My opinion about Taiwanese learning foreign languages

When I came to Taiwan, I was always very happy when Taiwanese talked to me in a foreign language, because at that time, I just had started to learn Chinese and did not have any way to communicate with Taiwanese using Chinese.

Of course most of Taiwanese talked to me in English, but some also used German, because a lot of friends were German students at Fu Jen University (including my wife). However, most of the conversations, regardless of using English, German or Chinese were mostly just small talk, because the language level of the counterpart was usually just basic.

Now, some years later, I think that my Chinese improved a lot, as well as my English, because in Taipei I found some friends from the US and Canada and also because one can watch movies in English in TV. I studied Chinese for two and half years, but now already stopped more than two years ago, however, talking to Taiwanese in Chinese and even teaching in Chinese is no big problem. It seems that many people in Taiwan want to learn foreign languages, but I rarely meet Taiwanese who can speak a foreign language quite fluently. In this case, quite fluently means for me that I can sit with someone in a cafe, drink cappuccino and talk for two hours…or simply…to chat (…yes, some guys also like to chat :))

I already noticed that studying German in Taiwan is pretty difficult…except at some colleges and foreign language schools, it is almost impossible to get in contact with the German language…pretty much the same as for Chinese in Germany. At both sides one can learn the basics, but if one wants to further improve, the best way will be to get in contact with native speakers, the more the better. I am not quite sure how many Germans teach German in Taiwan, but compared to English teachers just only a few. With this is mind I would like to encourage all Taiwanese German students…you really have quite less of support and thus, for learning such a complicated language, I take off my hat to you!

On the other hand there are quite a lot of possibilities to learn English in Taiwan….every day when getting off from work I see the children just coming from English classes at the language schools, but frankly…..what about the Taiwanese English level? Who would dare to talk to me for 2 hours using English? 😉 Of course, this point of view is not quite fair, but….I never had an American English teacher, I was never able to watch a movie in English in German television (they dub everything), and never could hear any English announcements at the bus, MRT, train etc…..the English level of many German school graduates also ranks among the basic (….because one has no chance to use it !!), so if Germans can speak quite good English, they either spent some time in the US, Great Britain etc. or they continued to study it themselves.

What I don’t understand is……sending your child to English class costs a lot of money…..but does this investment really pay off? There also have been language schools 10 or 15 years ago, right? But today, where are the young who can speak English quite fluently? I am sorry, I neither want to attack the students nor the teachers; I just want to understand why to make such an effort if it mostly does not pay off at all?

Look, I also teach and I also taught at a language school…..and later I discovered that the students not really decide for themselves to learn a foreign language….I mean of course!….or do you think that a six-year-old decides himself to learn German? Sure it is true that a child does not know how important education is, however, does it really make sense to send him to classes regardless of his interests? I doubt it…..

I think the problem is the way of thinking of many parents…..however, sending your child to as many classes as possible does not mean that it can master anything afterwards…..learning a foreign language is a long-term process, and the best way is the own will to learn and not to attend classes, because one was sent to. However, usually children do not have the chance to decide this for themselves, what’s a pity since when being a kid….and being really interested….one can learn pretty fast and all what was learned will be well established…..furthermore I hope that the foreign language students of Taiwan would have more courage to really use the foreign language they studied, not just to communicate, but also for example to write something (….like I do) … because in my opinion, to study a foreign language in order to express one’s thoughts in a foreign language is really priceless.


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