English in Taiwan: Taiwan Behind in English Proficiency

http://www.therealtaiwan.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2_itemId=1191&g2_serialNumber=12

According to this article in the Taipei Times, Taiwan is behind in English proficiency. If that is news to any of you teachers out there, shoot yourself. One of the themes that draws together people from many nations in Taiwan is shop talk. I have heard personally from many gifted teachers and many terrible teachers how teaching in Taiwan truly is.

Sure, there are battles everyday teaching in Taiwan, some of which include: bad apples, rotten eggs, scrambled eggs, stupid eggs, the king of 8 eggs, white wood, space farmers, ADD, rudeness, pigs, cows, gays, T’s, and poo poo (just to let you know, poo poo is the funniest thing you can say to a youth in Taiwan). If you are going to go to Taiwan, you will need a good amount of time getting used to the classroom behavior of the Taiwanese and learn Chinese yourself at the same time. It will aid you, and make sure you learn all of the Taiwanese curse words as well. When I first arrived, I had a student say her name is “Cow”. I thought it was funny. Everyone else thought it was hilarious. Why? Because in Taiwanese “Cow” is the grandfather of all curses, like our esteemed “F” word.

Children in Taiwan go to the mandatory elementary, junior and high schools. Then, it’s off to an assortment of English, Chinese, science, math, and other cram schools, (known as Bu Xi Ban’s). It is there that they get even more homework assignments that they will need to copy before the next class. These poor kids don’t have time to be kids. Maybe Taiwan should just change their official language to English. Then they would accomplish two things. A) Piss off China and B) Be the only country that can’t speak their official language.

Taiwan is performing badly on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), a recent report said.

In a report which listed the 20 countries that had the most people taking the language-proficiency test, Taiwan was only 17th, after Japan (12) and South Korea (14), and worse than Vietnam (13) and Pakistan (15), the Chinese-language United Evening News reported yesterday.

Are you surprised that Taiwan is so low? Here are the top 5 obstacles to learning in Taiwan according to the British Council:


1. It has no standardized teaching materials.

This is true! Every school uses a different book it seems. There are some staples of the Taiwan English Beast’s diet though, like Let’s Go, Let’s Talk in English, and a gaggle of other books with English words and phrases in them. There are some better ones. I do think most of them suck. As a teacher in Taiwan, especially the bu xi ban scene, you know that it isn’t what you teach, it’s how foreign you look that really counts. Bonus points for being white! American born Taiwanese that have were raised in America but come to Taiwan after they graduate have encountered prejudice because they don’t look foreign.

2. Second, there is no communication or guidance to improve students’ weak points

There is a lot of communication and guidance to improve students’ weak points. It just doesn’t mean that the students will decide to work harder on their English grammar. I will go out on a limb and say that grammar is the bane of Taiwan’s English existence, and if you can have any student properly conjugate more than 6 verb tenses in a row without a mistake, I will give them an IELTS diploma right now. Granted, the diploma will be straight out of my home printer and not worth jack but I still challenge you to find these students.


3. Teaching design is restricting

I knew two teachers that once taught and labeled themselves the dog and monkey show. What was the question?

4. Teachers and material are not in accordance with international standards

I once heard something funny. You can add. “What do you mean….” before any sentence you just heard, turn it into an attacking question and make an argument out of it. Put on your best Brooklyn accent and give it a try. What do you mean … teachers and material are not in accordance with international standards?

Yeah, so what. Salaries, sick days, pensions, paid vacations, holiday pay, and of course more are not up to par either. No wonder you get so many people here for one year. There isn’t such a bright future in being a buxiban teacher. It is however great for making some cash and seeing the world as a single person. Many foreigner teachers here suffer for 6 months or a year working at cram schools between extended vacations in Thailand, The Philippines, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, India, etc…

5. A lack of sufficient learning facilities.

If there is one thing there isn’t, it’s is a lack of learning facilities. You can usually throw a rock from the door of one buxiban to the next. They are everywhere. As far as quality? It’s like fast food. I’d reckon to say it’s all crap, but you do find a gem, like a Taco Bueno that gives you hope that the system isn’t totally corrupted. You may even feel that, “It’s more bueno”.

An employee with the British Council was quoted as saying that in an ideal situation, the students’ level is first tested, and then they are taught according to their level.

Taiwan has implemented a General English Proficiency Test (GEPT), but this test does not fit into the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

It is hard for students to learn English well when teaching methods are lacking, the staff member was reported as saying.

What do you mean teaching methods are lacking? It took me a long time to learn how to play all these games…

I know this article is a bit of old news, but I will go on record saying that learning English in Taiwan is like going down the 7 story water slide “Der Stuka” in Florida that is nearly a straight drop down. You are initially frightened by it. Then you do it because everyone else is doing it. When you drop, it is exciting and scary. Then finally, you end up with a grade 5 wedgie and you spend the next 2 weeks pulling your bathing suit out of your bum.

About the Author

I am a cultural geographer by nature, and now a photographer, videographer, musician, and webmaster.

4 Responses to “ English in Taiwan: Taiwan Behind in English Proficiency ”

  1. Give young Taiwanese credit, encouragement on English

    2007/08/25
    Dan Bloom, Chiayi City
      

    In your editorial titled “TEFL scores in Taiwan: a humiliating failure” (Aug. 23), you correctly point out some important aspects of English education in this country, and I hope the nation’s educators are listening.

     

    However, when the editorial states that “despite huge amounts of resources invested, the campaign to make Taiwanese students proficient in English has been an ignominious failure”, I must disagree. When the editorial further states that “[sadly], Taiwanese citizens’ ability to use English has made little, if any, progress over the years,” I must also disagree.

     

    It’s been my experience, and it’s my view, that Taiwanese young people have made giant strides in the last ten years or so in learning English. Rather than always criticize the current state of English learning, why not offer some positive words of encouragement for a change?

     

    I see all around me on a daily basis high school students and college students and graduate students from all over Taiwan who speak English very well, and can comfortably communicate with foreigners in English. Let’s give them some credit. Let’s congratulate the younger generation for learning English and making it part of their daily lives.

     

    Compared with Japan, where people speak the most atrocious English on the planet — I’m kidding! — Taiwan is doing a very good job of absorbing English into daily life, and things will only get better as time goes on.

     

    I would like to give Taiwanese people high marks for their English skills, and while there is still much improvement that needs to be made, of course, I think they have been doing a very good job of learning English and incorporating it into their daily lives. Look at the bright side! Things are much better now than they were 25 years ago! English is more or less the unofficial second language of Taiwan right now. This is a huge accomplishment.

    http://chinapost.com.tw/cp/opinion/letter1.htm#L286

  2. “I know this article is a bit of old news, but I will go on record saying that learning English in Taiwan is like going down the 7 story water slide “Der Stuka” in Florida that is nearly a straight drop down. You are initially frightened by it. Then you do it because everyone else is doing it. When you drop, it is exciting and scary. Then finally, you end up with a grade 5 wedgie and you spend the next 2 weeks pulling your bathing suit out of your bum.”

    This part is hilarious! I’m about to drop… wedgie time!

  3. Good luck Tanya! Wedgies away!

  4. Do you know business about the writing test?

Leave a Reply

You can use these XHTML tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <strong>