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Sunday, February 08, 2004




A Taiwan Experience

It's raining again today. Infact she doesn't remember when was the last time rain stopped, in Taipei. She started her day the usual way. 12.20, after shower and breakfast, she rushed to catch bus number 20 to get to school on time.

She wore her umbrella and took a walk to the bus stop. It was about 10 minutes walk. Everyday she enjoys the view that has never been the same. The motion of people in the street, the color of the rain, the bustle of traffic. She loves to watch other pedestrians, especially when the traffic light changed to green and she started to cross the street along with everybody else. At that moment, it was like an order, like an instruction that everybody follows, for them to start to walk.

At the same time she walked with her umbrella, she passed a parade of colorful umbrellas and a variety of winter fashions. How she loves to see this parade everyday; changing faces, changing colors, changing movements. While she listens to the music of the rain, falling on the footsteps, on the wet roads, and sound of the traffic.

At 13.00 her class began. Li Lau shi (Teacher Li), a fair lady in her forty or fifty-something, a mommy, and a Taiwanese, that's for sure. One thing about learning Mandarin in Taiwan, at least you don't have to worry about wrong pronounciation. The teachers would all be native speakers, who had spoken Chinese since they were born.

She has studied Chinese before in her home country. That is why the beginner lessons came as no surprise for her. But the material taught in school is integrated: conversation as well as writing are given altogether. She might already been familiar with the conversation, but writing is brand-new to her.

She had found that learning Chinese has one big difference from learning European languages. For example, when she learned French, she's able to read and write before she could talk and listen. On the contrary, speaking and listening come first in Chinese learning. Writing and reading are a little bit difficult, because it utilize a totally different characters from the Roman characters we used to know. So we have to memorize all those characters, including how to write them in the right strokes order. She found it, however, really challenging.

This is her class. Her social structure now. These are the people she'd be seeing everyday. There are seven persons, six other persons else than herself. One other girl from Indonesia, two guys from Vietnam, two (one girl and one guy) from Mongolia, and one guy from USA.

They had come to Taiwan from different backgrounds and with different reasons. They have different status and skills, but inside the class, they are all students, with only one purpose: to study chinese.

One of the first things they have to learn, is to write their own name. In chinese. So everybody here ought to have a Chinese name. If you don't have one, the teacher will give you. For example, Richard (from USA) got his name changed to Li Cha, which sounds alike. Li Cha has chinese characters, so it can be written down in Chinese.

The two Mongolians friends are less fortunate. Their names are hard to find the equivalent sound in Chinese. The girl's name is Nanda and the guy's name is Nirigu. Li Lau shi gave them a totally different names. Nanda changed to Khe Sin (meaning: happiness), and Nirigu has to start to call himself Pai Yun (meaning: white clouds).

Maybe they are forced to get used to that, because it's like that in Taiwan. Every English brand has its Chinese name. Every English movie has its Chinese title, and so every English actors has changed their name into Chinese name in Taiwan.

Fortunately she already has a Chinese name. Her name was originally a Chinese name, romanized into Indonesian name, because every Indonesian citizen has to have an Indonesian name at that time.

She has different experiences from her classmates. In Taiwan, for the first time, it doesn't seem difficult anymore for others to pronounce her name. They even said it in the right tone. Of course, in Indonesia, the tone factor was ignored. She didn't even know how to pronounce her own name back then, let alone to write it.

Now in Taiwan it was a complete Chinese experience. She closed her book and prepared to leave her class. After saying goodbye to Laushi and her classmates, she rushed to leave her school and heading to yet another school, the informal one.





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