台南推英語第2官方語 星國媒體譽為領頭羊Tainan leads push to boost English in Taiwan

2017-07-21

〔記者洪瑞琴/台南報導〕南市推動英語第2官方語言政策,引起新加坡第1大報《海峽時報》(The Straits Times)關注,以〈台南市擔任領頭羊,提升台灣英語力〉為主標,〈成果包括提升校園英語使用機會及培養公職人員基礎英語能力〉為副標,撰寫專題報導。

面對中國打壓的外交困境,南市英語二官辦主任劉世忠也在臉書有感而發,「台南推動英語作為第2官方語的努力,能讓國際媒體也看得到真是不錯!」、「中國打壓台灣不可怕,可怕的是台灣對自己沒有信心」。

南市第2官方語言專案辦公室4月28日受立委邱志偉之邀,前往立法院參與「推動英語作為第二官方語言公聽會」,簡報說明目前市府推動英語為第2官方語言各項計畫與成果。

因新加坡非英語母語系國家,但力推英語官語,特殊的歷史文化背景,讓《海峽時報》對南市推動英語為第2官方語言倍感關注,並於6月10日報導;該專題報導南市正推動夜市及餐廳雙語菜單、鼓勵計程車司機和政府公務人員開口說英語,肯定這些措施為提升台灣英語力開拓道路。

市府二官辦表示,推動二官語政策挑戰重重,能夠受到外界關心,甚至中央有機會投入資源共同推動英語,值得欣慰,尤其新加坡向來是推動該二官語政策過程中,非常重要的參考典範,能夠獲得其主流媒體報導,表示努力能夠被看見,彷彿打了一劑強心針。

二官辦表示,未來希望看到這篇英文報導的海外華人,或對這項政策有興趣的國人,能夠踴躍提供寶貴意見或協助,大家一起來為提升台灣的英語能力,盡一分心力,最終能型塑全民提升英語力風氣。

 

 

From providing bilingual menus at night markets and cafes, to getting taxi drivers and government officials to speak English, the southern city of Tainan hopes to blaze the trail in promoting English in Taiwan.

By the end of this year, about 15 per cent of the city's government officials will have to introduce themselves or talk about their jobs or hobbies in a 10-minute oral presentation in English. The city's government announcements and documents are now available in both Chinese and English.

The city of 1.9 million is also getting its elementary schools to teach more subjects in English, amid a renewed push by lawmakers and language experts across Taiwan to make English a second language in schools, alongside mother tongues such as the Minnan dialect (Hoklo), Hakka and Aboriginal languages.

In Taiwan, children start learning English in public schools only from Grade 3, or at nine years old.

Under the Tainan plan, children will get more exposure to English, which will be the medium of instruction for mathematics, science and physical education from Grade 3.

In Taiwan, Chinese is the official first language and the medium of instruction for all subjects - even English - in most public elementary and high schools.

The Tainan scheme will be piloted in eight schools in September and will be extended eventually to all schools in Tainan, said Ms Sabrina Tien, deputy director in the city government's Office of English as a Second Official Language.

Other cities, such as Taoyuan, Hsinchu and even Taipei, are introducing English-medium instruction in more subjects, but on a smaller scale.

Taiwan has been trying to improve English standards but lags behind economic competitors such as South Korea.

In an English proficiency index by Swiss-based education firm EF Education First, Taiwan scored a moderate proficiency rating and was 33rd among 72 territories last year, behind Singapore (sixth), South Korea (27th) and Hong Kong (30th). It is, however, ahead of Japan (35th) and China (39th).

However, those who object to making English a second language fear that the greater use of English would be at the expense of Chinese, or guoyu as it is known in Taiwan. Pro-Beijing parties see the promotion of English as a move by pro-independence activists to distance Taiwan from China.

President Tsai Ing-wen, who leads the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is seeking to expand Taiwan's trade and cultural links with South-east Asia, India, Australia and New Zealand to reduce the island's dependence on China.

"While South-east Asian countries have their own native languages, it is the English language that will bind most people. It makes sense to make English our primary communication tool to ensure we gain a steady footing in the region, and remain competitive and relevant," said Mr Chiu Chih-wei, a DPP lawmaker.

Language experts say Taiwan's competitiveness is at stake.

As Shih-Chien University language expert Chen Chao-ming told The Straits Times: "It is about ensuring that people in Taiwan can still close business deals and get jobs in a highly competitive world where only the best talent who can communicate easily will survive."

While most people in Taiwan have a basic understanding of English, business people, service staff and taxi drivers struggle to hold a conversation in English. The Education Ministry says it is promoting the use of English in schools and boosting teaching standards.

But more needs to be done, said Professor Chen, who compiled Taiwan's first White Paper on making English the second official language in Taiwan in 2015.

He said: "Mastering English has to go beyond classrooms. The government must view English not as an education in which one memorises grammar and vocabulary, but a way of life."