Taiwan falls behind China, S. Korea in English proficiency

Taiwan again lags behind rivals China and South Korea in English proficiency

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- U.S.-based Educational Testing Service (ETS) yesterday in its worldwide report for 2016 announced that the average score of Taiwanese students who took its Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) ranked 40th out of 49 nationalities listed, reported China Times

On the TOEIC test Taiwanese students averaged a score of only 534 out of a maximum of 990 points. Meanwhile, Taiwan's major rival South Korea ranked far ahead in 19th place with an average score of 679. China ranked 35th with an average score of 586.

Taiwan just barely edged ahead of Japan, which was ranked 41st with an average TOEIC score of 516. One point behind Japan was the former British colony of Hong Kong with a score of 515. 

Rounding out the bottom seven were Vietnam, Thailand, Albania, Mongolia, Egypt, Macao, and Indonesia. 

Canada, where 20 percent of the population is native French speakers, took first place, though with an average score of 833, even Canadians fell nearly 100 points short of a perfect score. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Czech Republic rounded out the top five. The highest ranking country in Asia was the Philippines, where English is an official language, with an average score of 709, giving it the 12th spot.

Wang Hsing-wei (王星威), president of the Global Career Development Association (GCDA), told China Times that South Koreans have good English abilities and this gives major South Korean corporations such as Samsung a big edge globally. There are many international companies with South Korean chairmen and managing directors now, said Wang. 

As for China, Wang said the English level of the young members of their elite is also very high. He described one Taiwanese friend feeling very intimidated during a recent job interview with a Chinese company "because the English level of the young elite managers was really good."

As for Taiwan and Japan, Wang said both countries face the same problem: people study a lot of English, but they have no way to use it in the workplace or in their everyday lives. 

Wang added that as international video conferencing is becoming more and more common, not only managers but average employees will increasingly need to communicate with counterparts across the world. He said that recently he has met many Taiwanese engineers who have been anxious to find ways to improve their English for such video conferences.