I was pleased to read the letter by E. Bellamy (Letters, Jan. 1, page 8) on the first day of this year. In my opinion, any suggestions that are positive and helpful for Taiwan are good suggestions that deserve our notice, no matter whether they are from locals or foreigners.
I agree totally with what Bellamy said: "Proper English programs which focus on writing, reading and speaking need to be developed, and a focus away from rote-based learning toward critical and lateral thinking must become the priority."
Frankly, that's what Toastmasters is all about. To deliver a speech in English is to create something. Members are forbidden to talk about politics, religion or sex, but are encouraged to take risks and experiment with new forms of presentation for their speeches. We encourage mistake-making and embarrassment, because we believe this is the quickest way to learn.
Toastmasters in Taiwan chartered its 100th club -- the Taipei City Government Toastmasters Club -- last year, which is quite a milestone for all Toastmasters members nationwide. Toastmasters has also begun to take root in universities. We are happy to witness these young people's talents and creations, which climaxed with students from Yuan Zi University placing first and second in the Humorous Speech Contest held in Taipei last November.
However, Toastmasters is a nonprofit organization. Lacking resources, what we can do is limited. Many people still don't know about Toastmasters. In my humble opinion, Toastmasters can benefit more university students and people if the Ministry of Education can lend us a hand by introducing Toastmasters programs into universities, colleges or community colleges. If we can encourage more students to deliver speeches -- which integrate the skills of listening, speaking, writing and reading as well as lateral thinking -- instead of asking them to pass GEPTs, which are the hottest selling points in all English cram schools or language centers in Taiwan, I'm sure they would benefit a lot. Toastmasters would also prove beneficial for adult students in community colleges.
Let me again show my appreciation to Bellamy for his suggestions. It's true that Taiwanese people's English skills need to be improved. However, I firmly believe that this will happen.