Tainan City became the first place in Taiwan to launch bilingual menus at night markets as part of the Tainan City Government’s effort to promote an English-friendly city. Foreign YouTubers Wes Davies and Lukas Engström recently visited one of the eight night markets with English menus, Jhonghua Road Night Market in Sinying District. Wes and Lukas felt at ease ordering food with the easy-to-understand bilingual menus, and for the first time dared to try various offal dishes that have terrified many foreigners in the past. They also sampled other authentic delicacies such as Angelica catfish head or three-cup frog. Meanwhile, vendors were more willing to speak up and promote their products to foreigners now that they have the help of bilingual menus. The passion and hospitality of the Tainan people left a deep impression on these YouTubers. Wes has created a YouTube video introducing Tainan’s night markets to foreigners, and encourages everyone to take a stroll around these night markets.
Sun Rui-song, a member of the Sinying Night Market Administrative Committee, said when the Tainan City Government’s Office of English as the Second Official Language (OEASOL) first invited all night markets to attend an information meeting, many vendors expressed doubts about the benefits of bilingual menus. Later on, they realized the convenience of having bilingual menus. These menus, along with simple English phrases, allow foreigners to understand what’s being offered. Moreover, these few simple English phrases help to make foreigners feel welcome. At one stand, some Philippine migrant workers have become repeat customers. This initiative has not only improved the bottom line of night market vendors, but also created an environment conducive to mutual communication and exchanges. Many say they hope the OEASOL can teach them some more common English conversational phrases to allow even more foreigners to feel the friendliness of Tainan’s people when they visit night markets.
Wes is a well-known Canadian YouTuber. He has accumulated around 13,000 YouTube subscribers in just over one year’s time. He said he didn’t know any Chinese when he first arrived in Taiwan, and he had to resort to using gestures to order food. When it came to trying Taiwan’s famous night market delicacies, all he could do was stand to one side and see if the ingredients used by the vendor to prepare dishes were to his liking. When he heard that Tainan’s night markets had bilingual menus, he immediately decided to test them out. Wes was astonished that Sinying Night Market’s vendors were not afraid at all to speak English. Although they could only say a few simple sentences, their efforts warmed the hearts of these foreign visitors, allowing them to truly understand the saying that “the most beautiful landscape in Taiwan is its people.”
Lukas, an equally famous YouTuber from Sweden, said that although he speaks a little Chinese, Taiwan’s local food terminology is quite unfamiliar to him. When he orders food, he can only say “This one, that one.” The bilingual menus offered the names and descriptions of dishes in both Chinese and English, allowing him to understand what the dishes were and learn their Chinese names at the same time. He added that what was even better was that vendors would cordially provide explanations. Lukas was curious about some delicacies, but was worried that he would end up eating “landmines.” For example, the aroma of hot grass jelly was appealing, but its color was a “sinister black,” making it hard for him to step out of his comfort zone. However, after he looked over the bilingual menu and listened to an explanation from the vendor about grass jelly, he finally felt at ease and summoned up the courage to try hot grass jelly. The drink not only warmed his stomach, but also tasted unexpectedly good.
The video shot by the two foreign YouTubers has been posted to Wes Davies’ channel (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgMg6SEGOI4&t=462s) as well as uploaded to the OEASOL’s website, where it is available under “Latest News” (link: https://pse.is/DMRSS) for the enjoyment of the public.