Should You Study Mandarin in Taiwan or Mainland China?

So you want to study Mandarin, and you want to be immersed - the best way to truly learn a new language.  Wise choice! You’re well on your way to learning one of the most useful and widely-spoken languages in the world. The next question becomes, where should you choose to study? Mainland China, or Taiwan?

 

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Basic Stats:

 

 

Mainland China

Taiwan

Population

1.35 billion

32 million

Land Mass

9,596,960 square kilometers

(5,963,275 miles)

36,000 square kilometers (14,400 square miles)

Principle Language

Simplified Chinese

Traditional Chinese

Number of Mandarin Training Centers

hundreds

26

 

Major Considerations:

 

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Mainland China might seem like the obvious choice given the sheer size, volume of native speakers, and the fact that the language originates there. However, Taiwan deserves another look for a few key reasons including ease of learning and the potential for less culture shock. 

The major difference is variation in characters used - Taiwan using traditional which is also used in Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong and Mainland China using simplified characters. It all really comes down to what your reasons are behind learning Mandarin. If you plan to eventually work in Mainland China or with Chinese companies, you may prefer to learn simplified characters. If you plan to work with tech companies in Taiwan or in Singapore or Hong Kong, you may prefer to learn traditional characters.  

There are many other things to consider when choosing which place to study in. The following pros and cons should help you decide: 

 

Taiwan Pros and Cons:

 

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The teaching method in Taiwan is often praised as a better learning environment - more conducive to picking up the language  A Taiwanese accent can also be slightly easier for foreigners to learn and understand than, say, a Beijingese accent. It is also easier to go from traditional characters to simplified characters if you plan to learn both, though traditional characters are more complex with more strokes, and are therefore more difficult to learn initially. 

Taiwanese are known for being very friendly, and moving there, especially in a city as “east-meets-west” as Taipei, may be an easier transition than moving to a city in China where the culture will be much different and English is unlikely to be spoken. That said, this can be a disadvantage to learning the language since most servers in restaurants, clerks in stores, and young people in Taiwan speak English, making it easy to conduct life in English rather than having to rely on Mandarin. 

It’s also worth mentioning that, if on a student visa in Taiwan, one can only miss a few days of class per quarter. In China, attendance is not as compulsory to having a visa. This can be seen as a positive or a negative since it makes it harder to keep the visa, but also encourages language class attendance and filling the extra hours in the listening labs. 

Lastly, Taiwan does not have the same pollution issues as Mainland China. The cities are cleaner, and you’re less likely to see litter on the sidewalks. 

 

Mainland China Pros and Cons:

 

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Chances are, in China, you will have little choice but to use Mandarin to communicate. In general, English is far less widely spoken in China than in Taiwan - though that is changing as the Chinese government puts more money into English language programs in schools. Therefore, you will have more opportunities to speak Mandarin, and, since you’ll have no choice but to speak the local language, chances of excelling could be higher. 

Moreover, the culture in China, of course dependent on location in this large and vast country, is wildly different to that of any Western country. It is truly a unique and challenging experience that is unmatched by most other countries. Culture shock may be an initial issue, but China is a truly special place where it seems like just about anything could happen. 

Additionally, if you plan on teaching English in addition to your studies, but are not a native speaker, there are opportunities in Mainland China, but not in Taiwan which requires that teachers be native English speakers. 

Also keep in mind that the larger cities in Mainland China are typically quite polluted. Beijing and Shanghai especially can be brown more often than not. Public bathrooms are typically not going to be nearly as clean as in Taiwan. 

 

In Conclusion:

Both Mainland China and Taiwan are great choices for the study of the Mandarin language. Each presents its own positive and negative aspects, but either way, studying abroad is a life-changing experience that is sure to result in positive memories to last a lifetime. You never know where your new language skills might lead you!

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25 June 2017
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