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Taiwanese encouraged to learn more foreign languages

2012/09/14 14:30:50

Taipei, Sept. 14 (CNA) Taiwan needs to open up more to different foreign cultures, which European envoys said Friday could be achieved through learning languages other than English.

Speaking at a forum in Taipei to discuss developing multilingualism in Taipei, Michael Zickerick, director-general of the German Institute in Taipei, said that knowledge of additional foreign languages "represent an important opportunity for Taiwan to strengthen its relations with the world."

Besides focusing on English as the primary foreign language -- the lingua franca in most of the international community -- students in Taiwan could spend more time studying other languages to broaden their horizons and see the world from various perspectives, according to Zickerick.

Taiwan could consider making the study of additional foreign languages compulsory in high schools, said Olivier Richard, director of the French Office in Taipei.

In fact, the idea of learning more than one foreign language has gained increasing attention in Taiwan, as statistics from the Ministry of Education show that nearly 250 high schools currently offer such classes.

The foreign languages include French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Vietnamese and Indonesian.

Kuo Yu-hsin, a student from Taipei Jingmei Girls High School, where first-graders are required to take second foreign language courses, said her study of German has "opened her mind."

"I don't see learning both English and German as a burden. I have got a better sense for language because of taking both classes," said the 16-year-old, who performed a series of tongue-twisters with some 20 of her classmates at the forum.

According to Kuo's teacher, the earlier children are introduced to foreign languages, the more flexible they become in learning new subjects.

"I teach in a university as well, and I have to say that these high school children have demonstrated equal, if not better potential, than university students in absorbing foreign languages and cultures," she said.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)