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Immigrants in Taiwan welcome Asean languages programme

Oct 08. 2017
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LIKE MANY immigrants in Taiwan as well as their children, Manida Tarnsuwan – a 45-year-old woman from Thailand, welcomes the New Southbound Policy.

Initiated by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the policy prescribes educational development for children of new immigrants to be implemented between 2016 and 2020.

 “Opportunities I’ve found here make me feel equal, even though I was not born here,” Manida said.

Married to a Taiwanese man and settled in Taiwan, she is also known as Manida Lai.

At present, she has been receiving training on how to serve as an assistant teacher for Thai-language classes.

Starting in 2019, every primary school in Taiwan will include seven Asean languages as elective subjects in response to the New Southbound Policy. The languages are Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Burman, Indonesian, Cambodian and Filipino.

“One in 10 primary students in Taiwan are children of immigrants. We think it necessary to let them learn the mother language of their parents,” Taiwan’s Education Minister Pan Wen- chung  said.

He believed it was also useful for children whose parents were both Taiwanese to learn Asean languages.

Manida said the New Immigrants Learning Center at Zhanghe Junior High School had taught Asean languages for several years already.

Taiwan’s capital Taipei has been home to about 100,000 foreign spouses and children of Taiwanese nationals. The biggest immigrant group is Vietnamese followed by Indonesian, Myanmar and Thai.

Yen-che Gu, senior specialist of the New Taipei City Government, where the New Immigrants Learning Center is located, said the languages would connect children with their ethnic roots.

“If they have opportunities, they may be able to go back to the home country of their parent and contribute to its development,” Gu said.

 Wen-Ching Ho, principal of New Taipei Municipal Zhanghe Junior High School, said his school had already started offering |Asean languages as electives.

His school conducts classes for children from kindergarten up to junior secondary education. Students include children of Cambodian, Vietnamese and Indonesian origin, not just those born to Taiwanese couples.

“Of all three Asean-language choices, we began teaching Vietnamese already because we successfully recruited a Vietnamese teacher. She moved to Taiwan after marrying a local man here,” Ho said.

He added that the teacher had also received teacher training from Taiwan’s Education Ministry.

Increased job opportunities

Another Vietnamese woman from Kaohsiung Taiwan said she felt glad the Taiwanese government had offered free teacher training to interested immigrants.

“I have received 36 hours of free training and received a certification to serve as an assistant teacher now. My field is the Vietnamese language,” she said.

The assistant teacher said she was happy children of immigrants had an opportunity to learn the mother languages of their parent and for children of Taiwanese parents to have an opportunity to learn Asean languages.

“If you can speak an Asean language, your job opportunities grow,” she said.

Deng Jin Ti, a Vietnamese woman living in Taiwan, said the government’s Asean-language project had enhanced her status as a teacher of Vietnamese. “Although I can speak Vietnamese fluently, it’s not easy to teach others without training. With the proper training, I have acquired teaching techniques and skills,” she said.

Married to a Taiwanese man for 12 years, she has taught Vietnamese to Taiwanese investors who were interested in expanding their businesses in Vietnam.

 Ker-Wei Yu, a professor in the Department of Marine Engineering at the University of Science and Technology of Kaohsiung, said his institute had already trained so many teachers through the Second Generation of New Immigrants Overseas Empowerment programme.

“We have provided training so as to produce teachers for the Asean courses that will start in 2019,” he said.

A schoolboy said he could speak Vietnamese because his mother came from Vietnam.

“If the government will offer Vietnamese language course, I will definitely join the class so that I can learn Vietnamese reading and writing,” he said. “If possible, I will apply for jobs in Vietnam after my graduation.” 

Wanpen Huang, who has spent the last 30 years in Taiwan after marrying a Taiwanese man, admitted that she did not teach Thai to her children or grandchildren.

“But if the government offers Thai language courses, I will definitely persuade my grandchildren to enrol,” she said.

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