When Grades Don’t Matter


Today marked the end of my second week of language class at National Taiwan University. It feels weird being a student once again. I’ve studied abroad before in both Tokyo and Shanghai, but this time is different since the grades are just that – an indicator of progress. They’re not going to be transferred to my home uni or looked over by grad school admissions.

I chose to come to come to Taiwan for a number of reasons:

  • to learn traditional characters
  • to get a different perspective of cross-strait relations
  • to climb some mountains
  • to visit the beaches
  • to use the island as a base for traveling throughout Asia
  • to increase my fluency in speaking, listening, and reading Chinese

Given that the grades I receive are only self-serving, I’ve found it a little hard to not lose sight of my main goal. When I told my school’s program director of my short-term goals of passing the proficiency test, she pretty much laughed and told me that if that’s my goal, I really don’t need to be in Taiwan (or Mainland China) to pass the test. This was de-motivating to say the least, but only for a moment.

I considered dropping out, but realized, why quit so soon? Its been a personal-goal of mine to be fluent in another language. Why I chose to stick with Chinese, and not go for an easier language, I don’t know. I had come so far, how could I let a little blip ruin what I’ve planned? Improving language skills, like every other skill, really comes down to self-motivation. So to keep me motivated with my language study, I created a study-plan that I hope will help me get the most out of my stay here. Sure, it might not help me achieve my goal to be business proficient, but at least it’ll provide some structure to learning this incredibly hard language.