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Taxi drivers sharpening English skills as tourist number goes up

2014/02/17 10:34:11

Taipei, Feb. 17 (CNA) More taxi drivers in Taiwan have realized the importance of learning English as the country has seen an increase in foreign visitor arrivals in recent years, according to the Taiwan Taxi Co., the nation's biggest taxi service provider.

The company, which has been offering English classes for its drivers since last July, said it has seen a rising demand for cabbies who can communicate with foreign passengers.

The number of drivers registering for the courses has increased five-fold to over 100, compared with six months ago, and could continue to grow, the company said.

Drivers with foreign language proficiency can earn at least 30 percent more than those who can't speak a foreign language, explained company public relations officer Hsieh Wu-hsiung. That has motivated many drivers to improve their language skills.

Hsieh said drivers who can speak a foreign language are more likely to be sent by the company to provide charter services for foreign passengers, who are also more generous in tipping.

Liu Chung-chieh, a driver at the company, said he has benefited from the English courses, which has enabled him to approach foreign clients with more confidence.

"I used to pretend that I did not see foreign passengers (waving for a taxi) because I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to understand them," said the 58-year-old, who has spent the past half year learning English.

Taiwan saw over 8 million foreign visitor arrivals in 2013, a record-high number for the country, compared with 7.3 million in 2012.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)