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Midshipmen Study Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan

Posted on: February 13, 2013 08:00 EST by the International Programs Office

Naval Academy Midshipman 1st Class Alex Green and Midshipman 2nd Class Eugene Yang spent the fall semester studying at the National Taiwan University as part of the International Chinese Language Program.

The program is designed to teach foreigners formal, business-level Chinese. Graduates of the program include U.S. foreign service officer and former Under Secretary General of the United Nations for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe and Edward Wong, one of the New York Times’ main correspondents during the Iraq War from 2003-2007.

The midshipmen found that one of the advantages of learning Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan is the widespread use of traditional characters in Taiwanese society and culture. Being able to read traditional Chinese characters is a useful skill for future naval officers preparing to take the Defense Language Proficiency Test, which tests for reading competency of traditional characters.

Green enrolled in two one-on-one classes with his instructors where he studied the different perspectives of media reporting between mainland China and Taiwan. Over this course of the semester, a conflict arose between China, Japan, and Taiwan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. By the end of the semester, Green was able to publish a thesis analyzing the differences in media reporting of the conflict.

“I’m really thankful to have the opportunity to go abroad,” said Green. “There’s no substitute for the cultural immersion of living and communicating with the local people every day.”

Yang studied a variety of Chinese culture and language in four classes, three of which had a class size of four students, and one of which was one-on-one instruction. These courses varied from speaking ability and presentation, to myths and folklore, to the history and transformation of Chinese culture and society.

“Every day was a challenge just to get into the mindset again, to put English off to the side and start to build a new process for thinking and speaking,” said Yang.

By the end of the semester, he and a group of three other international students won a debate on the effects of social media on the current generation. The debate challenged the students to put their learned Chinese to use in a final presentation in front of their peers and teachers for grading.

Outside of academics, Green and Yang had the opportunity to travel around the island and experience the unique culture of Taiwan. They climbed Snow Mountain, the second highest mountain in East Asia at 3,886m above sea level, joined and competed with the university’s judo team, and were invited to the Taiwan Naval Academy for its birthday celebration.

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