Purpose of Travel?

Taipei offers so much in the way of study opportunities, that I often have to concentrate on my purpose for being on the island. The fact is that there are many things to learn and research here. The National Central Library across from Chiang Kai-shek memorial (or at least what it is known as for now) has all sorts of reading materials locked in its halls for anyone interested in looking into Sinology dissertations. On one of the uppermost floors is a whole collection dating back to the late 1800s, all about Asian topics. I will state, tangentially, that the library does not allow for books to be checked out. It makes sense since you want all the materials available around the clock, but still it is a major bummer. The fact that so many resources sit just a few metro stops away from me, gets me highly distracted. All of those dissertations are written in English, and what am I here for? Right, that tends to be one of life’s “Big Questions”, however my question focuses much more on a short term goal. My stay should be devoted to language study.

The struggle produced an interesting question. Do we have to gear our study abroad to language learning vs. special topic research? The fact that I felt literally torn over either hitting the Chinese Language books or research interests me. Is it possible to do both items at the same time? How can we make studying abroad effectively meet students’ needs? I personally sit in a difficult position. I am fairly new to the language of the country I chose to study in. This means that I really can’t function in society beyond a highly nominal level. It translates to me needing more separate time to study out the language and then bring it onto the streets. This summer it seems many students sit on that level. Most of us studied Chinese for two semesters but have next to no skill or ability to fluidly communicate. Now say if I came here with much more solid skills. The entire playing field would shift and I could focus on researching things, using Chinese works as a way of honing my language even further. Students who are looking to study abroad should seriously consider their reasons for doing such. Factoring those reasons can narrow down the locations and institutions from their pool of choices.

The story turns out that I popped over to Da’an Park (大安公園*) to study Chinese sitting on a bench and keeping another eye on the dark clouds rolling in overhead. It was probably the better decision. I picked up a dictionary recently with the 3,000 most common characters needed to read and and understand print media. Considering the daunting task of that many characters, I figured I’d handle it by systematically studying 10 characters a day. Sure, I probably won’t even be able to stick to that kind of rigid schedule, but at least a time table is there right? : P My purpose for being here is language instruction. It means that I need to spend the majority of my time diligently studying and tacking advantage of the practice field I have surrounding me. Perhaps when going abroad next year my abilities will make my purposes a little more flexible. But if I want the language I have to work at it! I read about a doctorate student that literally studied over dictionaries two years straight, sometimes having to look at an entry time and time again to get it right. Chinese is not a language for the weak at heart.

While at Da’an a woman directed me towards the Taipei Public Library. I picked up another library card and can now actually check out books and access a free study space. 太好了! I’ll ask again, has anyone else used Children’s books to be able to read with a basic vocabulary?

The Panda asked!

*Thanks to a new reader for catching my error with this character!–corrected June 15.09

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One Response to “Purpose of Travel?”

  1. Reverend says:

    Chinese is not a language for the weak at heart.

    Which is odd that you should take it up given you being a hippie and all. Though I must admit, you are coming across very Benjamin Frankliny in these posts with your 10 characters a day and what not. Your diligence and dedication is both enviable and admirable. You go, Joe!