Chris Norton is a successful Internet entrepreneur and a lover of the Chinese language. He also happens to be the author of a terrific new e-book called Study Chinese in Taiwan. Find out what initially drew Chris to Taiwan, why he recommends studying Chinese in Taiwan and how the plans for his new website and e-book developed after his arrival in Taiwan.
MSW: Hi Chris. Thanks so much for joining us today. Why don’t we start the interview today with you telling us a little about yourself? Why did you decide to come to Taiwan?
CN: I’m a 10-year veteran internet entrepreneur and avid Mandarin Chinese language student (Mandarin students can check out my new site, Study Chinese in Taiwan, for helpful Mandarin study tips!)
Originally it was my passion for becoming fluent in Mandarin that brought me to Taiwan to study Chinese, but in the end it was the yummy food, world’s most friendly people, affordability of living in Taiwan and fantastic Asia-travel opportunities that made me stay.
MSW: How do you like your courses so far at National Taiwan Normal University? What are some of the things that you really enjoy/dislike about studying in Taiwan?
CN: Studying Mandarin Chinese at the National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU)’s Mandarin Training Center has been amazing! I’ve heard a couple horror stories of Mandarin students ending up with awful, cranky old teachers. After studying Chinese for four semesters at NTNU, I have yet to encounter a single one. The four Mandarin teachers I’ve had over my four semesters at NTNU have all been extremely friendly, very helpful and very professional.
NTNU’s facilities are great (if a little old in places – but so are most of the buildings in Taiwan), and being the largest Mandarin school in Taiwan means they can offer Mandarin students additional classes like Taiwanese which I’m starting this semester.
My only ‘dislike’, and it’s not necessarily a fault of NTNU’s, is that having the largest student body means it’s easy for Mandarin students to converse only with other foreigners outside of class. The school could do more to encourage language exchange with local Taiwanese which is absolutely essential to developing fluency in Mandarin.
MSW: You’ve recently developed a fairly new website called Study Chinese in Taiwan. What makes your site special compared to all of the other language sites out there?
CN: That’s right! The goal of the Study Chinese in Taiwan website is to provide all the vital information Mandarin students need to know to make the move to Taiwan and further their Mandarin studies.
Serious Mandarin language students will need to spend time in a native Mandarin-speaking environment in order to become fluent, and, right now, I’m convinced Taiwan is the best place in the world to study Mandarin.
The difference between our Study Chinese in Taiwan website and other Mandarin language sites is that ours is specific to studying Mandarin in Taiwan and provides critical info on Taiwan-specific issues such as how to get a Taiwan student visa, choosing where in Taiwan to study, etc.
We also have some exciting features planned such as a Taiwan Mandarin school directory and review system. I get asked frequently about Taiwan Mandarin schools so this sort of resources seems quite in demand!
MSW: You’ve also just published a Study Chinese in Taiwan ebook, and I hear that it’s doing quite well. Can you tell us a little about how you did that and what kind of content readers can expect to receive if they buy your ebook?
CN: The Study Chinese in Taiwan ebook is really a one stop shop for everything a Mandarin student coming to Taiwan would need to know. Topics covered include:
- Getting a Taiwan student visa
- Healthcare in Taiwan
- Choosing where in Taiwan to live
- Finding housing and dealing with landlords
- How to get a cell phone in Taiwan
- Where to buy groceries and furniture in Taiwan
- Taiwanese food
- Mandarin study tips (including some from NTNU’s top Mandarin teachers)
- And more!
I’ve been in Taiwan a little more than a year now, so most of the challenges I encountered upon first arriving in Taiwan are still fresh in my mind. Knowing the information could be useful to others, I wrote it all down over the course of a couple months and packaged it into the ebook.
The reception of the ebook by the Mandarin learning community has been fantastic! In fact, the ebook’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/studychineseintaiwan1 reached over 500 likes shortly after its first month
MSW: What are some tips or advice that you would give to anyone planning on coming to Taiwan to study Chinese?
CN: Just do it! (Sorry, Nike.) 3 months of Mandarin study in Taiwan is easily the equivalent of a year or two of Mandarin study at a university in North America. If you’re serious about becoming fluent in Mandarin, buy your ticket and start planning!
A few other critical tips:
- Taipei is easily the best place in Taiwan to study Mandarin right now. For those concerned about budget and the expense of living in Taipei (Taiwan’s most expensive city), Tainan and Kaohsiung are also okay choices.
- To get the most out of your time in Taiwan, get as many local Taiwanese language exchange partners as possible and minimize time spent with foreigners outside of class.
- Check with your local Taiwanese embassy or cultural office in your home country for scholarship information prior to coming to Taiwan. Depending on what country you’re coming from, getting scholarships equivalent to $800USD/month are not too difficult to come by.
MSW: You’re also an Internet entrepreneur. Why don’t you tell us a little about your online businesses?
CN: That’s right! In addition to the Study Chinese in Taiwan website and ebook, I also own and manage Website On-Demand, Alcaris Inc and Simple Project Reports.
The first two are website development and internet marketing companies based out of Toronto, Canada and are focused specifically on the Small Business and Non-Profit markets. Our Website On-Demand service is especially unique as we offer professional designed, search engine friendly websites on affordable monthly payment plans.
The last one is an online project management and reporting system for general contractors and construction companies.
MSW: Has living in Taiwan allowed you to become more involved in your online activities?
CN: Absolutely! The time difference between Taiwan and Canada has given me a bit of freedom from the daily grind of managing an internet marketing company back in Toronto. Consequently, I’ve been able to focus more of my time on trying out new web technologies, exploring new business ideas, experimenting with new search engine marketing techniques, etc which I believe has actually made me better at my work!
Anyone that has questions about Taiwan or studying Mandarin is welcome to give me a shout on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/chrisnorton