Blaring the triumphant theme from the classic western The Magnificent Seven, the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission honored more than 30 public and private agencies for their outstanding English-language services yesterday.
However, instead of Yul Brynner or Charles Bronson, representatives from various police and military agencies nationwide took the stage at the 2006 English Carnival to accept trophies from the head of the commission, Jay Shih (施能傑).
Shih heaped accolades on the English word-slingers, while the audience let loose with yelps and clapping.
"These fine organizations are prime examples of how we can make Taiwan more global by forging an English-friendly environment," he said, adding that the agencies would receive cash prizes of NT$100,000 (US$3,036) each.
According to the commission, the agencies were selected by various ministries for their exemplary English-language speakers and services.
The carnival's opening ceremony then switched to Star Wars mode, with foreign dignitaries -- including top representatives from the Australian, Swiss and New Zealand trade offices -- given light-saber toys on stage accompanied by the musical theme from the movie and enough smoke to cause some front-row spectators to cough.
With that, the 2006 English Carnival -- a three-day exposition featuring English-language service providers and education-themed booths at Taipei 101 -- was launched.
Most of the booths were staffed by government agencies to advertise their services to foreigners.
A booth by the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training, for example, featured a poster stating tax rules for foreigners.
"If you worked in Taiwan for less than 183 days in one fiscal year ... then you shall be paying the tax as a non-resident, which is equivalent to 20 percent of the taxable income [sic]," the large poster read.
When asked why taxes were so high for non-residents, Wang Yuh-cherng (王郁程), the bureau's booth presenter, said he didn't know.
"Maybe to promote you to leave [sic]," Wang said.
Other officials, however, were more welcoming.
Speaking in perfect English, Changhua County Police Spokeswoman Lieutenant-Colonel Ailsa Chuang (
Navy Captain Schoung Jen-yu (熊震宇), head of the Kaohsiung-based Zuoying Armed Forces General Hospital, was also enthusiastic about helping foreigners, saying that his hospital has helped many foreigners hurt in traffic accidents or fires in southern Taiwan.
"Our staff's English learning is patient-oriented," Schoung said, adding that they spent much of their free time, including lunch breaks, studying English.
Both the hospital and the Chang-hua County Police Department were among the award recipients.