First-Timers – Cathy
Cathy was born and raised in the US, and spoke Taiwanese and English at home. Her Chinese-American husband was also born in the US; having their children learn Chinese was not a priority until their oldest son entered 9th grade and surprised them by saying that he wanted to learn Chinese. Two years later, their daughter announced the same thing.
When her oldest son was offered an opportunity to teach English in a four-week, overnight program in Taiwan this summer, Cathy decided to bring her entire family for an extended summer holiday. “It was an excellent opportunity to enroll our two younger kids in Mandarin language training programs and for them to experience a life and culture quite different than their own.”
As she had not been back to Taiwan in 18 years, Cathy’s parents and in-laws lent their assistance in organizing the trip, a trip that also included touring around the country and visiting relatives before the camps began. Cathy rented an apartment near her children’s camps at NTNU (師大), and even joined a nearby gym.
1st child’s profile: Age 15, has taken Chinese as a school subject for the past year
Program name: NTNU Mandarin Summer Academy, for students ages 15-17
Class size and format: Language, culture classes and field trips. Students are split into different classes according to Chinese level, with 10-12 students per class.
Duration and cost: 4 weeks, Jul. 10-Aug. 4. 9am-3pm. NT45,000 / USD$1,480
Commentary: Good instruction for speaking, reading and writing with age-appropriate activities, including field trips and sports activities to promote class bonding. Approx. one hour of homework per day, and fun, real-world application of learning (e.g., how to order bubble tea).
Cathy highly recommends this program for children whose profiles are similar to her daughter’s.
2nd child’s profile: Age 10, has attended weekly Chinese school for the past year
Program name: The Extension School of Continuing Education (SCE) of NTNU Little Master Summer Camp, for students ages 6-9
Class size and format: Language, culture classes and field trips. Children are split into different classes according to Chinese level, with 10-12 students per class.
Duration and cost: Multiple 3 week sessions available. 9am-4pm. NT40,000 / USD$1,320
Commentary: Cathy’s son is 10, and while the program coordinators said he would be fine, she feels that the program really is more appropriate for the stated ages of 6-9 years old. Activities include games and singing songs, and there is a daily rest/nap time.
There is limited homework given, and Cathy was told by the administrators that parents in this program prefer their kids to just have fun.
Focused on Chinese Characters – Patty
Patty was born in Taiwan and moved to the UK after completing primary school. Now living in Europe and married to a non-Chinese-speaking husband, she alone is responsible for her children’s Chinese language education. She speaks Chinese to her children at home, but they have limited opportunities for reading and writing.
While in Taiwan for the summer, Patty decided to focus on her daughter’s bopomofo (phonetic symbols) and Chinese character study. She chose Mandarin Daily News (國語日報), one of the oldest and well-known language schools in Taiwan, and a place that Patty actually attended herself when she was growing up.
Child’s profile: Age 7, can speak and understand Chinese, learning to read and write
Program name: Mandarin Daily News Mandarin Learning Summer Program
Class size and format: Half- and full-day programs are available. Chinese classes and cultural
(martial arts, calligraphy, art, etc.) classes every day. Children are grouped by age and level; class sizes range from 10-20 students.
Duration and cost: 4 weeks, multiple sessions available. Patty enrolled her daughter in the
half-day session, which runs 1:00pm-4:50pm. NT22,000 / USD$725
Commentary: Patty recommends this program if the primary goal for your child is to learn to read and write Chinese, and in the most classic, traditional way. She notes that conversation outside of class instruction is primarily in English, as most participants are from overseas.
Focused on Oral Fluency – Stephanie
Stephanie was born in the US and, like Cathy, spoke English and Taiwanese growing up. Her husband was born in Taiwan and moved to the US near the end of primary school, so he’s been taking the lead on teaching their kids Chinese. Their children attend a bilingual Chinese-English school program where they use simplified Chinese characters.
Stephanie’s main goal for sending her kids to camp in Taiwan was for them to practice listening and speaking in a native environment. Like Patty, she decided to send her children to Mandarin Daily News (國語日報), but she chose the classes that are attended by local Taiwanese residents so that her kids could play and interact with Chinese-speaking children.
1st child’s profile: Age 9, advanced Chinese level
Program name: Mandarin Daily News HAPPY GO Talent Camp (才藝營)
Class size and format: Activities include ping-pong, art, drama, literature, cooking, etc. 10-15 kids of mixed primary school ages. Language of instruction is Chinese.
Duration and cost: 4-weeks, July and/or August. 9am-5pm. NT26,000 / USD$860
Commentary: Stephanie reports that her daughter had a lot of fun at HAPPY GO and is already talking about going again next summer. There is minimal reading and writing in this class, so if that’s your focus, check out MDN’s Mandarin Learning Summer Program mentioned above.
2nd child’s profile: Age 6, can speak and understand Chinese, learning simplified characters
Program name: Mandarin Daily News local summer classes
Class size and format: Many different classes, including ping-pong, art, Lego, magic, martial arts. 10-15 kids of mixed primary school ages, depending on the class. Language of instruction is Chinese.
Duration and cost: Generally 2-week, 10-class course. 90 minutes each. ~NT5,000 / USD$165 per course.
Commentary: Getting through the 16-page summer course catalog and registering for each individual class takes a lot of effort and help from someone who can read Chinese. This summer, Stephanie’s son took Lego, science, magic and art and enjoyed all the classes, but the schedule of the day (30-minute break between classes and an hour-long break at lunch) requires parents and/or grandparents to travel back and forth to the camp multiple times per day, or be onsite most of the day.
The Veterans – Jenny
Jenny lived in Taiwan until age 7 and has made a concerted effort to teach her kids Chinese, sending her kids back to Taiwan every summer since her children were young. She states, “I believe it is more effective to learn language and culture by being immersed.” After three summers attending the MDN Mandarin Learning Summer Program mentioned above, Jenny decided this year to send her children to a few different local camps.
Children’s profiles: Both attended the same programs. Age 8 and 11, advanced Chinese levels
Program name: Love Nature / Eye上大自然
Class size and format: 15-20 children, mixed ages. This nature / ecological organization puts on a variety of nature-focused day and overnight camps in locations across Taiwan, including Yilan, Hualien and Taipei. Jenny’s children attended one of the day camps and one of the overnight trips to Yilan.
Duration and cost: Multiple day and overnight camps available. The 3-night overnight camp to Yilan cost was NT14,000 / USD$460
Commentary: Jenny’s kids loved the overnight camp, and she liked the diverse cultural activities of the program, which included visiting a bee farm, outdoor cooking, and tea leaf picking. “Cool” counselors spoke Chinese; minimal reading or writing required, and there were a few other international participants.
The Almost-Locals – Ivy
Born and raised in Taiwan, Ivy moved to the US for college. Her parents still live in Taoyuan, Taiwan, and this year she came back for the whole summer, putting her daughter in a local after-school daycare program (安親班, anqinban), with the goal of having her learn bopomofo, and her son in a local kindergarten.
1st child’s profile: Age 6, fluent in Chinese listening and speaking, able to read some
Program name: Giraffe American English School (長頸鹿美語桃園西門分校)
Class size and format: 15-20 kids, organized by grade. In the 1st grade class, mornings are spent learning bopomofo, math, English and science to prep for the coming school year. In the afternoons, non-academic activities like arts and crafts, movies, and field trips are held. Additional classes, such as swimming, are offered for an additional fee.
Duration and cost: 8:30am-4:30pm, NT9,000 / USD$300 per month
Commentary: For the most affordable, local experience, Ivy recommends this type of anqinban, after-school and summer day care facilities, located all over Taiwan. After this summer, Ivy feels confident that her daughter will have completely learned bopomofo. She has also been impressed that her daughter’s English handwriting skills have improved a lot.
However, she warns that these types of schools may be difficult for overseas children to adapt to; examples include strict teachers and after-lunch naps required to be taken heads-down, on the desks.
2nd child’s profile: Age 4, fluent in Chinese listening and speaking
Program name: High Class Educational Group (海格斯幼兒園桃園市分校 )
Class size and format: 15 kids per class, separated by age. Kindergarten/day care program
Duration and cost: 7:30am-5:30pm, NT9,000 / USD$300 per month
Commentary: With the help of her mother, Ivy found a kindergarten near her parents’ place in Taoyuan that accepts short-term students.
Have your own experience to share, or have any questions? Feel free to leave a comment!