Fri, Nov 24, 2006 - Page 2 News List

English-speakers crave better English: poll

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A growing number of native speakers of English find the current level of the nation's English-language environment inadequate, a survey by the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission found.

The commission attributed the increase in dissatisfaction to a difference in the numbers surveyed.

"This year we invited more English native speakers to answer our questionnaire and since they are native speakers, it is natural that their evaluation was stricter and tougher for us," commission Vice Minister Liu Chien-sin (劉建忻) said at a press conference yesterday afternoon.

The press conference was held in part to announce the beginning of this year's "English Carnival," an effort by the commission to make the country an English-friendly environment for foreigners.

The survey gathered valid responses from 1,268 foreign visitors and 1,068 foreigners residing in Taiwan. Last year the commission polled 1,068 visitors and 1,098 foreign residents. The participants included both native and non-native English speakers.

This year's survey revealed that 57.86 percent of participants were fairly satisfied and felt that Taiwan was an English-friendly environment. In last year's questionnaire, 54.32 percent of the participants gave the same response.

However, when it came questions about English proficiency in certain situations, ranging from "shopping," "educational and cultural environment," "medical environment" to "police service environment" and "banking," approval dropped compared to last year.

For instance, last year's survey saw 50 percent of the participants satisfied with the English environment for shopping, but only 45.18 percent felt the same this year.

For education and culture, 58.33 percent of last year's participants called it English-friendly, compared with 53.72 percent this year.

For health care, 50.34 percent of respondents last year said medical personnel could adequately help foreigners in English, but only 41.37 percent felt so this year.

"It shows that there is still room for us to make progress," Liu said. "For instance, we will urge our 911 operators to improve their English. You never know when there will be a foreigner calling for help."

The "2006 English Carnival" will be launched at Taipei 101 on Tuesday, with government offices displaying what they have done to create an English-friendly atmosphere.

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