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Mandarin in Taiwan v. China

Apollo6Apollo6 Posts: 1,533Registered User Senior Member
edited March 2012 in International Students
How different is it? My teenage son began studying Mandarin last summer learning simplified characters. He has been given the opportunity to study in Taiwan all next year with Rotary Youth Exchange. He is a little worried because he has not been studying traditional characters. Also, he will not be able to speak or understand very much Mandarin when he arrives because he has not been studying it very long. Do very many people in Taiwan speak English? Are there schools or tutors to help foreigners learn Mandarin? Any advice for a 16 y.o. boy going to Taiwan for a school year? Do Taiwanese students wear uniforms? Any ideas for gifts that his host family would appreciate?
Post edited by Apollo6 on

Replies to: Mandarin in Taiwan v. China

  • artloversplusartloversplus Posts: 5,575Registered User Senior Member
    bascially, there is a differenece in the use of words, mostly in slangs, and they can be learned quickly. If you understand Mandarin, communication should be no problem. But, if you are used to reading simplified, reading traditional might be difficult, not the other way around.

    Taiwanese start to learn English since middle school, 7th grade. However, most of Taiwanese do not speak English fluently.

    There are lots of language schools, you just have to pay. Be careful, get references before enter any of them, because some just want your money.

    Some HS require uniform, but many do not. But your S is not going to HS is he?
    Not sure what Rotary exchange program is about, discuss this with the program admin and the host family for his year of schooling. What kind of advice you are looking for your S?
  • Apollo6Apollo6 Posts: 1,533Registered User Senior Member
    Thank you for the information. Yes, Rotary Youth Exchange is a high school program. My son is 16. He will stay with host families and attend a high school for a year. We don't know where he will stay yet, only that he will go to Taiwan.
  • artloversplusartloversplus Posts: 5,575Registered User Senior Member
    After only one year of language training, your S will have problem going to a regular HS in Taiwan. The level of Chinese requirement to attend a regular school is far beyond what you can learn in the America in one year as you can imagine. But there are American high schools, if so, they are like going to a school here in the States.
  • creamaniacreamania Posts: 400Registered User Member
    I think your son can survive. Don't worry so much.
  • artloversplusartloversplus Posts: 5,575Registered User Senior Member
    One thing you can be certain, that the host families are mostly high networth, well regarded business or political leaders in Taiwan. It is far more difficult to become a Rotary member in Taiwan than here in the USA. Your S will be treated well.

    And I think he might be going to an American High School over there.
  • Apollo6Apollo6 Posts: 1,533Registered User Senior Member
    He would go to a regular high school with Taiwanese students but his grades won't count towards his U.S. high school diploma. He would just be there to learn about the culture and to learn as much Chinese language as possible. I've learned that they do provide Chinese language classes for the students. They put some students in vocational schools and others in academic schools. My son plays piano. Do you think he would find a piano to play at school or in a host family?
  • artloversplusartloversplus Posts: 5,575Registered User Senior Member
    great... I am sure students there will welcome his presence. Its like to have a free English teacher. As long as hsi grade is not to be counted, he will be fine, otherwise, its a major adjustment problem.
    They should have pianos to play in the school, music classes are given in those local schools. If permitted, you can practice after school. Not sure in a host family, you have to ask.
  • esistmiregalesistmiregal Posts: 18Registered User New Member
    hi apollp6,

    I tried to send you a private message, but it seems that there isnt any space left in your mail box. so ill just post here. I want to tell you and your son, "no worries".


    I am a Taiwanese who happened to be an exchange student in Germany two years ago. I was also sixteen then and applied exactly the same project. It was a great experience for me, and I bet the time your son's going to spend in Taiwan will be one of his greates highlights in his life.


    I had no prior experience of speaking German before being there. All I could say were only "hi", "good-bye", "thank you", and "could you please tell me where the restroom is". =) However, now I can communicate with people in German and I even have a certificate of speaking German from Goethe Institute. Your son has a better start than I did, so the language won't be a problem for him.

    I had two host families when I was in Germany. My first host family could speak English well and always talked to me in English. As a result, after staying for six months, I still knew only few German words. However, after moving to my secon host family, my German improved pretty fast because they only spoke German. Yes, I have to admit that Taiwanese dont speak engllish well, but I think its an advantage for your son. Because of this, he will be forced to practice speaking chinese and you will be amazed by how much he will have improved after one year.


    its normal that exchange students dont unsterdant in classes. There are two educational systems, just as you mentioned, academic school and vocational school. the exchange students are usually arranges to attend the vocational schools. (the classes at academic school are boring for the people who cannot unsterdand chinese well and the students at academic schools are probably more interested in getting high scores than making friends than their exchange classmate) However, in vocational schools, there are usually more interaction between students during classses. futhermore, the students at vocational schools have more time to hang out with people after school. your son will easily make friends here. trust me, taiwanese are unbelievably passionate!!


    what i love about the rotary club in taiwan is that the members really care about the exchange students and try efforts to help them to get used to the life in taiwan. there are interesting activities designed fot exchange students almost every month. (most of them are cultural events. all the students are fascinated by these activities that they have never imagined before) the rotary clubin taiwan is much better than the one i had in germany. (ooops!) district 5230 is the BEST district!! i hope your son will be sent to this district. oh, almost forgot to mention, the rotary club offers mandarin courses for exchange students, so you and your son really do not have to worry about the language. in my opinion, traditional characters are better and more meaningful than the simplified chinese characters. the creaction of simplified chinese was for non-educated people in china. traditional chinese is hard to learn, but it contains thousands of years of culture and is more beautiful.

    of course your son will definitely encounter a great culture shock at first, but he wil be fine. what im going to say now may be hard for you to believe, but its true. although most of the exchange students have never heard of taiwan and always get confused if taiwan and thailand is the same before coming, they do not want to go back after staying for one year. ive even known some exchange students who came back to taiwan for a visit after returning to their countries. when i was in germany, my host mom told me that her friend wanted to get to know me because her daughter was in taiwan and her daughter didnt want to go back to germany.


    the exchange year will be a great experience for your son. he's gonna love this place if his the person with open mind and is willing to try new things. (i think it is very improtant for people living abroad!!) you and your son will understand what i mean now at the end of his journey in taiwan. (well, i mean if he REALLY comes to taiwan)

    if your son decides to come to taiwan after all, i hope that he will be sent to taipei, the capital. its so much fun here.

    i understand how's it like to head to an unfamiliar place without language. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. id be willing to answer. (it may takes time for me to reply because im preparing for the entrance exam for university. i dont use computer every day)

    best wishes,
  • esistmiregalesistmiregal Posts: 18Registered User New Member
    no offense! what i said about the creation of simplied was true. i didnt mean to attack people in china. the original purpose of simplying the chinese characters was that there were too many people in china and most of them didnt have a chance to get educated. sorry for not conveying my meaning properly.
  • chinadadchinadad Posts: 8Registered User New Member
    It sounds like your son just started learning Mandarin so I wouldn’t worry about that he starting off with the simplified. It will take him some time to understand what will be said in class – in fact I’m not sure he will get much in only one year. I took an intensive year and a half of Chinese in Taiwan then went to Taida for their business program and I couldn’t understand much of the lectures – the text were in English. It is good he will learn the traditional characters because it is easier then to learn simplified if he needs that someday.

    The differences in speaking Mandarin in Taiwan and China are some different vocabulary such as:
    Turn: Zhuan China vs Guai Taiwan
    Potato: Tudou China vs Malingshu Taiwan
    Air conditioner etc. the list goes on but the different vocabulary is not really a big deal since the main structure is the same.

    I preferred learning Chinese in Taiwan because they use Bopomofo – once you learn the symbols for this and the sounds they refer to you can speak any character that has the Bopomofo next to it. In China they use pinyin which I find difficult even though it is the Romanization (the sounds they refer to are different than typical English.)

    Different accent: Here in Beijing they use a lot of er at the end of words. In Taiwan they have a southern China accent which is “softer” – he needs to be careful of the correct pronunciation. What you’d learn at Shida or I would assume most language training centers will be somewhat different from what you hear on the streets – Mandarin with a Taiwanese accent.

    I don’t think many people in Taiwan speak English – at least not really conversationally. College students will know it well and many students study in the States and come back to Taiwan. The thing is westerners are like magnets to many Taiwanese, they are very friendly and many will like to try out their English.

    I would assume he would be wearing a uniform but I don’t know – it seems like most school have uniforms.

    Anyway, these are just my opinions. When I went I had some doubts at first but eventually spent 12 years in Taiwan. It has become much more westernized over the years but that is the same for Beijing as well. Find a good place for dao shao jia jiang mian!
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