Tue, Nov 11, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Letter:

Foreigner bites chat show

On the Oct. 23 edition of chat show Nine o'Clock Malatang entitled ABC, Dog Bites Pig: Foreigners in Taiwan ("dog bites pig" derives from a Taiwanese children's rhyme), host Lo Pi-ling (羅璧玲) was joined by CTI reporter Igor Zaitsev (伊格爾), ICRT program director Dennis Nye and reporters Chiang Chung-po (江中博) and Chen Kao-chao (陳高超). About half of the hour-long show was spent describing the "horrible" behavior of foreigners in Taiwan.

References were constantly made to tired news stories about foreigners who "cheat" Taiwanese women, who have problems with alcohol and violence and who lacked qualifications to teach English. Nye talked about his foreign male friends who go to pubs with him and chase girls. From his comments about them, one might assume that Nye doesn't choose his friends very carefully.

Speaking of "chasing girls," I have friends from Canada, Wales, the US and Australia who, like myself, are married to Taiwanese women. Most of us -- even those of us with postgraduate degrees -- had it pretty tough gaining initial acceptance from our parents-in-law. Host Lo rhetorically asked during the show, "Why can't Taiwanese mothers and their sons-in-law get along?" It's the media, stupid!

During the program, the host and some of the guests mentioned the stock stories of "truck drivers" and "homeless people" teaching English in Taiwan so many times I thought there was an echo in the room.

The law requires that foreign teachers provide a copy of their diploma, verified by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, along with the original, in order to gain lawful employment. If there's a problem about unqualified teachers, it should be directed to the schools hiring them and not be used as an excuse to malign foreigners.

"Why," the host asked, "do Taiwanese need foreign English teachers? Aren't local teachers good enough?" Apparently not. The show required a few English words in the subtitles, and around half of them were misspelt. One of my Mandarin textbooks, published by National Taiwan Normal University, contains glaring English mistakes every few pages.

When Taiwanese complain about the qualifications of English teachers, I wonder what standard it is against which they measure foreigners' teaching and English-speaking abilities. I've worked with many good Taiwanese English teachers, but I've also worked with far too many whose English was way below par. These sub-par teachers cause many of the mistakes which later become my job to eradicate. No matter how wonderful their students might perceive them to be, they shouldn't be teaching English.

Toward the end of the program, the host pointed out that what they had discussed was merely a "small cross-section" of the foreign population and that viewers shouldn't get a bad impression about all foreigners. However, she and her guests had already pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall and driven back and forth across his remains several times. Nothing she could say could reverse the impression she had spoon-fed viewers.

In the interest of fairness, I would suggest that one of these shows do a comparative analysis of Taiwan's foreigners and the local population and see what it reveals about education levels, divorce rates and criminal records.

This kind of unfair reporting happens all the time, and these xenophobic TV programs do their best to paint foreigners with the broadest brush possible, coloring the good, the bad and the average all with the same shade of "bad." It seems to be saying that foreigners are unwelcome in Taiwan. What are they trying to achieve?

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