Written by Kate Ross (Brandeis University), Student Correspondent CET Taiwan, Summer 2019
It is crazy to think that in three weeks I’m going to be done with this amazing summer program in Taipei. I have been in Taipei for two months now, and we just finished week six of classes. It is definitely bizarre to think about how fast time flies.
Over the last week we had midterms. After our exams were complete, students partake in special activities that are arranged by ICLP (International Chinese Language Program) teachers. Over the span of a few days, the teachers at ICLP arrange a variety of activities that help them get out of the classroom and practice the Chinese that they have been learning. These activities range anything from making homemade Pineapple cake, singing at KTV, or even making tofu.
Based on your placed level at ICLP you will have the opportunity to join a specific language mission. I chose to join the Tofu Making activity at Shenkeng Old Street in New Taipei City, as I believed making tofu would be an interesting activity in Taiwan.
When applying my language outside of the classroom, I think my biggest obstacle has been having the confidence to speak coherently. I already know that I have the vocabulary to hold a conversation, but I believe that I lack the confidence to successfully converse with locals. At least this is what I remember thinking before I entered this program. Since classes began in June, I have been maintaining a full language pledge while in classes. I don’t think it was until this week of midterms and our language missions that I really realized how much my Chinese has improved over the summer without me thinking about it.
My language mission involved learning from a local 老闆 (lǎobǎn – boss) how to make tofu and also speaking to store owners and asking them questions. While listening to the tofu laoban explain all of the steps to successfully make tofu, I began to realize that I could understand more about what he was saying than I thought I’d be able to understand. I’m unsure as to why I was surprised that our tofu worked when it did, but everyone was able to understand what the store boss was talking about and we had amazing tofu! When our tofu turned out edible (and delicious) I was proud, and happy to reflect on how my Chinese has improved over the last few weeks.
As a CET student in Taipei you’ll have plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in the culture, but sometimes it is hard to remember that it is just as important to immerse yourself in the language. Participating in exciting activities around your home during a semester abroad is amazing, but when you are in a new environment studying a foreign language it is just as important to remember to practice that language with the locals.