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Why is the state of EFL teaching in Taiwan so poor?
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Stephen



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 101

PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2003 11:00 am    Post subject: Why is the state of EFL teaching in Taiwan so poor? Reply with quote

I thought it might be interesting to post this topic for discussion to get some opinions.

The fact that standards are poor is indisputable, but the real question is why?

Any opinions (if civil) are welcome.
Stephen
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 12323
Location: Ultima Thule

PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2003 11:25 am    Post subject: Foreign Languages Reply with quote

Here is a related question. Why is Foreign Language Teaching in English-speaking countries at such a low level ?
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Aristotle



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1388
Location: Taiwan

PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2003 7:51 am    Post subject: Isn't it Obvious Reply with quote

For the same reason nearly everything in Taiwan is done so poorly. It really comes down to a disfuntional society. Corruption and incompetence are so wide spread nearly every undertaking, large or small is undermined by the very people whose job it is to complete it.
It is one of the most challenging aspects of living in Taiwan, nothing is easy and so nothing can be taken for granted.
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Okami



Joined: 25 Jan 2003
Posts: 121
Location: Sunny Sanxia

PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2003 1:52 pm    Post subject: Think about it Reply with quote

I can tell you from experience growing up in the Midwest, that I saw no use or need to take my Spanish classes seriously. I thought, "Who speaks Spanish in the Midwest?" Now looking back and after living in the Southwest part of the States, I can see a real need for it and wish I wasn't such a bonehead. My problem is that in the Midwest, I had no one to speak Spanish with and saw no pressing need to learn it. It was just a stupid mandatory 2 year language course to me.

Taiwanese students have much the same attitude. Why should they bother learning learning a language, that they can't use often? Especially when they have tests daily in Junior High and Senior High school. If I were them I wouldn't see a need to speak it either. If they practiced speaking, which isn't tested, they might miss the grammar part that is heavily tested in a variety of insane ways(look at the tests sometime, I only get a peek now and then).

For them to want ot learn and use it, there has to be a need. How many of them will have to use English in the future? This is similiar to why kids in other countries don't pick up foreign languages, unless they have a real desire, it is spoken at home or are naturally gifted.

Taiwanese education has its fair share of deficiencies. It will take time and effort to work them out. I would probably phrase the question as, "What can I do to improve my students' chances and abilities in school?"

CYA
Okami
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nasigoreng



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 41
Location: sailing the seas of cheese

PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2003 4:19 am    Post subject: The blind leading the blind Reply with quote

Good points so far...

I would add.....

1) Taiwanese teachers give the students bad speaking habits which are difficult (more like impossible) to break.

2) The teaching materials (made in Taiwan) are not good; filled w/ incorrect or uncommon usage.

3) Too much TRANSLATION (creates bad habits).

4) Too much emphasis on TESTING instead of COMMUNICATION. Speaking is the best way to learn.

5) CULTURAL ATTITUDES: Taiwanese are insecure in their English abilities. They are trained to believe mistakes are bad- but in the case of language learning you have to make mistakes to progress.

6) BUSINESS is BUSINESS. Private language schools are in business to make money. Students cannot get individual attention with 20-30 students in the classroom. [then, when students leave the boss gets mad at the teacher because it's obviously the teacher's fault, right? Smile ]
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TaoyuanSteve



Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Posts: 1028
Location: Taoyuan

PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2003 5:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There was an article in the Taipei Times the other day about Taiwanese English teachers switching to KK phonetics for English teaching. I think this is the wrong approach. Too often I've seen students who can impress me by writing a word in KK, but cannot, in turn, properly pronounce the word. I think the study of KK suits Chinese English teachers who are not capable of natural phonetics.

I believe other problems to be: 1) An excessive concentration on analysis of grammar as a means of aquiring English and 2) A lack of opportunity to use speaking skills or English in general.

I'll balance what I've written by saying that the Taiwanese put more effort into foreign language aquisition than the largely unilingual North American countries (though Canada, where I'm from, makes a half-hearted and feeble attempt at French in schools).
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Okami



Joined: 25 Jan 2003
Posts: 121
Location: Sunny Sanxia

PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2003 2:09 pm    Post subject: Same situation, slightly different problems Reply with quote

To nasigoreng

1. I'm in Taipei and don't really have this problem with my buxiban teachers. Discipline and control are more of issues for me. I can speak basic Chinese now and I'm quite good at scolding students in Mandarin and I'm starting to learn Taiwanese for the same purpose.

2. I concur. I hate the lack of idea building through stories. My studnets at Joy are one sentence speakers. As long as it is only one sentence they are fine, more than one and they get lost very easily.

3. I concur again. My older students haven't quite grasped the idea that you can think in another language. I don't find this problem in kindergarten however. I think it will be interesting to see any possible changes as more and more students come up through bilingual kindergartens

4. Testing is everything to Chinese, not the actual usage of ideas. Have you ever talked to someone who has taken an exam for civil service. The Examination Yuan will literally test on what page, article, paragraph, sentence a certain quote is for such things as laws and the constitution.

5. I don't know if it is insecurity or just not wanting to appear to be showing off. Someone friendly with foreigners will be called, "Chong ri mei yang" which translates as similiar to calling a black person a "sell-out." Chinese society is rife with gossip and the less people know about you and your life the less they can gossip about you.

6. God bless capitalism, if it wasn't for such a situation I would be stuck in the US and not having my experience in another country and learning more about the world. I look at it more as a double edged sword. Till one of them builds "a better mouse trap" I'll enjoy my cheap Asian holidays and high rate of savings.

To Taoyuan Steve:

I've seen the same thing. They can pronounce the KK phonetic sounds, but actual reading is a dream and in reality they are functionally illiterate. The article was about elementary schools not teaching KK phonetics anymore. I'm sure that PFP legislator had a book company that specialized in KK phonetics in his district. Why would he bring up the subject otherwise? KK is easier for Chinese teachers to teach than natural phonetics. The sounds are right there clearly marked like bopomofo and there is no guessing about the actual sound. Besides, that's the system they learned, so they are just repeating the same errors taught to them. KK is also a university level linguistics thing, so I question the necessity of teaching it to elementary students. the problem is that KK is what they will be tested on and speaking is not tested at all. I think that a Taiwanese high schooler could easily top a US high school student in the Taiwanese English tests, but not be able to speak more than a few basic sentences.

Grammar fixation gets back to testing. You can easily test grammar. Speaking requires actual skill and knowledge of the proper usage. You can teach English grammar in Chinese. I've seen it done. Testing is the most important thing in school everything else is secondary. There is a flourishing business in just preparing students for tests. I believe this is actually much larger than the market for English teaching. If you know the Chinese characters to look for you will see these schools everywhere.

I hope Taiwanese(all asians actually) will always place great emphasis on getting along and testing. It makes me sleep better at night knowing that they are still very far off from overtaking the West and our way of life. It's just me and my attitude towards a culture that teaches elementary school students "to kill with a borrowed knife."

CYA
Okami
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rowdy



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2003 8:44 am    Post subject: stop and think Reply with quote

I would like to question the original assumption that English teaching/learning is in a bad state, as made by the original posting.

I don't feel that English teaching, or Taiwanese students' learning, can be so off-handedly criticised. The schools (public and private) do on the most part, a good job.

First, there are inferior schools that teach English. But these poorly resourced and equipped schools are often offering other services that parents find attractive (chinese homework help, math, child minding, etc) so we can forget debating the quality of English in those schools.

The other (quality) schools provide a good english environment for the students. They don't come out of it speaking english perfectly, but then again i didn't come out of university with an indubitable knowledge of my major, as i'm sure you can't quote the entire body of knowledge for your major either. (did any one here get 100% in everything they studied? 80% even? i bet it was markedly lower.)

Second, with the modern idea of life long learning being popular, it only makes sense that learning must be enjoyable. nobody is going to spend their whole life studying something that is a miserable chore.

Hence why i think it is better for the students to approach their english learning in a more relaxed manner. The buxiban style.

As for the public school systems emphasis on exams, that is for people far more knowledgeable than me/us (academically, culturally, and empirically) to determine.

Efforts currently under way include the MOE bringing in a national exam to test the students conversational ability this semester (as well as the initiative to recruit foreign educators for high schools). Everybody in the public school system is aware of improvements that need to be made, as this is a profession, and are endeavouring to make them.

They are also aware of the workload students already have and take that into account also. So i feel the students are in good hands with the people who are instructing them aware of all the issues involved and continuously working to make improvements.

So in conclusion, the off-hand comments that things are BAD here is really a little simple and base. nothing is perfect (nor ever will be) but taiwan has many professionals continuously working to improve all aspects of students learning.

Sean.

p.s. aristotle's comments on everything always come to the conclusion that it's some sort of innate (or learned) inferiority on the part of the taiwanese people, and their culture. it's a little trite.
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Stephen



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 101

PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2003 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sean

Sean wrote:
I don't feel that English teaching, or Taiwanese students' learning, can be so off-handedly criticised. The schools (public and private) do on the most part, a good job.


Firstly, How are the schools doing a good job? What in your view constitutes a good EFL program?
This is not off hand criticism, but based on the inherent flaws in the system.

Sean wrote:
First, there are inferior schools that teach English. But these poorly resourced and equipped schools are often offering other services that parents find attractive (chinese homework help, math, child minding, etc) so we can forget debating the quality of English in those schools.


Why is it ok to deliver a sub-standard service? Why if the schools are poorly resourced does this justify poor English teaching? Why does offering classes that help with maths justify the fact that the English lessons given by the school are excremental? This quote, unlike my question, is what could be termed off-handed; in other words, it off-handley dismisses the concept that when teaching English you should try to do it well. The school doesn't care; the resourses are s*@%, and the lessons are c*@%, but that's ok because the school doesn't care. A nice off-handed dismissal of professionalism.

Sean wrote:
The other (quality) schools provide a good english environment for the students. They don't come out of it speaking english perfectly, but then again i didn't come out of university with an indubitable knowledge of my major, as i'm sure you can't quote the entire body of knowledge for your major either. (did any one here get 100% in everything they studied? 80% even? i bet it was markedly lower.)


On the other hand I wasn't given the answers to the test and told to memorise them before it. Why do you equate ability with test score? It is important to work out what the test is testing? All those really useful fill-in the gap testsand grammar translation activities, take a look at the Joint High School Entrance Exams for example. Does the test assess competance or knowledge? As you seem to provide this as a criticism of me, perhaps you might like to demonstrate a knowledge of the difference.

Sean wrote:
Second, with the modern idea of life long learning being popular, it only makes sense that learning must be enjoyable. nobody is going to spend their whole life studying something that is a miserable chore.



Did the idea that learning should be enjoyable not make sense if taken without the idea of life long learning? If a person did not want to study a given subject for the duration of their life do you think it would be ok to bore them to tears? If your answer is no, then perhaps you could explain the point of this part of your post. Thank you for stating the obvious, I personally am a firm believer that studying English should be enjoyable; I do, however, make sure that my lessons and courses have linguistic aims and objectives; this is because I make sure that my students learn the language they are studying (to the best of my abilities, of course.)

Also, I have two questions I would like answered about this part of your post.

EXACTLY WHERE IN MY QUESTION DO YOU SEE ANYTHING WHICH ADVOCATES BORING STUDENTS?

WHERE WITHIN THE CONCEPT OF LIFE LONG LEARNING DOES IT STATE THAT AFTER LEARNING A LANGUAGE FOR 6 YEARS OR MORE, YOU SHOULD STILL BE UNABLE TO HAVE EVEN BASIC CONVERSATIONS?

Sean wrote:
Hence why i think it is better for the students to approach their english learning in a more relaxed manner. The buxiban style.


To what degree do students learn at most bushibans?
Is English taught well?
Can you explain how English can be taught effectively for a level/age group of student of your choice?

Sean wrote:
Efforts currently under way include the MOE bringing in a national exam to test the students conversational ability this semester (as well as the initiative to recruit foreign educators for high schools). Everybody in the public school system is aware of improvements that need to be made, as this is a profession, and are endeavouring to make them.


Have you ever taught full-time in a Taiwanese High School? I only ask because I have, and I rather expect you haven't. The government testing system for English is woeful, we are still seeing things like grammar translation, which let's face it does not really demonstrate communicative ability. Reading with Chinese translations, fill-in the gap tests, etc....

The new government plan to recruit teachers from overseas is progress? No, it will be a complete mess, instead of getting in suitably qualified EFL specialists to do language training and teacher training for the Taiwanese teacher, something which would be highly beneficial, the government will employ teachers mostly without an EFL background to be the token foreigner. They will be employed to stand around and look foriegn and model "correct" pronunciation, and "assist" the Taiwanese English teachers, who of course will be busy simultaneously murdering the English Language and boring any possible interest in English their students might have out of them. (Still,I am sure that this is ideal with the idea of life long learning being popular.) Incidentally, in my experience those teachers who are keen to see change within the High School system tend to be the younger newer teachers, who, of course, are not the decision makers. With the decision makers arbitory decisions and complete intransigence are rife.

Sean wrote:
So i feel the students are in good hands with the people who are instructing them aware of all the issues involved and continuously working to make improvements.


How can I put it tactfully? YOU ARE WRONG!! Progress in Taiwan is not occuring with the school system, nothing gets done.

Sean wrote:
So in conclusion, the off-hand comments that things are BAD here is really a little simple and base. nothing is perfect (nor ever will be) but taiwan has many professionals continuously working to improve all aspects of students learning.


Having analysed the rest of your post, well what can I say? I suppose that based on my professional opinion and experience, and the ability to apply basic logic I would have to say you do not know what you are talking about. I don't wish to sound rude, but your broad sweeping and highly innaccurate assessment of how things are going here, which you rather hypocritically apply "off-handedly", can only be taken as the statement of a professional backpacker. However, IF you can adequately answer all the questions I have raised in response to your posting then I may reconsider.

I look forward to your reply. You will excuse me if at present I am somewhat underwhelmed by your analysis.

Stephen
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itchy



Joined: 28 Jan 2003
Posts: 28
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2003 4:27 am    Post subject: state of taiwanese school system Reply with quote

Well, when I was there I worked in my own little buxiban and I made my own little curriculum, and no one told me what to do or watched over me. I just taught how I wanted to teach. So I can't blame the Taiwanese educational system for any failure on my part to make my kids learn English. Interesting thing is, they did learn. As soon as I figured out what was happening and why I couldn't make them pay attention to me, that is. You have to slow down in Taiwan and take a look around you. Too many foreigners jump to conclusions. It's a great place to live and make money, and the girls are the best there. I think it must have the world's friendliest people. Compare my experience in Taiwan with my experience in South Korea: www.angelfire.com/journal2/NAWW Taiwan was definately better.
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itchy



Joined: 28 Jan 2003
Posts: 28
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2003 4:30 am    Post subject: wrong URL Reply with quote

sorry, that's www.angelfire.com/journal2/naww
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chi-chi



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 127
Location: Back in Asia!

PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2003 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Itchy,
Great website *lmao*...but where's the stuff on Taiwan?
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rowdy



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Thu Feb 27, 2003 4:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Professional backpacker. Ohh, how my head hangs at the sling of the worst insult an EFL teacher can be given.

Stpehen is of course a professional beyond repute. So i'm an sure you can furnish me with an account of endeavours that make you such. Efforts similar to those of Local Taiwanese teachers, whom you have no faith or respect for, would be welcome.

So, post-graduate programs you are enrolled in, the 2 or 3 development seminars you attend yearly, initiatives you have researched, proposed, and followed through on, establishment of academic links with international schools, meetings concerning educational policy that you have attended, and any other professional course/endeavour that local teachers attend/pursue will be good.

Please forgive me if your EFL certificate underwhelms me.

Stephen will reconsider his opinion of me should i answer the more than 10 questions he has put to me. As much as i crave the respect of whiners, i will leave what would be a 2-3000 word reply to more long winded souls like Stephen.

Instead i challenge Stephen to write ANOTHER 1400 word essay, but this time informing everybody of the active, real things he has done to improve this flawed beyond repair system. Remember, i said done, and not whined about to other foreigners in a cafe somewhere. if Stephen can do this then i may reconsider my opinion of him.

How much do you interact with the local staff at your school Stephen? It seems as though you cordon yourself off from the local teachers. Or is it that they merely quarantine you to the whining know-it-all room?

Also your fears that the MOE will bring in token English conversation teachers is based on your ignorance. You stated that it will be a mess and waste of time (stand around, look foreign, token, etc) but may redeem itself should they have an EFL cert. Stephen, your standards are a bit low.

Luckily for everybody else, the MOE's not. As such, all the teachers will be B.Ed or Linguistics graduates and will have an EFL (or like) certificate. Stephen may just be worried about finding himself out of a job.

So Stephen, any details on your dedication (real, not deluded) will be warmly welcomed.

Sean.

p.s. Your original statement had no supporting premises or evidence. therefore it is just that. An off-handed remark.
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Stephen



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 101

PostPosted: Thu Feb 27, 2003 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rowdy

So, we are still at a point where you really have nothing of value to contribute. Have you ever worked in a Taiwanese High School? I can honestly say you have no grasp of the reality of the Taiwanese education system. Actually, if you did you might realise how tragic it is; I'm thankful I never had to suffer it!

As far as revolutionising the Taiwanese Education System, why would I want to undertake that? An unpaid, thankless task fighting those who wish to preserve the status quo, and not a job that I came to do. I came to work on what can be achieved with the students I have rather than attempt to revolutionise an ineffective English educational program and fight educational intransigence. (People much, much, much better qualified and more able than me have already failed in this!) I really have no interest in becoming an administrator, I like teaching. Besides, if you could recognise the difference between "I have worked for a Taiwanese High School", and "I work for a Taiwanese High School", it would be obvious that my employment is not threatened by the new plan for foreign teachers. (Your grammatical knowledge is less than impressive!) I would much rather deal with the post high school students in this country, and avoid dealing with the meaningless rote learning of the institutional Taiwanese educational system.

As far as what I'm doing regarding my teaching, well why would I want to impress someone with an attitude that if the school is bad that is just fine?

Sean wrote:
there are inferior schools that teach English. But these poorly resourced and equipped schools are often offering other services that parents find attractive (chinese homework help, math, child minding, etc) so we can forget debating the quality of English in those schools.


Anyone who approves of substandard English teaching is hardly in a position to criticise.

With disdain.
Stephen

PS. Incidentally, I realise that we all make typing errors, I make them myself, but "I" is always capitalised when used as a pronoun. I have never had a student who had trouble mastering this.

PSS. You would also benefit by learning the difference in meaning between the Present Simple tense and the Present Perfect tense.
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killian



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 936
Location: fairmont city, illinois, USA

PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2003 7:08 am    Post subject: stephen: a serious question Reply with quote

please do not be offended. in my circle of foreign teachers there are no individuals who claim to anything but slackers/layabouts/ne'erdowells. the degree bearing chinese english teachers i have asked are just muted. having acknowledged such, i have a question that no one can seem to answer with much confidence. care to try?

why do we still use capital letters?

use of "a" and "A" serves no visable purpose. "amy is a girl." looks just as good as "Amy is a girl." or even "AMY IS A GIRL." perhaps back before punctuation was standardized capitalization had justification. with the implementation of punctualization on a uniform basis, aren't capital letters but vestigages of a passe system that linger on due to mindless mimickry? wouldn't it be better if we did away with either "g" or "G" and merely adjusted the survivor to common scale?

again, i'm not trying to be snide. you seem like a "real" teacher and this question has been nagging me for quite a while.

thanks and best wishes.
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