International education company EF Education First (EF) recently conducted a survey of the English proficiency of adults in around 80 non-native English-speaking countries. The results were announced today (Nov. 7). According to the results, the English proficiency level of Tainan City’s adults is higher than the national average and can be classified as “moderate.” EF also conducted an analysis of Taiwan’s six special municipalities. In 2017, Tainan’s residents had the lowest English proficiency among the six special municipalities. In 2018, Tainan vaulted to third place, coming in after Taipei City and New Taipei City. EF therefore specially presented its “Most Improved Award” to the Tainan City Government.
EF said Taiwan’s score in the 2018 EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) fell by 0.16 points compared to 2017 and it dropped eight places to the middle lower section of the ranking to finish 48th in the world and 10th in Asia. Sweden regained the top ranking by dethroning the Netherlands, and Singapore finished in third place. This marked the first time an Asian country had broken into the top three since EF began ranking countries.
Taiwan scored a total of 51.88 points, which was lower than both the global average of 53.34 points and the Asian average of 53.49 points. It finished in the index’s “low proficiency” band, the same result as the previous year. Meanwhile, Tainan City, which is currently promoting English as the second official language, performed well. It not only improved its score by two points, but also exceeded the average for the southern region by 2.28 points. Tainan joined the ranks of cities with “moderate proficiency” this year. The difference in the English proficiency of Taiwan’s six special municipalities was minimal. Even the city at the bottom had a comparable level of English with Nagoya in Japan.
The Tainan City Government said although it feels gratified by these results, it will maintain a reserved approach because improving the English proficiency of residents is a continuous job that requires time for gradual progress. It added, “The greatest improvement is being able to spur residents to learn English.” Both the results of the EF survey and the recent results of the TOEIC Bridge test showed that the English proficiency of Tainan residents is higher than the national average. This indicates Tainan residents generally possess the basic skills needed for international communication, and the Tainan City Government’s policy to promote English as the second official language has achieved preliminary results.
According to an analysis conducted by the Tainan City Government’s Office of English as the Second Official Language (OEASOL), the index was based on listening and reading tests that people voluntarily took online. Tainan performed exceptionally well in this year’s EF EPI, and was awarded the “Most Improved Award” for its hard work. It could be that Tainan residents endorsed the city’s English policies, or went online to take the test hoping to improve their English proficiency. In any case, in less than one year, Tainan made significant progress in the rankings.
The city government also said there are many factors for the higher English proficiency of adults in Taipei City and New Taipei City, including a large number of employed young people, longstanding good English proficiency, more abundant English resources, a higher number of foreigners, greater demand for English use, and higher motivation to study. This shows the existence of a gap in the English proficiency between the city and countryside. However, Tainan’s experience in promoting English as the second official language demonstrates that the government’s encouragement and impetus can drive people’s motivation and willingness to learn English. In difference with metropolitan areas, the English proficiency of areas that are both urban and rural is not good. This is why they need to introduce policies, provide study resources, and guide learning methods. In this way, the English proficiency gap between city and countryside can be narrowed and “all residents will be able to speak a little English.”