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2014 Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL) in Western Canada

Enthusiasm for learning Mandarin has been on the rise around the world for many years. The Ministry of Education of the R.O.C. (Taiwan) established the Steering Committee for the Test of Proficiency to develop reliable tests to assist teachers to assess their students’ proficiency levels and help individual students to assess their own proficiency levels. The Steering Committee developed the Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL) which began in 2006, and the Children’s Chinese Competency Certification (CCCC) which began in 2009.

This year in Canada, the Education Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver organized three Mandarin proficiency testing sessions for a total of 184 students: the first, for the Children’s Chinese Competency Certification, was held at the Richmond Mandarin School in mid-April. A total of 53 young candidates sat for one of three different levels, charmingly designated sprouts (basic), seedlings (intermediate), or blossoming (advanced). The entire school student population take part in the CCCC or TOCFL. As well as using the exam to formally recognize the students’ learning progress, teachers use the tests as a benchmark tool for adjusting and fine-tuning their teaching methods to elevate their students’ proficiency levels more effectively.

The second test session, a TOCFL session, was held next day at the Vancouver Formosa Academy on April 13 and 120 people took part. The TOCFL is more complex, with three bands, and a total of six levels. Students from a variety of cultural backgrounds applied to sit for the exam, indicating that Mandarin learning is indeed on the rise.

Mr. William Chuang, Director-General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver, and Ms. Shu-Fen (Grace) Ou, Director of the Education Division, visited the Vancouver Formosa Academy on the day that the TOCFL testing took place. They gave encouraging words to the students in the exam rooms. During later interviews with the World Journal and with Sing Tao Daily, Mr Chuang emphasized the importance of the traditional character script in Chinese culture.

The final testing offered was another TOCFL session, held at the University of Alberta in late April where have been participating in the TOCFL tests since 2011. Eleven students applied to sit the tests this year. One of the advantages for these students is that attending the TOCFL exam makes them eligible to apply for a scholarship to study in Taiwan under one of the scholarship programs that the MOE offers. Moreover, as Ms. Ou pointed out, students who pass the exam at Level 3 or higher are eligible to receive extracurricular credits, certified by the Ministry of Education BC. Passing at level 3 or higher will put them in good standing if they apply for one of the scholarship programs offered by the Ministry of Education of the R.O.C. (Taiwan). Going to Taiwan to study would give them wonderful opportunities to extend their Chinese language skills and better understand Chinese culture and to expand their global view as well.