Sun, Nov 05, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Language standards for tour guides could be relaxed this year

By Wu Po-wei and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications on Friday announced regulatory changes that should allow Mandarin-speaking guides to organize foreign-language tours.

Current regulations require guides to be proficient in the foreign languages of the tour groups they lead, but the amendments would allow Chinese-language guides to work alongside interpreters.

The ministry said it aimed to meet the needs of Southeast Asian tourists, who have been growing in number since the government began implementing its New Southbound Policy, adding that changes could be implemented as soon as the end of next month.

The policy has proved successful, but there are not enough tour guides fluent in Vietnamese, Thai and other Southeast Asian languages, the ministry said, adding that the majority of bilingual tour guides speak English as their second language.

Current regulations stipulate that Chinese-speaking tour guides are only permitted to lead groups from China, Hong Kong and Macao.

While the changes would allow guides to lead any tour group for which there is a qualified interpreter, bilingual and multilingual guides would not be affected, officials said.

Interpreters would primarily be sourced from translation agencies, they said, adding that the ministry would also start a training program to attract new immigrants and overseas Taiwanese to the tourism industry.

A guide surnamed Chen (陳), who speaks only Mandarin, said he was looking forward to the new policy, as it would be helpful to Southeast Asian tourists who want to visit Taiwan using their native language.

However, the government should establish a mechanism to enforce standards for language proficiency and interpretation skills, he said, adding that disputes could arise without enforcement.

Quality Travel Development Association chairman Ringo Lee (李奇嶽) said the changes were what protesters had called for in September last year.

“Although it has taken a year, I am glad to see the government relax restrictions,” he said. “The changes will benefit almost 30,000 Mandarin-speaking tour guides.”

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