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Studying Chinese at NTNU’s Mandarin Training Center

National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) was the first school in Taiwan to open up a language program for foreign students starting in 1956 called the Mandarin Training Center (MTC). And to this day, its considered as the most popular school to attend and study Mandarin due to their high standards in teaching techniques, along with the books they’ve published used in class for foreign students. The building is located on:

129 Heping East Road, Sec. 1,

Taipei City, Taiwan

Outside entrance to the Bo Ai Building

You can take the Green Line to Guting and take exit 5 walking down Heping East Road or you can also take the blue line to Taipower Building Station Exit 3 and walk straight down Shida Road where all the shops are down to the university.

At the university, there will be a library in front and right behind it is the Bo Ai Building where students attend the Chinese Language Courses.

People watching as usual

Take the elevator up the 7th floor to access the classroom area, but if you need to talk to the staff, visit the 6th floor main office.

Each semester at NTNU is 3 months long. And within each semester, students can choose between the four different types of Chinese classes. two are regular courses. And two are intensive courses.

Students love to hang out in the hallway area between classes to catch up with friends or relax for a bit.

One regular course is more for the casual learner. Students only go through 7 lessons during those 12 weeks and class size can range between 13 to 20 people. This option is the cheapest of the four. The other regular course is more of the standard level. Students will go through 10 lessons during this time and the class size will hold no more than 10 people. The regular courses only consist of one class a day for 2 hours each day with only 10 hours a week of Chinese. Any student that’s enrolled in the regular courses is required to do additional hours every month ranging from study hours in the computer lab or library or taking a large lecture class. The hours we are required to do changes from month to month and its posted on the check-in screen when scanning our student IDs. Students can also participate in weekly school activities which are posted on the large bulletin boards to make up the hours. There’s even an option to volunteer for work at the orientations they have every 3 months which counts towards the hours as well.

In terms of the intensive courses, they consist of 3 hours or language class per day adding up to 15 hours a week. Intensive course A class size ranges from 6-9 students (this is the most expensive option) while Course B ranges from 13 to 20 students. These classes are more fast-paced meaning the teacher goes through the lesson at a faster rate and homework/course load is quite intense. The classes are good for people who want to learn Chinese at a quicker pace for beginners or for people who’ve already learned Chinese and want to achieve better and faster results in a shorter amount of time.

Classmates hard at work jotting down notes or are they really?

Since I am enrolled in the regular courses, we are required to attend a minimum number of classes each month. The numbers vary and change from month to month. For regular courses, we only have 10 hours of actual class time. To make up for the additional hours required, there are a variety of other classes or hours one could attend to obtain them. They have the Large Language Classes which are in a large lecture hall and vary in topics such as Chinese Movies, Basic Conversation in Chinese, Singing Chinese songs, Introduction to Character writing and the list goes on. These classes run for at least 2 hours long and can be attended at any time throughout the day as long as there is a class running. There’s a schedule posted outside the lecture hall of all of the classes going on for the semester along with on the MTC website.

In the language lab listening to recordings while reading along in the textbook.

There’s also the Language Labs where students can go and use the computer to watch Movies/TV shows in Chinese, listening to all of the textbook/workbook recordings, play games in Chinese and pretty much anything all Chinese Language learning related.

Hard at work reading and writing away on a lovely afternoon

And if students wanna keep it basic, they can also just visit the library and obtain study hours which in fact still do count towards the supplementary course hours.

Textbooks used for the Level 1 students

There are 6 levels of courses students can take meaning 6 books. Level 1 being beginner level to Level 6 as advanced. What’s nice about MTC is that they know that although the levels are so far few in between, that many students may fall in between a level. To help counteract that, they place students based upon their spoken, listening, written tests.

To give you an example, book 1 has 15 chapters. They have classes for people to start at:

Chapter 0: You know absolutely nothing.

Chapter 1: You learned the tones, pronunciation and maybe a few phrases to get by, but you’re not familiar with Chinese at all

Chapter 6: You have a basic grasp of simple Chinese words, but not enough to form so many complicated sentences

Chapter 11: You have a good grasp of the language, maybe you studied in the past and forgot so much of the language or you studied simplified Chinese (like myself) and you need a refresher of basic vocabulary and grammar before you dive deep into the content. This chapter is for you.

The class itself is really nice. We have a very diverse set of students from all over ranging from India, Japan, South Korea, Portugal, Switzerland, and myself from the US. The classroom itself is designed as a medium-sized conference room. We sit around a big square shaped table forcing us to participate and be attentive to our teacher. I don’t feel as tempted pull out my phone or have side conversations and a great way to immerse myself and stay focused in class.

Going over the dictation we took in class

My teacher spends a great deal of time with us teaching vocabulary and grammar. She asks us questions and has us answer them aloud to the class or to our classmates in which relates to the lesson. Other times, she has a set of questions from what we’ve learned and we answer them using the variety of the new vocabulary and grammar we’ve learned This alone helps reinforce the speaking and helps us to retain structure and context of that matter. And because of this, I have been able to use new things I’ve learned in class in everyday situations. For example, I got sick the same week we learned about how to talk about not feeling well. For that reason, I was able to visit a pharmacy and easily communicate on what type of medicine I needed to buy.

Overall, I love my teacher for she’s super animated, cheerful and easy going. Most importantly, she doesn’t stick solely to the book. She spends time coming up with different things to do in class to reinforce the material. From reviewing flashcards to match characters to playing telephone in Chinese, it is all fun and quick and straight to the point. I’m not sitting in class all day bored.

If anyone is curious, I’ve also written about the Mandarin courses I took back in China. In my next blog, I will share more about how to obtain to the scholarship to study in Taiwan for free and also the difference between the programs I did both in China and Taiwan.

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