Few Taiwan students interested in Southeast Asian languages: poll

As part of its New Southbound Policy, Taiwan’s government is encouraging young people to learn Southeast Asian languages, but a new survey indicates few Taiwanese students are interested in learning the languages spoken in those countries.

Asked “the learning of which language would you characterize as a priority?” only 2.4 percent of middle school, college and university students polled answered Southeast Asian languages, according to the survey conducted by the King Car Cultural and Educational Foundation.

Released on Wednesday, the survey shows that 67.3 percent of respondents said English is the most important language Taiwanese people need to learn.

A total of 13.6 percent of those surveyed picked Korean and Japanese, 10.3 percent said Chinese, 5.7 percent said European languages and 2.4 percent said Southeast Asian languages, the survey shows.

The foundation said the survey results suggest that Taiwanese students need to broaden their global horizon, instead of limiting themselves to learning the language and culture of only a few countries such as the United States, South Korea and Japan.

Liu Bih-rong (劉必榮), a professor in politics at Soochow University in Taipei, said that what drives teenagers and young people to learn a foreign language is not necessarily a desire to know more about the international community.

“They may simply want to be able to play games,” Liu said, therefore, if the government wants to promote its New Southbound Policy, it should try to generate more interest in countries in Southeast and South Asia.

Strategies like promoting movies, television dramas or novels from those countries in Taiwan need to be adopted to achieve the desired goal, he suggested.

The New Southbound Policy is an initiative promoted by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party government in an effort to develop closer ties with business partners in the region, such as members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and India.

The government, which was sworn in on May 20, is working to diversify Taiwan’s investment and trade at a time when there are concerns the island has become too economically dependent on China.

The survey was conducted by sending questionnaires to randomly selected middle school, college and university students in September. A total of 1,736 valid samples were collected, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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