English villages in Taiwan

The Taiwan government is planning to spend millions of dollars “improving Taiwan’s English-language environment”, which will include the setting up of two English-language villages, according to this report.

They will improve English language signage and aim to host more international concerts and exhibitions.

The idea of the English villages is to make it easier for the local residents to practise their English. The first village will probably be set up in Hsinchu Science and Technology Park, which has a large number of foreign staff. The villages will have English language signs, local businesses will be encouraged to provide English-language services, and will be given star ratings for the quality of those services.

Taiwan already has at least one English ‘village’ where children can be immersed in the language, according to this report.

Are there similar ‘villages’ in other countries?

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This entry was posted in English, Language, Language learning.

9 Responses to English villages in Taiwan

  1. AR says:

    There’s a Sanskrit village called Mattur in the state of Karnataka in India. It’s an island of Sanskrit speakers (regardless of their ethnic, social, or religious backgrounds) who use it in their daily lives to preserve the language in the midst of Kannada speakers.

  2. michael farris says:

    Personally I think it sounds like a dumb idea (and a major show of disrespect to the speakers of languages).

    There is _no_ reason that the majority of people in Taiwan should be fluent in English. It’s a superstitious linguistic fetish. It’s time they got over it.

  3. Kelly says:

    The plan to create English villages in Taiwan has been around for quite a few years now (there was already one when I was living there in 2006). I find it a little ironic that they’re thinking of starting a new village in Hsinchu now that so many foreign engineers are leaving the island thanks to the economic crisis. One of my partner’s ex-colleagues is still working out there but he says the city’s slowly becoming a ghost town..

    I don’t know of any other “villages” in other countries but it would be great to have a Mandarin or Japanese one here in the Netherlands!

  4. Jayan says:

    @michael farris

    While I agree that the English-“fetish” (as you call it) is totally arbitrary, but the practical necessity exists. People aren’t using Taiwanese (or any other language of Taiwan) all over the world for business; they’re using English, and to keep up, they need to too.

  5. bronz says:

    To me it’s all a matter of practicality; they’re not aiming to abandon their native languages in favor of English, but merely creating environments where people can better learn an extremely useful language. I do wonder, though, how effective these villages actually are, but one of the articles seems to claim that it has been quite successful for South Korea.

    I certainly wouldn’t mind a village for every language in the world around where I live, especially if I don’t have the money to travel or go live abraod…

  6. michael farris says:

    Let me clarify a little.

    Learning a language for the truly motivated (by real interest or real necessity) isn’t that hard. You sit down with some textbooks and practice for a half-hour to an hour everyday (with occasional breaks in routine) and look for opportunities to speak, read, listen to and write the language (and the last three are absurdly simple with the internet). An occasional class can be useful in priming the pump (esp for speaking) but there’s no reason to enroll in years of conversation classes.

    In a lot of countries, however, a lot of people with no real interest in English as a language or any real objective need to learn it are obliged or heavily encouraged to learn it (or may go through a show of learning it for a variety of reasons).

    But since they have no real motivation, rather than actually do the work involved (which is often dull and repetitive), they naturally look for workarounds. Enrolling in class after class is a way of pretending to make the effort they don’t want to make (for good reason).

    English villages in this light seem to me to be just the latest diversion. They are an expensive, symbolic investment offered up instead of the real investment of time and effort one that people do not want to make (despite what they may say).

  7. michael farris says:

    To be clear (since my last posting on this topic is lost somewhere):

    Language learning is basically a pretty simple endeavor. You need some textbooks, maybe some classes (especially in priming the pump in speaking). And you need some opportunities to use it (pretty simple with the internet now). A person who’s truly motivated and free of learning disabilities can do a good enough job on their own. The catch is that it takes sustained effort (half and hour to an hour every day with occasional breaks) and is often not a barrel of laughs, even for the most dedicated learner.

    Many people with no special interest or objective need to learn English are encouraged or required to make an effort to do so (often for many years). Rather than actually put in the real effort needed, people make symbolic efforts that don’t have much effect.

    It seems to me, that these “English villages” are just that, an expensive waste of time that will let people who either don’t want to put any real effort into learning English (or who have really bad ideas about how to do so) convince themselves they are doing something.

  8. i don’t think those english “villages” would work. i think the taiwanese govt should spend more time improving english instruction.

  9. Mia says:

    Will two villages actually make any difference, sureley there are far more people that can fit into these villages who are needing to learn English within this country.