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CultureRTI Radio Taiwan InternationalRTI Radio Taiwan InternationalCurious John

Curious John

English Service host John Van Trieste is curious. There’s nothing about Taiwan’s many cultures that he doesn’t want to know more about. Join him every week as he gets to the bottom of yet another question. What will he be curious about this time?

What's On

04 December, 2021
Is Taiwan ready to go bilingual?

Taiwan’s government has a mission. It wants Taiwan’s people to be bilingual by 2030, with English as their second language. But can this be done? On the ground, Taiwan seems far from any true bilingualism, even though English is compulsory in its schools. Are we teaching it right? What could we be doing better? And what obstacles stand in the way of the government’s bilingual vision for the country? To find out, I’ve been speaking lately with English teacher Daisy Fan, a 20-year veteran of Taiwan’s public high school system. Over the past two weeks, she’s been explaining how English is taught in practice here, what works in the curriculum and what doesn’t, and why there is a regional disparity in Taiwan’s English proficiency. She’s also shared the strange story of how some students here were asked to give a presentation about spinach. This week, she’s back to tackle some final issues: Taiwan’s love affair with after school tutoring academies, the not-always helpful attitudes of Taiwanese parents, and what about her own English-learning journey makes her a rare success story. Finally, we’re going to address the big question we started with—is a bilingual Taiwan in 2030 a serious possibility?

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27 November, 2021
English Education in Taiwan: The Problem with Spinach

Controversy over a recent speaking topic at a national English speaking competition for high schoolers sheds light on regional disparities in Taiwan's English education.

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20 November, 2021
Is Taiwan really ready to become a bilingual nation?

Taiwan is a land of many languages, but the government is intent on adding one more to the mix: English. It’s set a goal of turning Taiwan into a fully bilingual nation by 2030. There are plenty of arguments for and against the idea circulating online right now, but how realistic is the idea in the first place? To find out more, I’ve found a real-life English teacher here, Daisy Fan, a 20-year veteran of Taiwan’s public high school system. I want to understand how English is taught here, what level of English the government expects graduating students to have, what Taiwan does right and wrong when it comes to English education, and whether Taiwan is really prepared to make English its second language within the decade.

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13 November, 2021
Curious John

2021-11-13

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06 November, 2021
Taiwan and Somaliland

It’s a flourishing democracy with no seat at the UN, a sizable country not labeled on many maps. The place I’m describing might well be Taiwan! But instead, today, I’m talking about Somaliland, a state that sits atop the Horn of Africa. Like Taiwan, Somaliland is a republic with its own government, flag, currency, and military. It issues its own passports and holds its own elections. But despite its stability in a region full of turmoil, Somaliland, like Taiwan, remains a place the international community largely ignores. However far apart they may be on the globe, the list of things Taiwan and Somaliland have in common goes on and on. You might even say, as my guest does today, that Taiwan and Somaliland are natural allies. He is Abdiqani Muse, Head of Development and Culture Affairs at the Somaliland Representative Office in Taipei. Over the next two weeks, he’ll be explaining how and why Somaliland came to be, why Somaliland and Taiwan make for natural friends, and what the future holds for these two, the odd couple on the international stage.

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