Things to know about Taipei
Taipei is a city of people from many different origins, and you can find a good mix of Chinese (people whose families migrated to Taiwan from 1949 onwards) and native Taiwanese (people whose families had been in Taiwan since the Qing Dynasty). While Mandarin is the lingua franca, and is spoken and understood by most people under the age of 60, other Chinese "dialects" are commonly heard as well. Among the native Taiwanese, while speakers of Minnan form the majority, there is also a significant number of Hakka-speaking native Taiwanese living in Taipei.
English is compulsory in all Taiwanese schools, and most people under the age of 40 will have at least a basic grasp of English, though few are fluent. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that learning some Mandarin and/or Minnan will make your trip much smoother.
- The internationally acclaimed Chan (Zen) Master Sheng-yen (who passed away in Feb 2009) has a monastery in Beitou where there are regular meditation meetings with instruction given in English.
- In recent years, Tibetan Buddhism has become very popular in Taiwan, and the Taipei area alone boasts more than fifty centers. So, on any given night there will be teachings and rituals being held in the city. Taipei has become a regular port of call for many of the well known rinpoches. While most teachings are given in Tibetan with translation into Chinese, some are given in English. For information on teachings, check notice boards at vegetarian restaurants.
- The international Buddhist foundation The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation has its headquarters in Taipei. The foundation publishes books on Buddhism in various languages (including English) which it offers for free. For detailed information check the foundations web site: [www]
- National Taiwan University (國立臺灣大學) [www] – Taiwan's uncontested number one university. Colloquially known by the shortened Taida.
- National Taiwan Normal University(國立臺灣師範大學) [www] – Colloquially known by the shortenedShida, one of the oldest universities in Taiwan. NTNU runs the Mandarin Training Center, an excellent program teaching several levels of Mandarin Chinese in semester-long segments.
- National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (國立臺灣科技大學)[www], is the first technical university in Taiwan.
- Mandarin Training Center. National Taiwan Normal University (Shida), 162 Heping East Rd, sec. 1. Tel+886 2 2321-8457 & 2391-4248. Fax:886 2 2341-8431, e-mail: [email protected] This school, which is part of Shi-da University, has seen generations of students passing through its doors and it remains one of the most popular schools in Taiwan for serious students of Mandarin.
- International Chinese Language Program National Taiwan University (Taida)[www]. This program, which used to be called the IUP program, has a long history of Chinese language training, especially for advanced learners and primarily targeting graduate students, scholars and professionals studying in China and Taiwan. It has very small classes, very high quality instructors and textbooks, but may be considerably more expensive than the alternatives. Only students who expect a very intensive experience, usually with a year or more of time to dedicate to study, should consider this program.
- Mandarin Daily News Language Center, more commonly known locally as Guo-Yu-Ri-Bau, 2F. 2 Fu-zhou Street. Tel:886 2 2391-5134 & 2392-1133 ext. 1004. Fax:886 2 2391-2008. Along with the Center for Chinese Language and Culture Studies, this is one of the most popular schools in Taiwan for serious students of Mandarin.
- Maryknoll Language Service Center Rm. 800, 8 Fl., Chung Ying Bldg.2 Zhongshan North Rd., Sec. 1. Tel:+886 2 2314-1833~5. Conveniently located near a Taipei Station MRT stop exit, the Maryknoll Language Service Center offers Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Hakka classes. This is *the* place to study Taiwanese. Mostly one-on-one tutorials although you may be able to arrange a group class.
- Unless you have a recommendation, the best way to find a good teacher is to visit a park at sunrise and check out the scene for yourself. If you spot a group that impresses you, approach one of the students and inquire about joining them. Most teachers will be happy to have a new student, though some old masters may 'play hard to get.' In the latter case, persistence is required. Most teachers will expect some sort of fee for their tuition. However, as it is considered impolite to directly ask the teacher this question, use a fellow student as mediator. Furthermore, when offering the money on the alloted day, place it in a red envelope (hongbao - available at all convenience and stationary stores) and slip it to the teacher subtly. Offering cash openly to a teacher of a traditional art or religion is considered undignified and demeaning. Most parks host tai'chi groups, but the most popular places are the grounds of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (nearest MRT station - CKS Memorial Hall) and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall(nearest MRT station - SYS Memorial Hall) as well as 228 Peace Park (formerly known as New Park - nearest MRT station - National Taiwan University Hospital).
- Jodie's Kitchen Cooking School offers Taiwanese and Chinese cooking classes. 2F, 29-1 Zi Yun St. Tel: +886 2 2720-0053
- Many community colleges, such as Zhongzheng Community College and Tamsui Community University offer weekly cooking courses. These include Chinese, Italian and Thai cooking, for example. The classes are in Chinese or Taiwanese language only. The prices are quite low because the colleges are government-funded.
Teaching English (or to a lesser extent, other foreign languages) is perhaps the easiest way to work in Taiwan. Work permits will be hard to come by and will take time. Consult your local Taiwan consulate/embassy/representative as far in advance as possible.
It should be noted that anyone staying in Taiwan for an extended period of time can FIND English teaching work, albeit technically illegally. If you are staying as a student or for some other long term purpose, it should be noted that many people are teaching English (or some other language) for pay without a permit in Taipei and elsewhere in Taiwan.