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US Defense Dept. opens Flagship language center in Taiwan

New Flagship center at NTU one of US govt.'s two elite Chinese programs abroad

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Chinese Overseas Flagship language center has been established by the U.S. Defense Department at National Taiwan University to foster exchanges between the U.S. and Taiwan.

William Stanton, the vice president of National Yang Ming University and former director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), previously wrote for Taiwan News:

The Language Flagship is a unique innovation of the National Security Education Program (NSEP) funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. Flagship’s mandate is to develop advanced foreign language skills among young Americans who, according to NSEP, “will take their place among the next generation of global professionals, commanding a superior level of proficiency in one of ten languages critical to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness.” The overall goal is to “educate a citizenry prepared to address the nation’s well-being in the 21st century.”

The project director of the Flagship program in Taiwan, Der-lin Chao (趙德麟), said that as one of only two overseas Chinese-language Flagship centers in the world, the Taipei center will strengthen bilateral ties between the U.S. and Taiwan.

A Flagship center was opened in Nanjing, China, over ten years ago and currently has 44 students enrolled. The Taipei center, which opened in June, has 22 students.

The program's acceptance process is rigorous: After four years of formal Chinese study, applicants are screened before having to pass an examination. The course, also known as the "Capstone Year," lasts for ten months, during which students take intensive academic language classes and conduct specialized individual research.

Each student is eligible for a scholarship of US$10,000 per year to support their studies in Chinese and other majors. The number of students enrolled is expected to exceed 100 within the next three years.

AIT Director Brent Christensen praised Taiwan for being democratic, a reliable partner, a positive force in the world, a good place to study Chinese, safe, and culturally diverse. When he was first stationed in Taiwan at the beginning of his career, he had a similar experience which was equally beneficial, and he strongly encourages Flagship students to make good use of their time.

Chou Chia-pei (周家蓓), vice president of NTU, said that plans for the opening of the Flagship center were discussed this spring. She said NTU will provide specialized academic affairs and curriculum assistance to arriving Flagship students.

One of the first students to take part in the program at NTU told Liberty Times that they were determined to study Chinese. The Flagship student added that they hope to go into medicine and believe that good communication strengthens the doctor-patient relationship.

Another American student, who had previously taken language courses in China, found that discussing politics in Chinese there was “embarrassing." However, after coming to Taiwan, they said they felt they could communicate freely with local students.