Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, is a lovely little island off the coast of China that very few people seem to have ever heard of. I remember telling my friends that I was going to study abroad in Taiwan only to hear, “Oh Thailand? Cool!” in response more often than not. In reality, Taiwan offers a unique, vibrant, rich culture with friendly people, a great language learning environment, and great food.
Taiwan operates using standardized Chinese characters, the same characters utilized in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and other Chinese-speaking countries outside of Mainland China, which uses simplified Chinese characters. This presents a unique learning opportunity as standard characters are common in literature, printed documents, and present a good basis for learning simplified characters in the future, whereas the reverse is much more difficult.
Taiwan at a Glance:
Domestic population: 23.4 million people
Capital City: Taipei
Official Language: Standard Chinese
Currency: New Taiwan Dollar
Trivia: Taiwan has the 19th-largest economy in the world
When is The Best Time to Study Language in Taiwan?
Language learning programs are available all over Taiwan, but the most famous and heavily attended is in the capital city, Taipei, at National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center. NTNU operates on a quarter system, meaning each course lasts for three months with the exception of the 2-month summer course. Courses last from 10-15 hours per day during each day of the week, with listening lab hours and homework requirements in addition. Keep in mind that in order to maintain a student visa in Taiwan, one must miss no more than 3 days of class per quarter.
It rains more days in Taiwan than it doesn’t, so be prepared for lots of rain, but not snow, while living in Taiwan. The most temperate time of year in Taipei is the Autumn and Spring, with cold winter months and very hot summer months. Though year-round, or even several years, of study is most advisable for those looking to become fluent in Mandarin, if you have a limited timeframe to work with, try to avoid the hot summer months.
Tainan in the south, however, is a more tropical climate and has a more mild temperature year-round.
Programs and Popular Cities
Other than National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center, there are many other options listed by Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, available all over Taiwan:
Taipei: Taipei is a vibrant city with much going on at any given time. A truly east-meets-west kind of vibe with plenty of expats and friendly locals, Taipei is an easy place to get acclimated to Taiwanese culture and the Chinese Language.
- National Taiwan University
- Chinese Culture University
- Tamkang University
- National Taipei University of Education
Hsinchu: Nicknamed Taiwan’s “windy city”, Hsinchu is located in Taiwan’s far north and is home to many tech companies.
- National Chiao Tung University
Taoyuan: Home to much of Taiwan’s industry as well as the major airport serving Taipei, Taoyuan is located just outside of Taipei city and boasts Taiwan’s second largest population.
- Kainan University
Taichung: (meaning “Middle of Taiwan”) is in the mid-western portion of the island and is Taiwan’s 3rd most populous city. It is known for having a milder, warm, humid, subtropical climate:
- Tunghai University
- Providence University
- Feng Chia University
Kaohsiung: Located in the south of Taiwan, Kaohsiung is another vibrant and big city on this island with a tropical climate.
- National University of Kaohsiung
- Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages
- Kao Yuan University
Tainan: Taiwan’s tropical south and also the oldest city on the island. Surf’s up!
- Kun Shan University
Housing Options for Students in Taiwan
Most study abroad programs offer dormitory-style housing. However, if you are attending for the purpose of language learning and are not entering, as an exchange student from a university back home, housing tends to be something you are responsible for finding on your own.
Most students in this case look for a room in short-term shared apartments that they can rent on a monthly basis. These can be found on websites like Tealit, which is Taiwan’s version of Craig’s List or Gumtree.
Cost of Language Study Programs in Taiwan
Language programs in Taiwan are highly affordable, beginning at just over $1,000 for the intensive program which is 15 hours of classes with class sizes of 6-10 people, lasting for three months. Summer intensive programs which last two months and have the same class sizes and hours of instruction run at just over $700. Individual classes with ten hours of weekly instruction cost around $2800.
Though learning Chinese language and characters and acclimating to Chinese culture can be a daunting task, Taiwan provides the perfect environment to ease into this new culture. With less culture shock than students sometimes experience on Mainland China, and with its east-meets-west cities and friendly locals, Taiwan just might be the perfect place to learn Mandarin.