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Austrian Students “Once-in-a-lifetime” Experience – the 2014 NCKU Intensive Chinese Language Course

Austrian Students “Once-in-a-lifetime” Experience – the 2014 NCKU Intensive Chinese Language Course
Austrian students, most of whom are studying Sinology in Vienna, had the chance to spend four weeks in August studying at NCKU in Tainan, a hotspot of traditional culture in Taiwan. The language proficiency levels of the students ranged from total beginner to intermediate proficiency, but they all shared the same goal of improving their Chinese along with broadening their horizons and understanding of traditional Chinese culture. Students from all over the world attend the summer classes at NCKU, and this gave the Austrian students the chance to discover even more cultural differences among the other students in their small group classes.

Students at the University of Vienna mostly learn to write simplified Chinese characters, and for some, this was the first time they had experienced a cultural and educational setting where traditional characters are used every day. It took a little adjustment in the beginning but they realized that future research and translation work both require familiarity with traditional Chinese characters as well as the simplified ones.

The students improved their Chinese beyond expectations during the four-week course, and some even stated that they had learned more than they did in a full semester in Vienna. This is understandable! Having to use the language in everyday life, from buying groceries to small talk with strangers, helped them shake off their shyness and actually use Mandarin to communicate. To help students gain an even better understanding of Taiwan, NCKU offered cultural classes in the afternoons, such as Chinese calligraphy, Chinese yoyo, Chinese knotting, Taichi, and Taiwan Aboriginal dances. Excursions outside the campus included tours of the Tainan museum, Confucius Temple, and the Chihkan Tower (formerly called Fort Provincia).

The students summed up the course as a once-in-a-lifetime experience—having the opportunity to get to know people from so many different countries, and experiencing lots of new things during such a short period of time far away from home. Some said they would even have liked to learn a bit of Taiwanese as well. Several definitely want to visit Taiwan again, perhaps doing a semester abroad or even starting a degree in Taiwan. Most importantly, the course triggered these students’ interest in Taiwan. This is a testimony to the NCKU summer language program. The summer school is a great way of introducing Taiwan, and its quality of life, and friendly people and sparking students’ enthusiasm.