I must largely agree with Chang Sheng-en's (
But I feel that there is more to this issue than is immediately apparent from the statistical analysis of examination results. As a very experienced Australian teacher who has visited my wonderful family in Taiwan many times, I have noted several things about Taiwanese English speakers -- both young and old.
First, through vocal emulation of their teachers, students develop a US accent. This accent in all its forms, from "deep South" origins to the Canadian border, is often difficult for other English speaking people in the world to understand. Naturally students learn by imitating their teachers, but the difference between strongly-accented vowel sounds (as in the US "drawl") and standard, non-colloquial and non-idiomatic written text can cause confusion in an exam situation.
Second, it is necessary to practise conversational and grammatically "correct" English frequently to develop a proficiency in the language. Students need to be immersed in English language and culture to learn it effectively. Unlike Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and India, Taiwan does not have a residual colonial English culture. English for Taiwanese is as difficult to learn as Chinese is for Westerners.
The English language teaching programs on television and radio are full of heavily-accented US content, and some of the teachers speak rapidly and often leap from topic to topic with little continuity or repetition, and with no visual or contextual cues.
Furthermore, popular US television shows shown in Taiwan are also heavily accented, very idiomatic and the speech is far too rapid -- comments often made about Americans in general.
I feel that all of these combined can present unreasonable and daunting obstacles to students' learning.
I note that many English teaching jobs advertised in Taiwan state that a "North American accent" is preferred, presumably for perceived status, cultural and economic reasons.
But surely, if students are to have some competency in spoken and written English, then exposure to "neutrally accented" teachers is preferable.
English can be a strongly accented language, and even I, a "neutrally accented" Australian with many years of teaching experience, have difficulty understanding not only US English, but also South African, Indian, Scot and Irish-accented English.
Selection of teachers and teaching models should be based not only on qualifications, but on the ability to speak clear and non idiomatic English.
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