Taiwan: Education ministry girds for battle of language teaching

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Thu Sep 21 13:37:01 UTC 2006

Published on TaipeiTimes

Education ministry girds for battle of language teaching

By Max Hirsch

Increasingly outgunned, outmaneuvered and outspent by China on the world
stage, Taiwan is increasingly turning to its "soft power" arsenal, to
which the Ministry of Education (MOE) added a new "weapon" recently. In
November, the ministry will unleash onto the world ... a test. Armed with
sharpened No. 2 pencils, scores of Taiwanese and Chinese-speaking
foreigners will take this test. For those who pass, they will become foot
soldiers in the "war to claim Chinese-ness," representing Taiwan's
linguistic and cultural standards worldwide as accredited Chinese language
educators. "We see Chinese language teachers from China go out into the
world to teach, and we feel the need to show [the world] our standards of
Chinese language and culture, including traditional characters and our
culture on Taiwan," said Chang Chin-sheng (i), director of the Bureau of
International Cultural and Educational Relations in the education

Chang added that Taiwan had a rich tradition of providing foreigners with
the ideal environment to learn Chinese, and "exporting" the language and
culture. "Taiwan wants to promote its teachers in the US, and have them
known as pedagogical professionals and linguistic ambassadors," Chang


Jeffrey Lamb, a masters student in the Graduate Institute of Teaching
Chinese as a Second Language at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU),
said the test could be an acceptable way to standardize Chinese language
pedagogy. "If you have two applicants for a Chinese teaching position,
with one applicant accredited by the Taiwanese government and the other
not, well, that could mean the difference between getting or losing the
job," Lamb said. He said that teaching Chinese was a profession, just like
practicing law or medicine, and should therefore be defined by certain
standards of performance and knowledge. "You wouldn't seek out an
unlicensed doctor to treat you, would you?" Lamb said.


Professor James Hargett, a seasoned Chinese teacher at the University of
Albany in New York State, told the Taipei Times that learning Chinese was
all the rage in the US, and that the country was in dire need of qualified
Chinese teachers. But, he added, more students were interested in China
than Taiwan, and his classes leaned more toward simplified characters
because of students' perception that "China is where the action is."
"Everyone's got a test these days," Hargett said, adding that Taiwan's
influence was minimal. "Taiwan is marginalized ... because it has no
presence here to shape anything related to Chinese language learning. This
is unfortunate, because there are some excellent Mandarin training
facilities in Taiwan,"  the professor said, citing NTNU and National
Taiwan University.

"This past summer we sent two students to [NTNU] on MOE scholarships and
they absolutely loved it -- great teacher and wonderful facilities,"
Hargett said.



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