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Chinese Language and Culture for International Students

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Today it’s Saturday, which means that I have managed one week in the classrooms of National Taiwan Normal University (see official website). Since I haven’t really said anything in general about what I’m studying, I’m going to do that, and also give a short summary of the different courses I’m taking.

First, some overall comments. I’m studying at National Taiwan Normal University, which is by many considered to be one of Taiwan’s top university. However, I’m not at the main campus in Taipei City, but in a small town called Linkou, about 45 minutes from the main train station. It’s bigger than the town surrounding the university I studied at in Xinzhu, but still not very big. I live around 25 minutes walk from the actual classrooms.

The program is called Chinese Language and Culture for International Students and is roughly what it sounds like. In the first year, the majority of courses are focused on language, even though culture of course seeps into everything we do. Still, we only have one course with anything close to culture in its title. However, the titles aren’t that reliable, because on the surface, we seem to have a number of different courses, which in reality are very close to each other (and are meant to be so, it’s just some bureaucratic manoeuvre because the university system can’t cope with courses with too many credits). Still, even courses that are meant to be different seem indistinguishable to me at the moment. For instance, the listening class was more about conversation than the actual conversation class, which in turn seemed to be much more about reading. Perhaps it crystallises after a while, but until then it’s just simpler to separate the subjects according to teacher and textbook rather than to the name of the course.

Some quick counting will summarise the following list as a total of 22 hours of class every week, although four hours (English and PE) are not related to Chinese itself (even though the physical education is of course taught in Chinese). Considering that I’ll have to study a lot to keep up, I think this schedule is okay, but might prove to stressful later on.

Chinese Characters (2 hours/week, Chen Li-fen)

This is the first out of three of the elective course I take and focuses on the basics of Chinese characters, including many things I already know, but might be a good idea to brush up. I don’t expect this class to be very hard, but I still think I can learn a lot.

Integrated Chinese (6 hours/week, Chen Li-fen)

This seems to be the core of this semester’s Chinese courses. It seems to have a fairly straightforward approach with quite difficult textbooks, a lot of homework and so on. It will be tough to keep up, but it’ll be very good at least for reading, writing and listening.

Training in conversation (2 hours/week, Du Zhao-mei)

This seems very similar to Integrated Chinese and I can’t yet say what the main difference is. There might be a difference in terms of assessment, but the course material and structure seem very similar.

Training in Reading and Writing (4 hours/week, Li, Yu-juan)

Yet another class, seemingly again with the same approach as the other, but with the difference that this class actually seems to be called what it is. The level is still very high and will need a lot of studying.

Chinese Pronunciation (2 hours/week, Chen, Huai-Shuan)

This class seems to be genuinely interesting. It focuses on correct pronunciation, but not only to make our pronunciation correct, but also to teach us how to make other people’s pronunciation correct, which should be very useful for a future teacher. The drawback is that we are a lot of students (all groups together), so I don’t know how much time there’ll be for individual correction. This course is the second of the three elective courses.

English (2 hours/week, Huang Shin-ying)

Since what I’m currently studying is an ordinary Taiwanese university course, there are some mandatory courses which everybody has to take, such as English. However, the school has been nice enough to make a special deal with some people to let native speakers be responsible for a chatting room, or something like that, a couple of hours every week. I’m not a native speaker, but it seems like I can be included anyway.

Traditional Chinese Festivals (2 hours/week, Li, Yu-juan)

This is the last of the elective courses and focuses on, as the name implies, on Chinese festivals. The level seems to be average (high, but a lot lower than the ordinary courses). I don’t know how much pressure will come from this, but I’d rather have too much to do this semester than too little.

Physical Education (2 hours/week, Hsu, Wen-ching)

This feels very much like being back to high school, but since I liked the PE in high school, that’s quite okay. I don’t think it will be entertaining all the time, but I’m still the sort of person who can enjoy this (whereas many of my classmates are just sighing when they see this on the schedule). The teacher seems reasonable, too, focusing on sweating a lot rather than jumping far.

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Online Highlights 2

I haven’t spent much time browsing the Internet lately, mostly because I’ve been too busy with applications for next year, as well as normal studying. However, I have come across a few websites I feel are worth sharing (see other Online Highlights). Below, I’ve tried to explain why.

5 Real Life Soldiers Who Make Rambo Look Like a Pussy –  I think the title is sefl-explanatory, this is an article about five soldiers with exceptional performance records, some of them so outstanding that Hollywood decided to reduce them because the audience would think it uneralistic if the true story was told. This is a good read.

Open Yale Courses, Game Theory –  This is also what it sounds like. Yale University has started a series of free courses that can be downloaded from the web. I haven’t finished this one about game theory yet, but it’s very good so far and I can recommend it if you’re interested. Even though it’s possible to listen to most of it, I suggest downloading video.

Internet Archive: Wayback Machine – I learnt about this project in the most recent edition of the Economist. Basically, it’s an archive for the web, storing old versions of website. For instance, you can have a look at what your own website looked like five years ago. This might also be useful for retrieving lost data.

Lars Petrus on Rubik’s Cube – My interest for Rubik’s Cube has ben revived lately and this is the best site I’ve found so far. His method is intuitive and pretty good, and it does not require you to memorise a whole lot of sequences. Admittedly, Petrus’ method has declined in popularity among the world’s fastest speedcubers, but it’s still perfect for beginners and intermediates.

Chinese Language and Culture for International Students – I provide this link not so much because I think somebody else will apply, but rather because somebody might be interested in what I’m doing. Right now, that’s trying to apply for this program at National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, a four year Bachelor’s Degree program. Nothing is decided yet, though, because I need to aquire a scholarship as well. I will post something specifically about this as soon as I have more information.

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Earlier today, I posted two envelopes containing two applications, one for a scholarship, one for an education in Taipei, aimed towards international students who want to study Chinese language and culture. This is a four-year BA, which would mean that I stay in Taiwan quite a while.

But, and this is a big but, I need to be admitted to the university as well as to the scholarship program. The first one is not a big problem, I think (that’s one benefit with studying hard: it’s easy to use the grades for something useful, as well as asking professors for favourable letters of recommendation). The second one is more difficult, though, since only one person in Sweden will be awarded the scholarship.

I already have a scholarship for this year, which may affect the outcome either way. On the one hand, they might think that since I got it last year, they will not award it to me again (although it’s a completely different scholarship and there is nothing in the regulations which bars me from applying again). On the other hand, they know that I’m a serious student. They know that if they give the scholarship to me, I will do whatever I can to succeed, because I have already done so this year.

Either way, it will be nice to relax for a short while. These application issues have been taxing my mind quite heavily this week and I have neglegted exercise, sleep and studying. I might not be successful in my endeavours to extend my stay here, but I have at least tried.

In the future, I might post updates to this entry rather than posting a new one, should anything noteworthy happen. Of course, if something very important happens, it will merit a post of its own, but if you want to stay updated, please recheck this entry in a week or so. Thank you.

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