01 January 2011

English in Taiwan

In Taiwan, I saw this sign on the wall, offering a quick lesson in English. See if you can guess where it was:In fact, it was above the urinals in the Gents toilet in the Taipei City government offices. In Taiwan, you can learn English even while having a pee!

However, I'm not sure that the standard of English of ordinary people is affected much. They might learn English throughout their education, but not many people seem confident enough to actually try and use the language.

In Mainland China, it has become almost an international sport to comment on the poor English on official signs (eg here). In contrast, in Taiwan I saw few errors in the English on signs. I did see this one, near a scenic waterfall in Yilan, to the east of Taipei, and I have no idea what 'DECP' means:(The Chinese says "Water deep, Danger".)

But this kind of problem seems to be very much the exception rather than the norm. Furthermore, signs and announcements on public transport are generally both in Chinese and English, so I guess it is quite easy to get around Taiwan even if you speak no Chinese, though you probably need to articulate quite slowly and carefully if you want most people to understand spoken English.