I started learning mandarin the first few weeks I came to Taiwan during our orientation with ICDF. However, it was not difficult to learn the introductory part as a start. Both practical and theoretical methods were applied by the teacher and by the end of the orientation everyone was able to introduce our selves and count figures.

As we finish the orientation, I thought I could go out then and apply with the Taiwanese the little I was able to learn. But surprisingly for me, the local people struggled to understand when I tried to speak. As that went on for a while, I lose confident to speak since I thought it was pointless speaking when people cannot understand me. Even a simple introduction outside became a problem.

In my university we are obligated to take mandarin class every week and we were taught in more details. It is a class I never want to miss but after the class I don’t speak it again until the next class. This was because I felt shy to speak when the Taiwanese have to struggle to understand what I am trying to express. So I always have to find someone to go out with incase I want something outside the school. I then ask the teacher one day what my problem is since she doesn’t have problem in understanding me when I speak but outside is the problem. As we concentrate more on pinyin in studying the language, the teacher then advises me to take notes of the tones that she already taught in class, I realize the tone is not a problem only for me but for most foreigners since the same word with different tones may have different meaning.

By the time the first semester ended the class became more interesting to me. The class always involves with both theory and practice to enable us to speak. That makes the class more interesting and everyone gets involved always. Now, even though I still struggle to express myself to local people, I think I have improved a lot. But I did not feel confident to try anything until this summer vacation when I had to go outside to buy food as well as other transactions. I am now realizing that practice makes perfect. Learning language in class alone is not enough to show impact but continuous practice with local people really helps a lot. I continue to make fun out of it and feel very happy whenever I am able to communicate something to the local people in Chinese and am encouraged to speak more.

I believe that language cannot only learn in class but one needs to make practice always whenever possible. The whole thing is like fun for me now and life is now becoming easier both within and outside the university. Unlike before when I don’t even go out unless I had to go with a friend, who helps me. I can now move by myself around to solve my problems. This helps me a lot since I cannot be relying on people to accompany me to solve issues outside campus. Sometimes I enjoy it when I make efforts to make people understand what I am requesting for, especially when buying food. Now I always continue to struggle until the vendor is able to understand what I am requesting. Of course, that has never been a problem because it enables me to interact with people outside the university.

Therefore, I encourage students to have courage and try to put into practice what is learned in class. That’s the only way one can improve your language ability. You will then also realize that Taiwanese are patient when dealing with non nationals and they always listen attentively to make sure they are able to communicate with you. I have experienced in many occasions when vendors wrote or drew on paper to ease communication in case we are not able to understand each other which is also another aspect of learning the language by practice.

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