An English-language "village" is an excellent idea as it gives Taiwanese students an opportunity to practice their speaking and listening skills in a non-academic, pleasurable environment ("`Village' shows strength of English," Aug. 1, page 2). There are no exam pressures and the practical nature of the interchanges is a welcome change to these students' usual experience in school and buxiban, which mainly consist of rote learning, boring grammar and exam preparation.
While I laud the efforts of all concerned and wish them every success, this approach is far from being a panacea. Unfortunately, it will do very little to improve the general levels of competency in Taiwan. In the same article, it mentions that in Japan, they have set up 100 "Super English High Schools" where classes are taught entirely in English. This is a major remedy for improving the standard of English usage in Japan.
Is Taiwan ready to follow suit by creating a number of schools where all or most courses will be taught in English by competent teachers? Students who graduate from these schools can later replace less competent teachers in the school system, foreigners in cram schools, etc. It is a real shame that in Taiwan, with so many young people seeking teaching positions, thousands of foreigners are given the jobs instead.
If the Ministry of Education were to implement such a program, which now only exists for foreigners living in Taiwan, then 10 years from now, we won't be reading the same articles decrying the level of English proficiency in Taiwan, but will be reading about a new crop of graduates whose English skills are outstanding. As a teacher with 25 years of experience, I would gladly offer my services to realize this goal. If not, I'll be sending in the same letter to the editor 10 years from now.