Cary, North Carolina – A new opportunity for people to learn Mandarin Chinese in Wake County is all thanks to a partnership between the United States and Taiwan.
the North Carolina Raleigh Taiwan Center for Mandarin Learning, which opened earlier this year, offers adults the opportunity to learn traditional Chinese. Thirty-five of these centers are already in the United States, as well as 10 in Europe. This is the first Taiwanese Mandarin learning center in North Carolina
The US and Taiwanese governments signed an agreement in 2020 to expand Mandarin learning overseas. The Raleigh Chinese Language School, which offers language instruction for K-12 students, applied for and received funding in 2021 from the Taiwan Overseas Community Affairs Council to establish a language learning center for people aged 18 and over.
The mission of the new center is to teach Mandarin Chinese in an environment free from politics or government pressure.
Taiwan is a democratically governed island that China considers its territory. Mainland China, under communist rule, uses Simplified Chinese as the standard writing mode. Taiwan uses Traditional Chinese, which is the conventional writing system used by Chinese people for thousands of years, with more strokes and more complexity.
Dr. Hann-Yi Chen, director of the NC Raleigh Taiwan Center for Mandarin Learning, said the Taiwanese component makes its approach to learning Mandarin unique.
“We teach the authentic or so-called traditional characteristics of Chinese characters, and we also integrate the culture,” she said.
Chen emphasizes that there is no political or governmental pressure in the program.
“We will not impose or ask any student to do anything or learn anything from a government perspective. It’s all about education, tradition and language.”
Students commit to a 12-week semester of three hours per week, two in person and one online. They attend classes at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church Fellowship Hall in Cary, which rents its building to the center for use.
They practice reading, writing and Chinese language with a highly experienced and native speaking instructor. They also learn about cultural traditions such as New Year’s Eve, Chinese calligraphy and Taiwanese cuisine.
Shannon Hutchinson from Raleigh said she started learning Mandarin “to relieve stress”. She said she wanted to do something to engage her brain.
“It’s really, really relaxing, and it’s just different from anything I do, so it really gets my brain focused,” Hutchinson said. “Mandarin is just completely different, and I was really interested in learning something totally new.”
Hutchinson said she looks forward to going to class every Saturday. She said she had no specific end goal for learning Chinese, just the simple pleasure of learning about a different culture.
The NC Raleigh Taiwan Center for Mandarin Learning is wrapping up its first semester with two adult classes, but plans to offer summer workshops and fall classes. Tuition is $200 for a 12 week session.