Tweet As part of my Teaching Practicum class my classmates and I had an opportunity to check out Taiwan's International Chinese Language Program, better know around these parts simply as ICLP. ICLP is an amazing program (perhaps the only one in the world) that takes language learners from zero to oral competence in one year. Many students of ICLP go on to do graduate work here in Taiwan, or enter the work force, so how do they do it?
ICLP's program certainly isn't a walk in the park. Students have four hours of Chinese class a day, split into three hours of small group classes (with a maximum of 4 students) and one hour of one-on-one lessons. While in the program, students participate in a language contract. If students are found speaking any language other than Chinese during classes or anywhere in the language learning center they will not receive a certificate of completion at the end of the program.
What really blew me away about the program was how well the students spoke Mandarin after just a year or two of study. Their tones, vocabulary, and sentence patterns were equal of someone who might have been studying for years and years in another program. However, I was most impressed with how naturally they were able to respond to our questions in Chinese, that to me, showed a real display of understanding.
After talking to some of the teachings I think that part of the success of this program is the strong emphasis on oral proficiency. From day one students are made brutally aware of their tone issues and pronunciation mistakes. While it may hurt at first, once they overcome that huge hurtle it gives them a great confidence in their language skill, helping to get them to the next level even quicker. Many of the staff strongly believe that many teachers of Mandarin are simply too soft when it comes to fixing these mistakes, and if these few students are any indication that being strict is the right way to fix this issue then I whole-heatedly agree with their approach.
To be honest, the whole experience made me regret my decision to study at Shida back in 2006-07. But I suppose looking forward is really the only way to progress... who knows, maybe I could be one of those teachers someday.