The government is encouraging young people to learn Southeast Asian languages as part of its “new southbound policy,” but a survey found that few Taiwanese students are interested in learning such languages.
Only 2.4 percent of the middle-school, college and university students polled answered that Southeast Asian languages are a priority to learn, according to the survey, which was conducted by the King Car Cultural and Educational Foundation.
The survey, the results of which were released on Wednesday last week, showed that 67.3 percent of respondents said English is the most important language Taiwanese need to further improve, followed by 13.6 percent for Korean and Japanese, 10.3 percent for Mandarin Chinese and 5.7 percent for European languages.
The survey’s results suggest Taiwanese students need to broaden their global horizons, instead of limiting themselves to learning the languages and cultures of only a few countries, such as the US, South Korea and Japan, the foundation said.
Liu Bih-rong (劉必榮), a professor of politics at Soochow University in Taipei, said that what motivates teenagers and young people to learn a foreign language is not necessarily a desire to know more about the international community.
“They might simply want to be able to play games,” Liu said, adding that if the government wants to promote its southbound policy, it should try to generate more interest in countries in Southeast and South Asia.
Strategies such as promoting movies, TV dramas or novels from those countries in Taiwan need to be adopted to achieve the desired results, he said.
The “new southbound policy” is an initiative promoted by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government in an effort to develop closer ties with business partners in Southeast and South Asia, such as ASEAN members and India.
The DPP government, which took power on May 20, has been working to diversify Taiwan’s investment and trade at a time when there are concerns the nation has become too economically dependent on China.
Questionnaires were sent to randomly selected students in September. A total of 1,736 valid samples were collected, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
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