More taxi drivers in Taiwan have realized the importance of learning English as the country sees an increase in foreign visitor numbers, according to Taiwan Taxi Co, the nation’s biggest taxi service provider.
The company, which has been offering English classes for its drivers since July last year, said it has seen rising demand for cabbies who can communicate with foreign passengers.
The number of drivers who have registered for the courses has increased fivefold to more than 100, compared with six months ago, and the numbers were expected to keep growing, the company said.
Drivers with foreign-language proficiency can earn at least 30 percent more than those who cannot speak a foreign language, company public relations officer Hsieh Wu-hsiung said. That has motivated many drivers to improve their language skills.
Hsieh said drivers who can speak a foreign language are more likely to be sent by the company to provide charter services for foreign passengers, who are more generous about tipping.
Liu Chung-chieh, a driver at the company, said he has benefited from the English courses, which have enabled him to approach foreign clients with more confidence.
“I used to pretend that I did not see foreigners [waving for a taxi] because I was afraid that I would not be able to understand them,” said the 58-year-old, who has spent the past six months learning English.
More than 8 million foreigners visited Taiwan last year — a record high — compared with 7.3 million in 2012.
Last month, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) proposed an initiative to attract more than 10 million international tourists a year over the next decade.
According to the Tourism Bureau, China, Japan, and Hong Kong and Macau ranked as the three largest sources of overseas arrivals last year, accounting for 36.5 percent, 17.7 percent and 14.7 percent respectively.