Tongue-tied in Taiwan

2007

To Taiwan, now, where it seems that a working knowledge of the English language may be your ticket to getting ahead. According to a recent article in the Taipei Times, foreign language skills – notably for English – are on the decline in the workplace.

Now, not being bilingual isn't the worst thing in the world, far from it, but almost half of all available jobs in Taiwan require English-language skills.

The problem facing the Taiwanese is that their results on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), where they placed 17th out of the 20 countries with the most people taking the test.

There are a number of reasons for this poor showing, according to the British Council. These include lack of pedagogical standards, subpar learning facilities and lack of coordination concerning materials. All of these ingredients make for a nasty stew of ill-equipped language students.

It seems that every country has its own problems when it comes to making its citizens bi-lingual. Putting that issue aside, it seems that in Taiwan we have a case where schools or other facilities for professional advancement aren't responding to market needs. The workplace has a clear need for English speaking workers; however, people aren't being provided with the tools they need to make that happen.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it's clear that the current English-language education is not working. For those of us more concerned with social issues, it looks like teaching pedagogy needs to be revisited locally; for those more interested in business, it looks like workplace demands aren't being met.

Perhaps one option is for companies requiring English-language skills to provide on-suite language training for those employees. This would give the company better control of the language skills acquired by its employees. It would also mean that the employees could learn job-specific or related jargon to help them do their jobs more efficiently.

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