’ve been learning has been almost immediately useful.

In fact, there have been several times already in which I learn new vocabulary and sentence structures that my Taiwanese friends end up using in conversation the very same day.

My ability to read signs and confidence speaking to locals has also increased quite a bit since studying here. Some of that is just from being in the environment, but a large part is from the material I’ve been learning in class.

There is a lot to cover, but I feel like this post is already pretty long. Let me know if there is anything specific you’d like to know more about and I will be happy to provide some more details!




40 comments

  1. A - reply

    Hey Steven!

    Thank you so much for answering my questions on the other post! However, I have some specific questions pertaining to CLD, and since I couldn’t find much written about the program (unlike ICLP and MTC), I felt you’d be the best person to turn to.

    I have three main questions:

    1) Emphasis on Reading/ Writing vs. Speaking
    My primary objective is to improve my conversational Mandarin, and hence, I was wondering if CLD’s structure would be conducive for this aspect? If so, do you feel that they are teaching a practical style of speech appropriate for everyday life or is it be a more academic style of speaking?

    2) Classmates Make-Up of CLD
    I have several questions about this:
    i) What is the average class size in CLD? Do you feel this number is effective enough to allow everyone to make effective improvements or is it too big/ small?

    ii) What is the average age-range of CLD students? I know this sounds rather trivial, but I’m 25 and finishing up my Masters. While I’m happy to have young, engaging classmates, I’m also concerned that I’ll be one of the oldest students in a classroom full of young (18-21) undergraduates on exchange – which might be a bit isolating. It’d be really reassuring to hear that there’ll be others in my age range as well (mid-late twenties) and perhaps other older graduate students.

    iii) Where do most CLD students come from? I presume the answer would be an international make-up (which is great!), but I am a bit worried that I won’t be able to keep up with students who are already familiar with Kanji and Hanja.

    3) Accommodation for CLD Students
    Finally, thank you for your helpful blog post on apartment hunting! However, I read that ICLP students would be eligible to apply for NTU Prince House dormitory (http://www.prince.com.tw/en/guildhall01.shtm). Thus, I am wondering if it was the same case for CLD students.

    Once again, thank you for taking your time out to help strangers! I apologize for the long post, but I thought it’d be best to get all my questions out there so I don’t have to keep bothering you – hopefully there are others out there who have similar questions as well! It’s really, very helpful and I couldn’t be more grateful!

    Best regards,
    A.

    • steven - reply

      Hi A, no bother at all, I’m happy I could help!

      To answer your first question, you will definitely get a good deal of speaking and listening practice. Most tests and homework are reading/writing based while 90+% of class time is speaking/listening/discussion. Like any language class though, you’ll need to practice your pronunciation and speaking skills a lot outside of class to really own the material.

      I added a section to the post above called “Class size and composition” to address your second question. At 25, I wouldn’t worry at all. There will be quite a few people your age and older.

      Also, don’t sweat the Kanji/Hanja thing. Some of the Japanese students will definitely excel here, but despite popular belief, most of the time/effort needed to learn Chinese will be for conversational skills. Reading/writing is a big chunk of it, but the more characters you learn, the easier it is to learn new ones.

      My understanding is that CLD students are not eligible for student housing, but you can try contacting the office to see if they are willing to make exceptions. I think this is a university rule though, so it suspect it won’t be possible.

      Again, no problem! If you have more questions or if my answers missed the point, please feel to ask away 🙂

  2. Wayne - reply

    Hi Steven,

    This blog is a Godsend, thank you for taking the time to write it.

    I was wondering if you could perhaps provide a link to the application or website for more info into the NTU CLD Chinese Language Division. I’ve been to the NTU website in an attempt to track down the application for this program but it seems to be broken. Thank you, I look forward to more post!

    • steven - reply

      Hi Wayne!
      You can find the CLD application form in English on this page (number 1. in the list). They’ve attached it as a .doc file, so when you click on the link it may just go straight to your Downloads folder depending on your web browser.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions : )

  3. Marjorie - reply

    Hi Steven,

    First of all, a big thanks for sharing all these precious insights about your study experience in Taiwan, your blog is full of helpful info and I think many of us will use your feedback to make a choice in terms of schools…

    I am myself considering Taipei to study Mandarin and have hesitation between your school CLD and CLC. My main goal is to concentrate efforts on oral chinese.

    Below a few questions…

    1. It’s been a few months now you are studying at CLD – how is it going? is this still a positive experience?

    2. It seems from one of your posts that CLC program had a stronger focus on oral communication – would you recommend this one if priority is to speak chinese or would you still suggest your current program?

    Many thanks in advance for your help!!

    marjorie.

    • steven - reply

      Hi Marjorie,
      I really owe everyone a detailed update and will post one in a couple more weeks. But in the meantime:
      I’m just starting a new term at CLD and am already having an even more positive experience. Having a different teacher here changes the experience significantly and I suspect it will be the same regardless of the school you go to.

      My impression based on the information I originally collected was also that CLC is more focused on spoken Chinese. Unfortunately though, I haven’t heard much more since my last update :\

      That being said, after talking to a few students and teachers, I get the impression that the beginning classes at CLD are also focused on oral Chinese. Also, I recently met a couple first-year students, so I’ll be sure to get their feedback in the coming weeks before my next update as well.

      On an unrelated note, my girlfriend will be starting at NTNU’s MTC so I will be able to get some inside information and post a review based on that, too.

      Sorry I couldn’t provide more information! I will let you know as soon as I have something more solid to base my opinion on. Either way, please let me know what you decide on!

      • Marjorie - reply

        Thanks so much for your quick feedback! Glad to hear that you are still enjoying the program at CLD – I will def. keep you updated on my final choice 🙂 Looking forward for more posts from you! Cheers

  4. Kirsten - reply

    Hi Steven,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write out these reviews/comparisons.

    I’m thinking about doing ICLP’s intensive summer program, but since I’d be going into an advanced level, it might make more sense to do a cheaper program and just commit to plenty of outside reading.

    Do you know anything about the higher levels at ICLP (or your program CLD) in terms of content and whether or not they’re really that different between all the different programs? I’ve been at NCCU’s CLC and I think with a decent teacher I’d be able to make similar progress over the course of the summer, especially since ICLP is only 8 weeks while CLC’s is 12.

    Thanks so much!

    -Kirsten

    • steven - reply

      Hi Kirsten,
      In the higher level classes here (post textbook) are divided into two types: Chinese literature classes and “other” classes. In the “other” classes, students generally select some news articles/publications or other high level media that they wish to study. The teacher then teaches around said materials, providing guidance and introducing new vocab/patterns as they come up.

      Unfortunately, I haven’t met anyone that has attended ICLP beyond the intermediate (practical audio visual chinese textbook) levels, though I suspect it would be quite similar.

      It sounds like you’re probably right on the money in terms of being able to make similar progress at CLC. If you do happen to attend CLD though, I would love to get your feedback on how CLD and CLC differ 🙂

  5. Cassie - reply

    Thanks for this blog! It’s been super helpful 🙂

    I’d like to apply to a language centre in the next two weeks, and am tossing up between NTNU’s MTC and NTU’s CLD. Would be super interested to hear your girlfriend’s report of what it’s like over at CLD, even if it doesn’t manage to get uploaded that quickly! I would be starting from the very beginning, since I literally speak no Chinese, but am ethnically Chinese and have always wanted to learn.

    Thanks again!
    C

    • steven - reply

      Hi Cassie,

      In short, you can find good instruction at both NTNU’s MTC and NTU’s CLD; however, NTNU’s MTC’s general reputation is more “laid back” and less intense (unless maybe you pay extra for the intense courses). That being said, MTC offers a number of specialized classes that NTU doesn’t, such as those for ABCs/CBCs/BBCs/etc that can speak Chinese but have not yet learned to read and write.

      A couple more points to consider about NTNU’s MTC is that its students have quite the reputation for partying/drinking/going out. Also, most everyone that goes there not only speaks English, but prefers speaking English over Chinese (sometimes this bleeds into the classroom as well).

      NTU’s CLD on the other hand has a general reputation for more 認真/diligent/sincere students as well as environment. Some teachers are more laid back, but most are fairly strict and expect the students to put considerable effort into their studies.

      It sounds like you don’t have any special learning requirements like some ABCs/CBCs/BBCs/etc have, so when picking between these schools will most likely come down to which you feel is a better cultural fit for you and your goals.

      Also, keep in mind that these are generalizations. If you go to NTNU’s MTC you will be still be able to find very hardworking, dedicated students and great teachers, it just won’t be quite as common. Similarly, NTU’s CLD still has a lot of students that like to party as well, and it’s share of laid back teachers, but again it will be less common here than at MTC.

      I hope that helps with your decision!

  6. Michele - reply

    Hey Steven!

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for taking the time to write all these blog posts! I’m so excited to find up to date and detailed information, you have a LOT of fans out here!

    I think you’ve pretty much convinced me to go to NTU this year, even though it’s a bit more expensive than NTNU.

    Can you explain what you mean by this?
    “In fact, if there was anything I wish I did while self-studying, it would be practicing using Chinese to describe any new vocab that I learned. This skill/practice has had a big impact on my ability to learn from every-day-life conversations.”
    Do you mean use Chinese to describe Chinese words?

    I’m about to start ramping up my self study to prepare for going over to Taiwan so would be great to know! Have you found a lot of ABCs in your classes (as I am one myself but we speak English at home)

    Also just wondering how long it took to find a job (if you have one)? Assuming I want a normal student life (so partying occasionally as well as eating out every day (lack of kitchen), books, course fees etc would it be possible to use most of my “Taiwan income” from a local job to afford this or will I still need to dip into my savings quite a bit? How much would you recommend having available at the start of your journey? What if you need to see a doctor/ go to hospital and you’re not a local??

    ALSO (while I’ve got your attention) did you have any posts on travelling around Taiwan since you’re there? Seems like a good opportunity but not sure if it’s affordable/ easy on a student budget??

    Thanks so much, I really appreciate your help!

    Michele

    • steven - reply

      Hi Michelle,
      Thanks for the positive feedback! It sounds like you have an exciting adventure ahead of you!

      To your first questions: that’s exactly what I meant, using Chinese to describe/define Chinese words and/or concepts. Especially when the word/concept is new to you. Also, there are definitely several ABCs/BBCs/CBCs/etc here but they are not the majority.

      As far as work goes, I’m personally self employed and don’t have experience looking for work here, but I have some foreign friends that taught English in Taipei. It took them a few weeks to find an actual job and then several more weeks to sort out their visa/work-permit situation before they actually started work. I’m not sure what it would take for a foreigner to find work outside of that field though…

      In terms of pay, the money one can make from teaching 20h a week will definitely cover most, if not all, living expenses with the lifestyle you described.

      There is definitely enough time to travel and explore when not in class, and most travels will cost you almost nothing : ) I haven’t been as diligent with my travel posts as I should be, so I don’t have any solid travel posts up for Taiwan just yet.

      加油!

      • Michele - reply

        Thanks for your reply Steven! Will be checking on your blog in the coming months so keep the posts coming if you’re not too busy! =)

  7. Cassie - reply

    Hi Steven,

    Thanks, that’s very helpful! I’m not much of a party-goer and as I don’t have any special requirements (in that I would be starting from scratch) NTU seems like a good option.

    Cheers,
    Cassie.

  8. Quyen - reply

    Hi Steven

    I’ll be starting with CLD next year, and was wondering if you got any tips as to aquire cheap accommodation.

    I understand that CLD doesn’t offer dorm rooms for language students, but perhaps there are subsidiary dormitories that are available?

    Also how are you going so far with your course? What extra things are you doing to improve your Chinese? I saw you mentioned conversation exchange but is there anything else that you wouldn’t mind sharing with us as tips?

    Any info to help me out would be much appreciated! Maybe I’ll even see you around next year =)

    • steven - reply

      Hi Quyen,
      You’re correct about dorms not being an option for CLD students; however, you can find off-campus housing for a similar price. Take a look at my post on finding an apartment in Taipei for some more on that topic.

      My course is going really well so far. I’ve learned quite a bit already and am learning more every day. A couple things I am testing out this term are
      1. Writing out several sentences for each new word I learn (though I admit this takes ages and I usually end up doing this only for more difficult words)
      2. Making conversation with locals whenever possible. For instance, I recently chatted with a café owner for 3 hours straight about subculture, business, economics and politics. I also recently asked a store owner where she bought her bento. This started up a lengthy conversation about local cuisine and hiking. Learned a ton in both cases!
      3. (Mostly) only making friends with people who can’t speak English (largely Japanese, Korean and other foreigners).

      Hope this gives you some ideas and hope to see you around 🙂

      • Quyen - reply

        Hi Steven

        Many thanks for your input. You’ve given me a good insight on how to learn! I don’t think I can talk about subculture, economics and politics yet but I will sure aim for that kind of fluency.

        I’ll let you know how I go a few months in once I’ve settled in Taipei. Thanks again!

  9. Erik - reply

    Hi!

    A question

    What does it take to get in to the CLD program, is there any requirements on grades (other than that you have a diploma from your home country)

    Also do you have any tips for a visa application :)?

    • steven - reply

      Hi Erik,
      There are no grade requirements for attending CLD’s Chinese Language Program unless you also want to apply for another degree program at NTU.

      Just be honest and show that you are earnest in your application letters and you will be fine 🙂


      Steven

  10. hle - reply

    Hey, I’ll be attending next semester (26/05/2014) and was interested in the extra curricular classes (particularly the Taiwanese and Pronunciation classes) and wondered if you enrolled on any of them/heard any feedback from them? 🙂

    • steven - reply

      Great news! Look forward to seeing you around!

      Unfortunately, not enough people signed up for the pronunciation course this last term so it didn’t open, but I imagine its pretty decent.

      I considered, but ended up not taking the Taiwanese course. From what I heard its quite basic, but helpful for getting started. Most of your Taiwanese you will learn from local friends and/or language-exchange partners 🙂

  11. Chris - reply

    Hey Stephen, thanks for writing this super helpful article! I had a question about the levels of classes available. I am unfortunately going to miss the registration day but the admin have kindly allowed me to skip it. They are unable to give me aplacement test however so have reserved me a spot in the absolute beginner’s class. The problem is I have been learning mandarin for about six months (not full time, just one class a week) so I feel the absolute beginner’s class would be too basic for me. Going over tones and strokes etc. What is the next level up from the first class level? I know a few hundred characters and basic vocab and sentence structure, but wanted to know if it’s worth me making a fuss trying to get put into a higher class. If there is a big jump between class one and class two maybe it’s better if I just stick with their decision?? Thanks!

    • steven - reply

      Hi Chris, will you be able to attend the first week of classes? If so, you should be able to get your teacher’s approval to switch classes during that time. This has to be done during the first week and classes can fill up rather quickly so its best done ASAP.

      It sounds like you may have indeed studied enough to skip the first class, so it might be worth trying to skip ahead. On the other hand though, they are pretty strict when it comes to these types of regulations. So, trying to do a proper class change during the first week will probably be your best bet.

      Best of luck!

  12. kristin - reply

    Hi Steven! Thank you so much for posting this post!
    I’m planning to learn Chinese for a year but I’m still debating whether I should go to mainland China or Taiwan. This is a hard decision for me because living standard wise, I prefer Taiwan than mainland China, but then the Chinese characters being used world-wide is the simplified one and not the traditional one. As someone who already learned both simplified and traditional Chinese characters, which one do you recommend me and why?
    Thank you.

    • steven - reply

      Hi Kristin, this is a great question! I started to write my response to you and it’s basically turned into a full blog post. Unfortunately, I have a few commitments that are going to take up the remainder of the day, but will post my response within the next 18 hours or so. Sorry for the delay!

      • kristin - reply

        Great! Thanks a bunch! it’s really helpful! 🙂

  13. Shelagh - reply

    Hi Steven! Thanks so much for this, it’s been really helpful! I was just wondering, how much class do you think you could miss at CLD and still make the grade? I’m just wondering because I have to go home for abt a week and a half for family things, and I’m worried I won’t be able to catch up enough to get a certificate. Any feedback you have would help!

    • steven - reply

      Hi Shelagh, one of my previous classmates missed about the same amount of time and didn’t have too much trouble keeping up (he studied the materials we covered during his absence and informed the office of his absence before registration).

      That being said, these programs are non-certificate programs (other than proof-of-enrollment) to my knowledge. If you’re goal is to leave with some proof of your proficiency in the language, you will want to consider taking the TOCFL (Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language). Hope this helps!

  14. May Lee - reply

    Hi Steven,

    Thanks for this wonderful post (and your other posts), this is a fantastic resource for someone wanting to find out about studying in Taiwan!

    I’m currently learning Mandarin with a teacher in Beijing via one-to-one skype lessons on iTalki.com. I’ve already passed HSK1 and plan to do HKS2 in the next few months, with HSK 3 maybe early next year. I am really interested in the idea of doing some time in a Chinese speaking country and your Taiwan blogs have really sold me!

    Just a few questions; firstly, do they take HSK exams into account when judging your application, in fact does this matter at all when placing you into a class?

    Secondly, do the CLD programmes offer an official or recognised qualification/certificate? Or should I do the semester and then take the relevant HSK level after that? Your lessons sound quite hard, what’s the passing grade criteria for the CLD programme?

    Finally, is there any particular season/semester you would recommend, firstly for weather reasons but perhaps also for course content and maybe Taiwanese festivals? I’d like to learn more about culture overall and would be able to choose a particular semester if there was a nice reason to go to Taiwan at that time of year.

    Hope your studies are going well! Please continue your blog because we all are very interested to hear what you have to say!

    Thanks very much (and sorry for the long post!)
    May Lee

    • steven - reply

      May Lee, I’m glad to hear the blog has been helpful! As I’m sure you know, learning in country has a ton of benefits and Taiwan really is a great place to live/study, so I think you have an exciting time ahead of you 🙂

      HSK is China’s proficiency test, but its quite similar to Taiwan’s TOCFL. You sound like a committed learner to me, so you may want to plan your trip around the TOCFL testing schedule since its only held a couple times a year.

      Alternatively, after completing your studies in Taiwan, you can fill in any gaps in your vocabulary and take the HSK exam at a nearby testing center. Or of course, try both if that makes sense financially for you 🙂

      You will be required to get 70% or higher in order to pass the classes at CLD (and most training centers). Which, with some effort, isn’t bad at all. The nice thing is that in the end, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. That being said, I advise you to spend a lot of time chatting with locals and re-enforcing the learned materials whenever possible.

      Taiwan does have a Typhoon/rainy season, so bear that in mind when planning. The Typhoons themselves don’t really have a big effect on Taipei, but classes will be canceled from time-to-time if a larger one moves through. Most people take these opportunities to hole up and watch some movies and eat Taiwanese snacks. Aside from the rain, the summers can be uncomfortably hot if you’re not accustomed to tropical weather.

      Some popular events to consider are the Taipei 101 New Year Fireworks (Dec 31 -> Jan 1) and the Sky Lantern Festival (also annual, this year it will be on on March 5). Keep in mind that if you attend either of these events, you will need to be willing to brave large crowds!

      There are a number of smaller and very cultural festivals/events throughout the year, so most anytime you are in country, there will be something to see. One thing to consider though is that during the Chinese New Year week, a lot of business will be closed as many people return to their hometown or take time off to see their families.

      Oh, another one in Taiwan that is quite large is Mid Autumn Festival. If you’re around during this event, make sure you’ve had some time to make local friends first so you can join them for celebratory BBQ. I love food, so this was one of my personal favorites 😉

      • Quyen - reply

        Hi Steven

        Since a lot of businesses are closed during the Lunar New Year week, are there any events or local celebrations on then apart from the Lantern festival? Also are there particular suburbs that may have businesses / shops that would stay open ie. Dihua st?

        I arrive in Taipei during that week so and don’t want to stay in my apartment all the time. If you have any other suggestions, I’ll be very grateful!

        • steven - reply

          Hi Quyen, Generally speaking, the days leading up to CNY are quite bustling but the first several days of CNY are very quiet. Most people tend to stay at home during this time and many businesses will either be closed or close early. That being said, most department stores (百貨公司) and chain stores/restaurants do stay open. If there are other celebrations/events during that time, my local friends and I do not really know of/participate in them.

          I’m not sure what the crowds will be like, but you can consider taking advantage of that time to check out some of the monuments, parks and other tourist-type locations.

          I wouldn’t worry too much about this though, things will start to pick up again just a few days after the new year 🙂

  15. Vanessa - reply

    Hi Steven,
    Thank you so much for your posts, I am gathering quite a lot of research for my travel plans. I was wondering if you could estimate for the CLD advanced classes, about how many hours of homework do you have a day? Im trying to figure out my schedule for when I go and as I’m planning on working remotely for my business in the USA at nights while Im in Taiwan, I want a good idea if I will be able to juggle all the classes, homework, work, and other activities.
    Thanks for your help!!

    • steven - reply

      Hi Vanessa and happy Chinese New Year! It really comes down to how demanding your business is. As a software engineer, I personally found it challenging to balance work and study. When one was more demanding, the other suffered. Some of my classmates balanced English-teaching a few hours/week and their Chinese studies without any issues though.

  16. May Lee - reply

    Hi Steven,

    Just a quick note to say thanks for all your help and your great blog – I bit the bullet and am now enrolled in the Spring 2016 semester at NTU’s CLD! I went for the Spring semester so I could go to the sky lantern festival, can’t wait! Will study hard this year so I’m not completely out of my depth language-wise when I arrive!

    May Lee

  17. Paul - reply

    Hi Steven,

    thanks for the interesting post. Cleared a lot of things. I have a question about difficulty of advanced levels at CDU, because I am not sure it makes sense for me to go there during the summer.
    I have been studying Mandarin for almost 4 years, lived in Beijing for almost a year, while my current level is somewhere between HSK 5 and 6 (advanced). I can practically watch movies or TV programs in Mandarin and read newspapers in Simplified characters (also know ~400-500 traditional ones). However, my oral Chinese is slightly lagging behind. Thus, my question is, does it make sense for me to enroll with CLD for summer? Or maybe I should more focus on ICLP?

    • steven - reply

      Hi Paul,

      It sounds like your Chinese level is really high! There are basically two options for higher level Chinese classes at CLD: Classical Chinese or news/media.

      The latter basically consists of the students or the teacher picking news articles or online posts, speeches, etc and then the teacher helping break down and teach the new vocabulary while facilitating conversations, debates and presentations. This should be a fairly decent balance between reading/writing and oral Chinese. Though, you may struggle at first with traditional Chinese characters since you’re so far ahead with simplified.

      I haven’t taken the classical Chinese classes, but if I understand correctly those consist of reading classic texts, novels, poems and so on.

      Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience with the advanced ICLP courses and the people I know that attended ICLP didn’t reach the level you have. I would try giving them a call and seeing how their upper-intermediate/advanced classes compare.

      The one thing I do know about ICLP is that they include private tutoring time during which you can potentially fill in any gaps that you have with your spoken Chinese.

      I realize I haven’t given you a direct answer on what you should do, but hopefully this will help at least a bit in making your decision.

  18. Joe - reply

    To those students (who haven’t found the group yet) who will be studying Chinese in NTU CLD this 2018 to 2019, we have a friendly community that helps you with your studies, accommodation, inquiries, and other related matters that will make your stay in Taiwan memorable. Strictly for NTU CLD students only. Thank you all
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/944411942306060/

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