Knowledge of a Southeast Asian language, especially Vietnamese, can give job-seekers the edge in finding employment, as evidenced by a recent National Immigration Agency (NIA) recruitment examination.
The following is coverage of the topic by the United Daily News:
The NIA , which recruits people at irregular intervals, said that in recent years, the agency has targeted the growing number of foreign spouses of local nationals for service more and more and is in need of more people who know Southeast Asian languages.
Taking this year's test as an example, the agency said that those who registered for the Thai or Vietnamese tests had a 10 times better chance of being selected than those who opted for the English test.
The agency said that among those who registered to sit the Southeast Asian language tests, such as Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese, one in 10 was selected, compared with one in 100 selected from among those who took the English, French or Japanese language tests.
The NIA said the agency holds examinations for both junior and senior civil servant positions.
Those who who pass the junior exam can expect a monthly salary of NT$40,000 (US$1,334), while those who pass the senior test, can get a starting salary of up to NT$46,000, both of which figures are much more attractive than the average offered in the private sector, the NIA said.
NIA Director-General Hsieh Li-kung said that if colleges are keeping their fingers on the pulse of society, they should know that the country is in need of people who know Southeast Asian languages, and should offer courses in these subjects.
"The offering of Southeast Asian language learning would be a big help for students seeking employment after graduation," according to Hsieh.
In recent years, the Ministry of Education has provided subsidies to senior high schools that offer second languages, including Vietnamese.
Chang Ming-wen, director of the ministry's Department of Secondary Education, said that a visit to an online recruitment website shows that those who speak Vietnamese can have a choice of more than 1,300 jobs, far more than those who know other languages.
However, the Department of East Asian Languages & Literature of the National University of Kaohsiung is the only department in Taiwan that offers Vietnamese courses.
Even before students majoring in Vietnamese graduate, Taiwanese businessmen with operations in Vietnam make them offers of a handsome NT$45,000 a month to try to secure them, said Chern Jyh-wen, director of the department.
He said that the department has three divisions -- Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean -- and that the students who major in Vietnamese are almost fully employed. If they work as special assistants for Taiwanese businessmen in Vietnam, they can enjoy a salary of NT$45,000, as well as accommodation, conditions that are even better than most Masters degree holders in Taiwan.
According to Ministry of Education statistics, 10 percent of the mothers of students in elementary schools in Taiwan now come from Southeast Asia and China.
Education Minister Chiang Wei-ling said Thursday that the ministry will come up with measures to encourage children from new immigrant families to learn to speak the mother tongues of their parents.
"If a child learns more than one language, it will build up his or her competitive edge," Chiang said.
National Chengchi University offers classes in Vietnamese, Thai and Malay for the public, of which Vietnamese has proved the most popular.
The popularity of Southeast Asian languages is directly related to the growing number of foreign spouses from Southeast Asian nations, as well as Taiwan's closer trade ties and increasing reliance on exports to the region.
Economic officials have said that in the first five months of this year, Taiwan's exports to China and Hong Kong registered negative growth of 10 percent, while exports to the six members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei -- registered 6 percent growth for the same period.
"This shows that the ASEAN market has become the prime mover for Taiwan exports," an official said, adding that between 2002 and 2011, the average annual growth rate of Taiwan's exports to the six ASEAN member countries was 13 percent, higher than the average of 9.3 percent for overall export growth.
If assessed by region, the ratio of Taiwan's exports to the six countries was below only China and Hong Kong, while the ratio to the United States, Europe and Japan has shown a decline.
(By Lilian Wu)