Teaching English in Taiwan

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There are around 7,000 different languages currently used in the world with English being the most internationally popular, according to the Linguistic Society of America. It will be an exciting adventure if one volunteers to go to a non-native country to teach kids English in remote areas. Not only is it an incredible opportunity to encourage kids to learn English, but it is also a culture-enriching experience. Before going to a foreign country, it is best to study the local customs, weather, and food. Also, knowing some basic dialogue of the local language will make it easier to warm up and communicate with the students.

I have accompanied my family to a number of orphanages for charity in five different countries since I was little, and took part in several entertainment activities. I played games with the children and did arts and crafts while my sisters and other adults were busy with their charity work. Fortunately, in last summer, I had the chance to go with two college students to teach English at the Christian Mountain Children’s Home in Southern Taiwan. Before we taught, we prepared 20 songs of music accompanied by a flute, 200 simple everyday conversations about greetings and favorites, and 100 pictures of fruits, automobiles, sports and daily goods. Because they are teenage students and already have learned basic English, it wasn’t difficult for us to teach them. The most interesting part of teaching was doing interactive word games such as hangman, as it was easier and more fun for students to learn from playing. Everyone enjoyed it.

Christian Mountain Children’s Home is located in the mountains of Southern Taiwan. Every morning when I wake up in the quiet surrounding of woods, I could hear the insects chirping and birds singing. There were geckos climbing up the walls, insects on the floor and flying around the room. I have to suffer from constantly scratching fresh mosquito bites from the previous night. However, the pain eventually subsided as I got used to it.

The heads of the orphanage were a couple, gracious and with warm hospitality. They helped prepare meals for us with vegetables grown in their back garden. These exotic-looking vegetables are actually nutritious, and certified by the local Forestry Research Institute. We crowded around a tiny round table with a lazy Susan – a turntable in the middle seen at many Chinese restaurants. One volunteer sitting next to me was left-handed, so it was a bit inconvenient as our chopsticks kept clashing. The atmosphere was cordial and heart-warming, as we all felt we were doing something good and meaningful.

A Lazy Susan (center) is used to distribute food easily among the table sitters by spinning it. Photo courtesy of George Louis

Before this volunteer trip, I rarely think too much about the meaning of life or soul-searching, but when I returned, I realized even though I’m young and not knowing much, I could do simple things to help with others such as teaching English. In addition, having been raised in both the western and eastern cultures helps me appreciate different cultures and customs more easily and communicate with others. Most importantly, I realize that when you are finding ways to contribute to the society, it also changes you in the process.