About a year ago when looking for schools to go to I found alot of information on Shi-Da, Tai-Da, NCCP and a few others, but very little about Wenhua (Chinese Culture University). I later found out that this is likely due to the relatively small number of westerners studying there. By my unscientific survey of the class list on the office wall, once you get to pre-intermiediate level ~80% of the students are Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese. With this in mind I decided after I'd been there for a while I'd post some info for those in the same boat. So here were are.
Location and Facilities
Ask Taiwanese about CCU and they'll all tell you it's at Yangming Shan in the middle of nowhere, which is true of the main campus, except that the Mandarin Learning Centre is located in the School on Continuing Education at on Hepingdong Rd in Da'an, opposite Da'an park. Its 7 mins walk from Technology Building Station, 15 mins walk from Shi-Da, and 25 mins walk from Guting MRT.
The building is either new or recently renovated. The classrooms are large and all have AV facilities. I walked through Shi-Da and I gotta say it seemed kinda rundown. There is a library at B4 which helpfully has a wide array of Western magazines, a nice bonus as gives something to read during study breaks.
There are 2 main courses, intensive (3 hours a day) and non-intensive (2 hours a day), in addition to other business chinese courses, ect. Like virtually every other language school in Taiwan, they use the "Practical Audio-Visual Chinese" series. The levels are set up as basic (1,2,3), pre-intermediate (1,2,3), intermediate (1,2,3), then a final single advanced level. Each stage is 3 months (actually a bit over 10 weeks). There are new classes starting every month, the university does not follow the normal school terms. If you go start to finish the whole thing is 2 1/2 years. There appears to be some differences with the Shi-Da course though. As far as I can tell, at Shi-Da one solely studies the PVAC series, then moves onto "Mini radio plays" or "Though and Society", ect. At Wenhua the PAVC is used through the entire course except the final, advanced level. Basic 1 uses book 1, Basic 2 book 2, then Basic 3 uses the 1st half of book 3. At this point things change. Starting pre-intermediate 1, you spend 2 hours a day on the PAVC book, and another hour on and elective course. Non-intesive does not have the electives. The elective courses are either skills reinforcement classes or the somewhat misleading named culture classes (you work on your language skills in these just as much as the others). Skills reinforcement will work on reading/writing/listening or speaking. Eg the writing course involves writing a 100-150 character essay on a picture every class, to improve one's writing. Its not as boring as it sounds. The culture series are either Chinese song lyrics, Chinese movies, or Chinese TV. They're quite fun, especially the lyrics class. You learn a new song every week, giving you some tunes to belt out when you go to KTV with your Taiwanese buddies and you learn alot of useful, poetic words in the class. It helps break up the monotony of the PAVC series also. The intermediate classes start to use the "Thought and Society" and "Mini Radio plays" for the electives if you choose those classes. There are also HSK electives using simplified characters for those that want to take the HSK.
Class sizes appear to be large (~8) for the basic levels, which they rapidly fall over the higher you go. My current class has 4 including myself, although one guy seldom shows up due to running his own business, so effectively it's 3. Its luck of the draw. About 5/6 seems to be the average starting pre-intermediate on.
I skipped the first few levels so I can't comment on those, but they seem to play alot of games and activities as when I had on of their classes adjacent to my room they sounded like they were having a good time.
The few posts about Wenhua I read before suggested the classes there were slow-paced and kinda lazy. W-T-F. No way in hell. Given I read that I was kinda taken aback by the workload. Every term starting from intermediate 1, in 10 weeks you cover 7 chapters of PAVC. For example, each chapter I have to write a 對話 using all non-nouns in the lessons, 2 rounds of 聽寫, and work sheets that for each grammar rule in the lesson (~8) has 10 questions to answer for each to write answers to, then the PAVC booklet and a final test per lesson. 2 oral reports per term. End of term exam. Then on top of that you have the electives, which have a ton of new words. Then every week there is a Test of Proficiency Huayu test. The booklet contains a short essay, 10 new words, and you do the online test every week. You can take the test as many times as you like. The teacher will cover the content in class. To top it off, a ~400 character essay to write over the weekend for my elective. Add all that up, and it's a sh*tload of work. All that work you are submitting is going to come back with corrections, do you want to go through it and see where you went wrong or just forget about it? I study my ass off and no way I can cover all of that 100%. You can probably do as much, or as little as you choose. If you want to do the bare minimum and scrape by, you probably can. Thats likely where the reputation comes from. But if you want to make the most of your time there, there's probably more work that you can complete. You don't have the learn all the TOP words. You don't have to learn all the elective words. You can coast through if you like, but you're there to improve your chinese so there's no point slacking, you're just cheating yourself.
This is where Wenhua does great. The teachers are fantastic. They make the most of the AV facilities to teach, which helps. I think Wenhua is hiring teachers on the basis of their personality because they've all been friendly and fun, and the teachers there on average appear to be fairly young. They have a serious approach to their work and have always gone the extra mile to help me out. They also try to use imaginative ways to keep things from getting boring. They also seemingly can all speak English. They will seldom use it, but sometimes a simple translation can make all the difference when you just don't get whats going on.
I can't recall, but I think it was the cheapest of all. Alot of the westerners at the higher levels started at Tai-Da or Shi-Da but switched to save money.
Anyhoo, thats it. Hopefully someone finds this useful.
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