After being in Taiwan for almost one year now, I have come to understand and learn a lot from the nice and generous people who live here, as well as learning the culture of my fellow colleagues from different parts of the world. Learning to adapt to the culture and way of life is still a challenge but life itself is a challenge. So we must begin somewhere. Appreciating new cultures and especially the one in Taiwan is a good experience so far for me. I have tasted various of food and learnt about some way of life by going around different areas of Taiwan, especially in the south of Taiwan where I live. So much to see and do, but we take it easy. Because three more years we have is more than enough to discover new stories and way of life in Taiwan.

I have to say that it is not easy for me to understand the way of life here in Taiwan simply because of the language barrier that I still has not improved like the way I planned it. Learning Mandarin is interesting but remembering it is another story. Sometimes you encounter words that are spelt the same way but have different tones and mean different things. For example : Chuan with the first tone means to wear or put on while chuan with the second tone is ship or boat. So it needs a lot of practice in enunciation and pronunciation to get it right. I find that the easier method of learning is the study of the pingyin, not the Chinese characters. Writing characters is very complex and require knowing the correct sequence of the strokes for each character. Otherwise you could change the meaning of the word. Sometimes they are spelt the same way in pinyin with the same tone as well, but have different Chinese character to represent it. For example: ban with the fourth tone can have two characters, one meaning half and the other meaning to handle or manage. It’s tough if you don’t understand the tone, strokes and history of these characters.

During the past months I have tried my best to cope with learning this new and interesting language, but sometimes I feel that my efforts are not so good, as Taiwanese say so so (hai hao). Also being around some Taiwanese and making Taiwanese friends have helped me somewhat because at least I understand what they tell me if they talk slowly. Knowing the basics has helped me to communicate in my daily life here in Pingtung and also to help my friends getting around. We help each other and luckily we have nice and helpful Taiwanese people here that try their best to understand what we are trying to tell them.

To conclude I just want to say that by learning Mandarin, we will be able to appreciate the culture of the Taiwanese people more, because we will then be able to understand what they say, thus making it easy for us to participate. The experience is already interesting and filled with surprises. But if we are able to interact more with the Taiwanese, it will be even more unforgettable. And Taiwan will truly touch your heart.

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