The Tainan City Government has taken an active approach in promoting Tainan as an English-friendly city by assisting a variety of shops to acquire an English-friendly emblem (EF emblem). Last year, Tainan became the first municipality in Taiwan to provide bilingual menus in a traditional market—the East Market, which is now Taiwan's only English-friendly traditional market. Nearly 50 vendors in the East Market joined the effort and received an EF emblem. Today (22nd), a press conference was held to highlight the achievements of this endeavor, where President Wu Ming-Zong and vendors Ms. A-Wun and the Dragon Fruit Lady shared their experience.
Mayor Huang Wei-che mentioned that 1,515 establishments have since been certified after Tainan began promoting an English-friendly environment in 2015. Be it receiving an EF emblem or EF+ emblem (indicating that the vendor speaks English), all businesses have exceeded expectations. A wide range of businesses have participated in this project, including F&B businesses, cab drivers, temples, hospitals, pharmacies, and hospitality providers. Tainan even went further and became the nation's first city to expand its English-friendly resources to Taiwan's famous traditional markets. Creating a comprehensive linguistic environment serves as a means to market the unique popular culture and gourmet food of traditional markets, shaping Tainan as an international city with iconic local characteristics.
Famous bilingual broadcaster Ethan Liu visited the East Market for an episode in his vlog, where he experienced the charm of Tainan's English-friendly traditional market and used English to communicate with the vendors. Liu stated that traditional markets embody what it means to be Taiwanese. Other than serving as a place for transactions, a traditional market also functions as a platform for people to interact and make small talk. Although some exclusively local items are difficult to explain in English, the vendors at Tainan's first English-friendly market are able to engage in simple and friendly English conversations with foreigners nonetheless. By using bilingual menus, the vendors can help foreign customers to find most items on the shopping list. Many foreigners are rather impressed by how passionate the vendors are about learning English and communicating in this foreign language.
Foreigners that have visited the East Market point out that in addition to carrying a wide range of goods, the best thing about the East Market is its bilingual menus, which makes shopping in English much easier. With these menus, foreign customers no longer have to guess. They are well-aware of what they are buying. The Dragon Fruit Lady, who also participated in this project, stressed that having the courage to speak is critical for learning English. She found that while talking to foreigners, she felt eager to introduce her goods. Over time, her English began to improve.
The Office of English as the Second Official Language (OEASOL) affirmed that initially, vendors felt hesitant about the project, often saying, "I'm afraid of speaking English to foreigners," or "I'm no spring chicken, do I really have to learn English at this age?" But with the OEASOL's continuous assistance in helping vendors make bilingual menus and organizing entry-level English classes, the vendors began to warm up to the idea, even developing an interest in learning English. Now, most vendors are able to fluently communicate in full sentences, such as "Which one do you like" or "See you next time." Some even say, "We grow this by ourselves" to promote homegrown produce. This is a big step considering that vendors used to act like a deer in headlights whenever they were faced with a foreign customer.
Mayor Huang Wei-che stated that the objective of this project is to help vendors at traditional markets use simple English conversations and custom bilingual menus to share their signature products or dishes with foreign visitors. With language barriers out of the way, foreign visitors can truly appreciate the hospitable culture of Tainan's traditional markets