After having finished last semester with reasonably good results (thriving rather than merely surviving), I was quite sure that my second semester in the graduate institute of teaching Chinese as a second language wouldn’t crush me, even though I took more courses than the previous semester. In fact, the spring semester flew by and it feels like it was over even before it started.
Just like I did after the fall semester, I’m going to share some thoughts both about the program itself and my own performance. I will also say a few words about the coming academic year and my plans for the future.
My thoughts about the program after the first year
First things first. The program is called 華語文教學研究所 (Graduate Institute for Teaching Chinese as a Second Language) and is primarily aimed at native speakers, but also accepts international students. The institute is part of National Taiwan Normal University and is located in Taipei, Taiwan. I have now completed one academic year here and know infinitely much more about the program than I did when applying.
In general, i haven’t changed my opinion from after the fall semester. The program isn’t perfect (no program is) but is actually much better than I expected. Still, how much I learn here is much dependent on how much I do on my own and not all courses feel meaningful. With some effort, almost everything can be turned to a learning opportunity, especially since all teaching, exams, reports and presentations are held in Chinese and almost all social interaction is also done in Chinese. I might hesitate to choose this program if judged only on the actual content, but if I include the language I learn, it’s more than worthwhile. In other words, I feel that the program is perfect for me at this point in my life, but it might not have been so good earlier or later.
My grades for the spring semester
I typically underestimate my own grades, especially with courses that feel difficult. This semester, we had at least one course that I found very hard (Syntactic Structures of Chinese) and for some of the other courses, I simply had no means of predicting the results. Still, the below grades are roughly what I expected and the grades for the individual courses are more aligned with my expectations than last year when I received some undeservedly high grades.
- 華語文教學實習 (Chinese Teaching Practicum): 90
- 華語語法學 (Syntactic Structures of Chinese): 90
- 研究方法 (Research Methodology): 96
- 漢語語音研究專題 (Special Topics on Chinese Phonetics): 88
- 高級華語 (Advanced Chinese language course): 94
- Weighted average: 91.4
I also passed two important bureaucratic milestones. I didn’t spend any time preparing for these, but I still want to mention that I passed both a pronunciation exam for Chinese teachers in Taiwan (華語口語表達考試) and the highest level of TOCFL (Test Of Chinese as a Foreign Language, Taiwan’s HSK), which is a requirement for graduation. I still find the reading section hard on the latter (so much to read, so little time), but the listening was relatively easy.
These results probably say less about my proficiency than the grades above, but they are still important academically. Surviving in the program ought to be harder than passing the exams, but that’s not obvious for casual observers.
Apart from taking another five courses during the coming academic year, I also need to start focusing my research in preparation for my thesis writing. I don’t plan to stay in the program longer than necessary and since I already have a pretty good idea of what kind of research I want to do for my thesis, I feel that my plan is realistic. It’s going to be something about teaching pronunciation to Swedish high school and university students, but exactly what area I will focus on remains to be seen. Much more about this later, stay tuned!