Wang Center for Global Education

Torhild Skillingstad

torhild
Graduation Year: 2013
Location: Taipei, Taiwan
Project Title: The Status and Teaching of the Taiwanese Language

Brief Summary of Research Project:

The languages of the aboriginal peoples of Taiwan are Austronesian languages, unrelated to Chinese. Since Chinese people started moving across the strait from the 13th century, a dialect of Chinese mixed with local languages developed in Taiwan. This dialect, different enough to be its own language, is spoken by 70% of Taiwan’s population today. It became less and less prevalent in society after the Chinese Nationalist Party ruled Taiwan between 1945 and 1987. Mandarin Chinese is still the only official language, and there is no standardized written Taiwanese. Through studying Taiwanese and interviewing Taiwanese youth about their language usage, I was able to get a clearer sense of the status and teaching of the Taiwanese language in modern-day Taiwan.

Biggest Challenge:

I had never been to Taiwan before and with my limited language skills, it was quite intimidating to travel across the world all alone. It helped me a lot to be connected with a language institute in Taiwan, to ensure I had a specific point from which to start. Researching in advance goes a long way!

Advice to future Wang Grant applicants and/or recipients:

Applicant: Talk to a professor that knows you and the topic you want to study well. They are excellent sources of information and help when it comes to creating a research project, and I am sure they would love to help you. Finding a topic that is feasible with the grant money and your skills is important, and having a professional with which to talk things through was extremely helpful to me.
Recipient: Prepare yourself well by doing pre-departure research, not only about your topic, but also about the area to which you are traveling. Continue the good dialogue with your professors, they might even have connections in the country you are visiting!

How the Wang Grant has helped me academically or personally:

I saw the Wang Grant as a great opportunity to challenge myself and learn about something I was interested in. I had expected to learn mostly about the topic I had chosen, but I ended up learning so much about myself as well as Taiwan in general. I am now writing my Chinese Studies capstone about Taiwan, and can draw from my personal experience in my paper. Having received a Research Grant is also something really great to put on a resume for the future. It shows that you are willing to dig deeper, challenge yourself and adapt into a new community.