Studying Chinese in Taiwan is an excellent way to learn more about the country, gain a rich understanding of its culture and history, as well as gain a highly useful skill. As Taiwan’s status in the world increases, more and more people are coming to cities like Taipei or Kaohsiung to study Chinese.
Mandarin Chinese, known as 漢語 (Hànyǔ) or 中文 (Zhōngwén), is considered one of the more difficult languages to learn, especially for native English speakers. There are many thousands of Chinese characters that need to be learnt to become fluent, which requires many years of study, and the four tones can be tricky for first time learners. Having said that, grammar is relatively simple compared to most other languages and being in Taiwan will be a perfect way to immerse yourself and learn everyday words and characters more quickly.
While there is also Taiwanese Hokkien, sometimes just known as the Taiwanese language, and other various languages spoken across Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken. A student of Chinese will find getting around the country much easier, and will have plenty of opportunities to practice with the many chatty Taiwannese they are sure to meet!
Private Chinese language schools
Private Chinese language schools exist in many cities and counties across Taiwan, with courses from just a few weeks to a number of months. While they may use the same books as university language schools, they tend to be more casual, and may offer more chances to practice conversational and practical skills. Many also have courses that focus on particular tests or topics, such as business Chinese, university entrance exams, COCFL tests, or Chinese and Taiwanese culture. Both full-time and part-time courses are usually on offer, as well as private lessons.
Tuition fees vary between schools, but expect to pay between NT$22,000 to NT$28,000 for 10 weeks to 3 months, or about 80 hours of lessons. Prices will be lower outside of the big cities, but you might be limited in how many types of courses are available and at what level. Many language schools also have deals with apartment and sharehouse companies, making finding a place relatively stress free.
Taiwan Chinese Academy in Taipei is a language school that we have been particularly impressed with, with friendly teachers and lots of opportunities in class to practice speaking. The level of professionalism can vary greatly for various private language schools, as they are not regulated or accredited like in other countries, so always ask friends or read reviews online before joining a course.
Learning Chinese at a university, or one of their affiliated language schools, tends to be geared towards more serious students. Courses tend to have frequent tests, with more of a focus on being able to read and write characters. Once you reach a certain level, you’ll also be able to participate in standard classes at the universities. Most major universities offer Mandarin language courses, with the most well known being National Taiwan Normal University (國立臺灣師範大學) and National Taiwan University (臺灣大學). Entering via a scholarship, if you can, is highly recommended.
Scholarships and Exchange Programs
There are two major scholarship programs for studying Chinese in Taiwan, as well as other scholarships and exchange programs specific to a school or partnered university abroad. The Huayu Enrichment Scholarship, run by the Ministry of Education (MOE), offers NT$25,000 a month to awardees and is aimed at language students from across the world. It has summer programs as well as scholarships up to 1 year long. The Taiwan Scholarship, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), is generally for countries that have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan (Republic of China) and can be used for language study as well as degrees. These scholarships are from one to four years, with monthly stipends of between NT$25,000 and NT$30,000, and a flight to Taiwan included.
Both the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship and Taiwan Scholarship will only accept applications from teaching institutions affiliated with a university or college accredited by the Ministry of Education. Private Chinese language schools therefore cannot accept government scholarships. Find out more and check which university affiliated schools accept them on the official government website, or ask at your university if they have any exchange programs or partnerships with schools in Taiwan.
How to get a visa to study Chinese in Taiwan
If you plan to do a short course, coming on a tourist visa or entering with ‘visa exemption’ is the simplest option. Taiwan has visa exemption for over 60 countries, meaning that you don’t need to apply for a visa before entering. These kinds of entry visas are generally 90 days. Extensions are possible for citizens of the United Kingdom and Canada, and studying Chinese can be used as a reason for this extension. Check with your local Taiwan office for exact details for your country, such as how many days are needed before your passport expires and extension options.
If you study at a university they are able to sponsor your visa, meaning that you can continuously study there longer than 6 months. On the other hand private language schools are not able to sponsor visas. If you want to study for a long period at private language schools you’ll therefore need to come as a tourist and do a border run, come on a working holiday, or take classes in addition to a work or long term visa.
Holders of a student visa are not allowed to work for the first year of study, so be sure to save enough money if staying this long. Note that if you leave Taiwan and start a new visa, rather than extend one, this waiting period will reset and you’ll have to wait another year before you can start working. Even then, students may only work a limited number of hours, so check with your university to be sure.
How was your experience studying Chinese in Taiwan? Any school you would recommend? Let us know in the comments below.