Roddy over at Chinese Forums asked me to do a write up on my experience at Taiwan Mandarin Institute. I went there last summer for a 4 week period. I hope this write up will be useful. I am cross posting this on their forum.
I did a 4 week intensive course. The cost was $35,000NT(~$1,166.66USD). The PAVC 2 book and workbook came with the course.
The registration process was fairly simple. I used the online form to register ahead of time. We e-mailed back and forth with a couple of other questions to narrow down my level and schedule. While I could specify I wanted the 2pm afternoon classes, I was informed I wouldn't get an exact schedule until a week before classes started. The schedule came on time, and all but Monday classes started at 2pm. Monday started at 1:30pm. Once I had arrived in Taipei I showed up about 30 minutes before my first class and we handled some administrative stuff like emergency contact, introducing me to my teacher, giving me the books, and showing me the facility. This is a smaller language school and I wasn't over crowded by a bunch of other people also needing to register at the same time.
They have a couple of different course types. They have your regular group course which consists of two hours of instruction per weekday. Then there is the intensive course which is 4 hours per weekday. They also offer Private one on one, and custom classes. Checking their website today it looks like they have added an online class as well.
The courses are further broken down by level. I was in a lower intermediate class. Unless you form a special class all the classes use the PAVC books. I had completed the first two Integrated Chinese books before that summer. Based on me telling them roughly how many words/characters I had learned up to that point, and a link to the IC table of contents they guessed I was around PAVC book 2 Chapter 6. This turned out to be a good starting point for me. While these two books don't directly match up, there was plenty of new vocabulary, and grammar.
Class sizes are small. While I was there doing afternoon classes in the summer I observed in passing one beginner class and an intermediate class. Both classes had about 5 – 7 students. My class was interesting, while it was originally scheduled to have 5 students, 3 students rescheduled for different dates leaving just an Irish student and I.
The classrooms themselves are big enough to hold 8 – 12 comfortably. They all have a white board, some conference type tables with chairs around them, and some decent side windows. Each room has it's own window AC unit. If a teacher was going to use a PPT to aid them they would bring in a laptop, and a plain old CRT monitor.
My intensive classes was broken down into about an hour of study, and then a 15 minute break, followed by another hour. Then we would have a 30 minute to one hour break before repeating.
All the teachers are native speakers with prior teaching experience. Teaching style varied from teacher to teacher, and you could tell administration if you didn't click with a specific teacher. While I was taking the intensive course they explained to me they wanted me to be exposed to different speaking styles, and teaching styles to help me learn better. While I think this was helpful to me, I also think they were having scheduling issues and needed three teachers to cover all my hours.
One of the cool things about two of my teachers was that during class time we almost completely spoke in Chinese. This was new to me. This was not how we had done it at university. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of work. They encouraged me to talk at length to make my point, and not to just pop out one or two word answers. They were also big on the homework thing. I had 1 – 2 hours of homework most days. The homework was comprised of the workbook, and also handouts the teachers provided.
They offer this service but I did not need to take advantage of it. I lived about 20 minutes away by bus. One of their dorms is in the same building as the school, and the other is nearby according to the website. Pricing on the website at $1000NT/day & $1500NT/day. It looks like you are paying extra for the convenience. If you have the money, I don't think that this is a bad thing, but I also believe if you plan ahead you can find cheaper living arrangements on your own.
The school is in a good location. I wasn't familiar with this area before I started school. It is in the Daan District, on Roosevelt Rd Section 3. There is a bus stop at the street corner next to the building, and subway access not to far away. While I was there I scouted around the area and found all kinds of things. For example, I found a Mexican place, a movie theater, some good coffee shops and pubs, plenty of good food places, and several used book stores.
This is the first language school I have attended.While I was at TMI there were a few holiday's and the administration had a bit of confusion on whether they were going to be off on those days or not, but it got sorted out without causing me any inconvenience, I just happen to hear them talking about it on a break.
I mentioned before we got in detail about what level I should start at via e-mail, and I don't know if there is a best way to evaluate one's Chinese level, but I found their website was a little bit vague in this regard. I think adding that they use the PAVC books could have helped me figure out my level quicker, but maybe not.
Also this is a small business, and like most small businesses ( including the one I work for ) in some respects they attempt to sound bigger than they are. On the flip side because they were so small I felt like I got a lot more personal attention than I would have otherwise.
I had a great experience while I was there. If I get the chance I will go back. I second what another posted said in his post. Make friends with your classmates. My other classmate had been living in Taiwan for several years and he was kind enough to show me me around our school's area, as well as share some interesting stories.