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President Tsai pledges to make Taiwan bilingual country by 2030

Tsai vows to 'spare no effort' to turn Taiwan bilingual within 10 years

(Twitter, Tsai Ing-wen image)

(Twitter, Tsai Ing-wen image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — On Monday (Nov. 23), President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) pledged that the government would do everything in its power to achieve the goal of turning Taiwan into a bilingual country by 2030.

During the first consultation meeting of the "Bilingual Nation by 2030" policy on Monday, Tsai said the government is "sparing no effort" to turn Taiwan bilingual within 10 years, reported Taiwan Today. Tsai stressed that reaching a high degree of English proficiency is "key to raising Taiwan's profile abroad."

She added that striving to reach this goal will both "enable younger generations to better connect with the world" as well as better promote Taiwan's success battling the Wuhan coronavirus.

Tsai was joined at the meeting by Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德); Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠); National Development Council (NDC) Minister Kung Ming-hsin (龔明鑫); Doris M. Brougham, the founder of English teaching program Studio Classroom; TV news anchor Catherine Chang (張雅琴); and Discovery travel host Janet Hsieh (謝怡芬), along with representatives from both the academic and private sectors.

Lai, who first announced the initiative in 2018, cited Tsai's inaugural address in May as an indication of her commitment to the project. During the speech, Tsai emphasized the need to "cultivate more outstanding bilingual talents" in order to better connect Taiwan with the international community.

On Tuesday (Nov. 24), Tsai posted a tweet in which she recalled that she had struggled with English in school and that it was not until she went overseas to study that she was able to gain the "skills and confidence I have today." She then expressed hope that the English education provided to youth under the new program will bring "Taiwan to the world and the world to Taiwan."

In December 2018, the Cabinet-level NDC approved a plan titled "Blueprint for Developing Taiwan into a Bilingual Nation by 2030" (2030雙語國家計畫), with the two target languages being Mandarin and English. To help achieve this vision, then-Minister of Education Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) said he would work toward integrating English into all levels of teaching, with some subjects even to be taught entirely in English.

In July of this year, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced it would increase its recruitment of foreign English teachers from 80 to 300 per year. The MOE also stated that it was looking to raise the budget for bilingual education from NT$200 million to NT$2 billion next year.

The term "bilingual" in this context is somewhat misleading, as Taiwan is already a multilingual society with several national languages, including Mandarin, Hakka, Taiwanese Hokkien, and numerous indigenous Formosan languages. In accordance with the National Languages Development Act, which was passed in 2018, the national languages of local ethnic groups will become elective subjects in primary and secondary schools by 2022.