English is meant to be used, not merely examined upon
The China Post news staff
July 29, 2012, 12:05 am TWN
With the jobless rate rising to 4.21 percent in the graduation season of June, and as the economic climate for the second half looks increasingly dim, unemployment is climbing up on the worry list for Taiwanese people. The current unemployment problem, however, is not merely the result of an undersupply of jobs but also of the mismatch between the training received by locals and the demands of employers.
According to survey data released by the German Trade Office Taipei, 53.7 percent of German enterprises in Taiwan described finding qualified staff either as a problem or a major problem, making it the most commonly cited challenge. Meanwhile, the survey found that 33 percent of businesses have plans to hire in 2012, indicating a significant thirst for local talent, at least among German enterprises.
In addition to local jobseekers' preference of Taiwanese brands, steel giant ThyssenKrupp AG's Taiwan representative Helmut Felix Bolt suggested that applicant's poor English is one of the recruitment challenges facing German businesses. Despite most having studied abroad in Western countries, local applicants often fail to show enough English proficiency to meet their professional needs, Bolt said.
The German employer is not the only one raising the red flag. Machine tool manufacturer Hiwin Technologies Corp. (上銀科技) Chairman Eric Chuo (卓永財) also said that local businesses face problems from the lack of talent with English skills.
To some foreigners, Taiwan may appear to have a relatively high standard of English. After all, in our country of 23 million there are 5,137 foreign language schools, according to the latest official figures, and most of these specialize in English. Most children now take their first English classes in elementary school, if not earlier. Slogans like "promoting Taiwan's global competitiveness" are often heard from local educators and government officials. Yet after millions of man-hours and billions of dollars spent, the nation is still having problems gaining a truly high level of English proficiency.
Much can and has indeed been said about the uninspiring education system that favors spoon-feeding students, the emphasis of universities on research over teaching quality, and the general lack of an English environment in Taiwan. But perhaps the nation's uneven relationship with the global language originates also from qualities closer to the nation's heart — from its people's utilitarian view of language education and their dread of being seen as an embarrassment.