Obies Using Languages: Rory O’Donoghue ’19{0}

Rory O’Donoghue is a third-year, Double-Degree student with majors in Clarinet Performance and Comparative Literature. Rory spent Summer 2016 studying abroad in Taiwan and reflects on the experience below.

This summer I studied Chinese at the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan for two full months. I spoke everything in Chinese, all the time – from ordering food for every meal to figuring out my way home when I was hopelessly lost. All of my classes were taught in Chinese and most of class-time focused on studying the language itself. Language class was held for three hours every day during the week, with special electives like history or art occurring two or three times per week.

Being surrounded by such intensive language study was definitely useful in improving my skills. Taiwan is an especially exciting place to study Chinese, because even when you meet people who know English they still largely speak Chinese to you and I found they really appreciated my effort to respond to them in Chinese as well. I was also lucky because the textbook we used in class was full of the most incredible, colloquially contemporary speech so talking to people on the street wasn’t that much more difficult than in our academic setting. This made it really fun too because I felt so prepared and equipped to talk to people in a comfortable, casual way.

Honestly, just being immersed in the culture made understanding the language so much easier for me. I got to learn first-hand how people speak in various daily settings, instead of just reading a standardized textbook’s approach to the language. My surroundings constantly encouraged me to work towards improving my understanding of the language. Just by listening to the people around me and incorporating their methods into my own speech, I’ve learned so much about the Chinese language and am so grateful to have had such a useful, enjoyable experience.