Press Enter to Center block

Survival Mandarin - a Shining Example of US–Taiwan Education Cooperation

Dr. Yen-Yi Lee, Director General of the Dept. of International & Cross-strait Education with the delegation led by Executive Assistant Chief Ban Tien

Houston, a sister city of Taipei since 1961, is the most populous city in Texas and one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the United States. The Greater Houston area is home to people from all over the world and more than 140 languages are spoken there. Chinese dialects, including Mandarin, constitute the third most common non-English language spoken there, after Spanish and Vietnamese.

The Ministry of Education’s Education Division based at the  Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Houston recognized the communication challenge that this linguistic and cultural diversity can present for the police officers there, and it worked with the Houston Police Department (HPD) to set up the Survival Mandarin program for its officers which was launched in 2018. It was the first of its kind in the United States, designed for police officers to learn Mandarin, gain cultural awareness, and improve community engagement. The course curriculum is approved by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, and the participants receive professional training credits. It focuses on developing cultural improving communication and community safety by providing HPD officers Mandarin language and cultural awareness training which will help them better connect with Houston’s ever-growing Mandarin-speaking population.

The Ministry of Education provides funding to the University of St. Thomas to provide Survival Mandarin courses to Houston police officers. Instructors from the university’s Mandarin Center of the Universities of St. Thomas and Wenzao Ursuline teach the courses using teaching materials collaboratively developed with Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages in Taiwan.

This collaborative initiative has been successful from the start. Despite the sometimes unpredictable nature of police officers’ work schedules, more than 60 HPD officers have completed the course. The new training program enhanced positive interactions between HPD and the Chinese speaking community in Houston, and the HPD recently established the second Police Lion Dance Team in the United States which participates in the celebration of traditional Chinese culture within Houston’s diverse community.

A number of HPD officers who have made significant progress learning Mandarin are selected to travel to Taiwan for a week-long language and culture immersion experience. Three police officers were selected for the HPD delegation that visited Taiwan in October 2023. Executive Assistant Chief Ban Tien and Commander Nathan Nguyen led the delegation,

During their visit, the HPD officers attended National Day celebrations and a National Day  reception and visited the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Education in Taipei. At the Ministry of Education, Dr. Yen-Yi Lee, Director General of the Department of International and Cross-Strait Education, warmly welcomed the delegation. She thanked HPD Chief Troy Finner for his support and said that the Ministry of Education looks forward to continuing and further developing meaningful, practical exchanges and cooperation between the Houston Police Department, the City of Houston, and Taiwan.

They also visited the Kaohsiung City Police Department, and Central Police University in Taoyuan City, giving the officers an opportunity to discuss different approaches to security and policing and enhance cross-cultural connections and friendships.

The Survival Mandarin course is a testament to the efforts made by the Education Division at the TECO in Houston and local institutions to promote multicultural inclusivity and understanding. Its success has inspired the nearby Harris County Sheriff’s Office to initiate a similar program. Survival Mandarin is an outstanding example of Taiwan’s support of Mandarin education in the United States which is continuing to expand since the launch of the U.S.–Taiwan Education Initiative.