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More and more high schools in Taiwan are starting to offer class in Southeast Asian languages such as Vietnamese, Thai, Malay and Filipino. The Ministry of Education is considering including Southeast Asian languages into the official curriculum guideline for second foreign languages to encourage more high schools offer related courses.

UDN reports, more than 200 high schools offered second foreign language classes this semester and 53 thousand students enrolled. About 30 thousand students chose to study Japanese, which is the most popular second foreign language. French, German, Spanish and Korean follow behind and each has a few thousand students in the classes.

There were no high school classes for Southeast Asian languages five years ago, but about ten schools offered these classes this semester and roughly 700 students have registered. Vietnamese has been most popular among students and is followed by Thai.

Lin Teng-chiao, administrative deputy minister of the Ministry of Education, noted that speaking English is not enough in the age of globalization. A dozen years ago, the Ministry of Education began to encourage high school students to learn a second foreign language.

At first, the schools only opened courses for European, Japanese and Korean languages, but with the surge in the number of immigrants from Southeast Asia and their second generations, as well as Southeast Asia’s rapid economic development, more high schools have started to offer courses for Southeast Asian languages.

As the demand of Southeast Asian languages increase, scholars have been discussing whether to replace the excessive amount of English departments in Taiwan’s universities into Southeast Asian language departments. UDN reports, Chang Shang-kuan, dean of National Chengchi University’s (NCCU) College of Foreign Languages and Literature, says that nowadays everyone speaks English and the Japanese departments are over-saturated.

Every year, eight thousand students graduate from Japanese-related departments, but the job market needs only about one thousand people. The disparity between the two will lead to the issue of abolishing the excessive departments sooner or later.

Chang believes that this is the defect of Taiwan’s foreign language policy. He thinks that the policy fails to notice whether the distribution of language departments meets the current trend of Taiwan’s economic and trading developments.

The government should analyze each foreign language skill, conducting comprehensive arrangements and adjustments to balance the demands and the supplies. NCCU is planning to apply to the Ministry of Education to establish Southeast Asian language departments.

Merit Times reports, the number of people wanting to learn Southeast Asian languages is growing, but resources are very limited and mostly concentrated in Taipei. Zhang Zheng, founder of the Southeast Asian bookstore Brilliant Times, says that the Southeast Asian language courses offered in Taiwan now are simply not enough.

Zhang says the government should provide resources within the education system, such as opening new classes in junior high and high schools or opening new departments in universities. The government can also subsidize people like ethnic Chinese, Southeast Asian students and immigrants to open classes for Southeast Asian languages, providing more channels for people to choose from.

Translated by Vic Chiang
Edited by Olivia Yang

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