High school students who participated in a spoken English contest said yesterday that it is not difficult to learn the language well provided the learner has the heart.
A total of 1,122 students from 59 high schools nationwide took part in a spoken English contest called "PhonePass" which was held between Dec. 20 to Jan. 13.
Students who have not resided in an English-speaking country for more than a year were eligible to take part in the contest.
Among them, 541 students were from schools in northern Taiwan, 265 were from the central area and 316 were from the south. In addition, 307 were male and 815 were female.
Contest participants were evaluated on an eight-point scale. Those who scored more than six points were determined to have the ability to conduct a conversation with a native English speaker at a slow speed.
Those who scored eight points were determined to have the ability to carry out a conversation on various topics with a native speaker at a normal speed without any difficulties.
Winnie Yang (楊惟寧), a senior from the National Taichung Girls' Senior High School (國立台中女中), won the contest with a perfect score of eight points. She said that it is important to create an English-speaking environment in order for people to learn the language well.
"I think it's very easy to find English sources in Taiwan," she said. "For example, I love to listen to English radio programs, watch English TV shows and read English publications. Also, `never give up' is the spirit that I always believe."
Robert Ho (何思賢), a senior from Tsz-shiou Senior High School (辭修高中), won an award yesterday with a score of 6.2 points. He said that he would like to take advantage of his English-language skills to help him learn more about journalism in college and go abroad for graduate school in the future.
"Being awarded this time did encourage me a lot," he said. "I want to be a journalist in the future. I believe that I can see the world with a different eye if I have good English ability. That faith keeps me rolling."
The "PhonePass" is an English spoken test system introduced by Caves Books (敦煌書局) at the end of last year. It was conceived of and organized by a US-based company called Ordinate Corp.
The test has two versions of different lengths -- a five-minute version and a 10-minute version. Those interested in taking the test must pay a fee of NT$800 for the five-minute version and NT$1,400 for the 10-minute one. Caves Books provided free test materials and services for the purposes of the contest.
It is an automatic test system which can be carried out at anytime. To participate in the contest, students dialed a toll-free number from their schools to join the five-minute English spoken test. When they finished, the computer system at the Caves Books' headquarters in Taichung transmitted their answers to Ordinate Corp's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, and the test results were made available within 12 hours.
"An effective English-test system can help students and their schools find a new way to make more progress in learning English," said Jared Bernstein, president of Ordinate Corp and a linguistics professor at Stanford University. "That was the main reason why we invented this system."