Lyubov’ Semenova, MCU alumni, visited her alma mater to share an exciting story of spending one year in Taiwan teaching Russian language to Taiwanese high school students. Lyubov’ enrolled in the cultural exchange program supported by the Moscow’s Representative Office of the Taipei–Moscow Coordination Committee on Economic and Cultural Cooperation.
Please tell a few words about yourself.
I’ve graduated from the MCU’s Chinese language department receiving bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies and master’s degree in Teaching Asian Languages in 2018. After my 2nd year I went for an exchange program to China, but never visited Taiwan.
Was it the reason you decided to enroll in the Russian as a foreign language teaching program in Taiwan?
Yes, and another reason was that I wanted to have a good practice of Chinese to improve my communication skills. I went to the town of Zhushan where there were no Russian-speaking people at all, so I was totally immersed in the local language community.
What did you have to do before going to Taiwan?
To tell the truth, I was in a great haste preparing all the documents before the deadline. I had to receive a medical certificate, apply for a visa. The representatives of the Taipei–Moscow Coordination Committee and the National Chushan Senior High School supported me at all stages of the application process.
What are your impressions of living and working in Taiwan?
One of the first peculiarities that I encountered was the different chronology which counts years from the date of the establishment of the Party. Another distinct cultural feature is that the Taiwanese use a lot of Japanese language in their speaking and writing, and have very close ties with Japan in general.
Tell about the school you worked at.
The National Chushan Senior High School is very different from the schools in Russia. It is spacious and well-equipped, the teachers are very kind and helpful. I would like to say a few more words about the Taiwanese teachers. The community of teachers in Taiwan is very close-knit and supportive, for example, the retired teachers keep on visiting the school they worked at and mingle with their colleagues. I found out that they are also very open and willing to learn, as they attended my Russian language classes for adults. They showed a lively interest in Russian culture and I gladly presented to them some traditional Russian souvenirs. All they knew about Russia was cold, Siberia, and matreshka so I wanted them to discover a more full-fledged image of Russia.
Was it difficult to teach Russian to high school students?
It was quite hard. I had some Russian-language exercise books, which I had to translate into Chinese. Besides, there was no grammar commentary or teacher’s book, so I had to search for compelling grammar explanations suitable for those who speak a completely different language without either flexions or gender. To speak of the learning outcomes, I saw more progress with the adult group then the high schoolers group, as they seemed to be more motivated to learn a foreign language. Some of the teachers have already visited Russia and others were planning to do so in the nearest future, and they were eager to improve their communicative skills.
What was your working schedule?
In the morning I usually had 3 lessons with different student groups. At the lessons we studied new words and grammar, and towards the end I showed some presentations offering interesting information about Russian culture. I also had a separate course on Russian culture that was open to all students.
Besides teaching, I had many opportunities to travel around Taiwan and enjoy its beautiful nature. Several times I joined teachers’ tourist groups and visited such cities as Nantou, Taizhong, Taibei, Taidong and Tainan, and a number of national parks: Taroko National Park, Shei-Pa National Park, Xitou.
Do you think this experience of living and working in Taiwan will help you in your future career?
Definitely yes. I had an impressive Chinese language practice. For example, I had to revise the traditional Chinese characters that are used in Taiwan instead of the simplified characters of the Mainland China.
Please give some advice to those who may be interested in going to Taiwan to teach Russian as a foreign language.
There are two main things one needs to bear in mind. Prepare the papers and their translations into English beforehand, as sometimes it takes more than a month to issue a document. Spend some time and effort to find good Russian language textbooks and to revise your traditional Chinese characters. Another good thing is to bring some Russian souvenirs to present them to your Taiwanese friends.