Wed, Nov 14, 2007 - Page 8 News List

LETTER: Put language learners first

I have to address two "issues" that have been really annoying me over the last couple of weeks.

The first issue is the Tong-yong vs. Pinyin Romanization system. Both of these are designed for foreigners and not for native Chinese speakers. The problem I have is the disregard policy makers have toward the target audience -- people like me who live here and those who visit here for short periods at a time.

Here is the problem: You are not using the system correctly and therefore it is absolutely impossible to read it so stop using it. Don't use it in passports or roadsigns or anywhere unless you are going to do it correctly.

One down, two points to go. Anyone who studies Chinese usually learns Pinyin, so we all know it. Tongyong is designed to be used by people who have not studied Chinese, but the person would still not be able to pronounce the word correctly because they would not know which tone to use.

Maybe the powers that be should stop attracting new foreigners to Taiwan and start looking after those of us who have made this country their home. Can we vote on it in a phonetics referendum? I vote Pinyin and so does every other person I know who has been living here for more than a year and has studied some Chinese.

The second issue involves the comments in another recent article ("Disparities plague English classes," Nov. 12, page 2). If a student doesn't know how to do addition and subtraction in math class, he should not be studying algebra and a student who knows algebra very well should not be studying basic addition and subtraction.

They should be in separate classes and if they are not you are wasting the money of those who pay for an education and you are wasting the time of educators who actually care to teach and not just pop into Taiwan for a short-term working holiday.

The problem is that the majority of teachers who teach English have no idea if they are teaching correct or incorrect English. They are either wrong out of ignorance, or they have no choice other than to guess. This applies to teachers from elementary school all the way up. They don't care if the students are in similar or different classes. Those that do and can actually teach are just caught up in the system.

The only reason I care is because you are confusing students and making them negative about learning English or Chinese.

I have a student who corrected her elementary school teacher when she said "a pear and a peach are the same thing when translated into Chinese." This student was punished for "interrupting" the teacher. That falls into the "retarded" category.

Let's get this organized and start caring about what English and Chinese students achieve more than our own egos.

Gerhard Erasmus

Yonghe, Taipei County

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