How to teach Taiwan taxi drivers English

By Trista di Genova

Letter to the Editor, The China Post; Taipei Mayor’s Office

Taiwanese taxi drivers are great Chinese teachers, but most of the time they speak little if any English. I was talking to a taxi driver the other day who spoke a little English. He said there was a class for taxi drivers but “it’s not very good.” What little English he knew he learned from listening to a cassette tape in his car.

It occurred to me that the best way to train Taiwan’s taxi drivers to speak basic English is if the city government or Ministry of Education make a CD with all the relevant expressions drivers need to know. Importantly, they need to make sure when the CD is being made they use a focus group — consult first with taxi drivers and foreigners — to determine what expressions are most commonly used, such as the names of major landmarks and hotels. Then they could record and distribute the CDs to all taxi drivers.

Taxi drivers have all the free time in the world to improve their English. They can listen to the CD in their car while they are working, and will get a sense of accomplishment from being able to communicate about basic things (one taxi driver I had did not understand “Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, CKS, or even “airport”). They will be able to provide even better service, and make a good first impression of Taiwan, which is critical.

I feel this would be a very inexpensive measure for the city government to provide, and that it would vastly improve the experience of foreign visitors in Taiwan.

Trista di Genova, Banciao City