We don't ALL speak English

Hey George67,

What are you yelling about? No one is being rude. And some of us are here because we have to be - we were posted here.

Hi, everybody.

I just want to say - rainbows and fluffy pink fairy tales and lovely pumpkins puffy floody hoo hoos and lollipops!

Fluffy Lovely

Nice attempt Fluffy Lovely,

but George67 - you are SO French, even on a forum. I don’t like people being impolite - but get out of here - what’s that all about?

Not everyone came to Taiwan for a cultural exchange or to learn Chinese, my fine feathered friend. I’m terribly sorry that the whole world doesn’t speak French (thank God) although I believe that other than Europe, some parts of war-torn central Africa and Laos still practice your tongue - so to speak. English (not French or Chinese is still the international business language, this is why most English speakers doing international business in places like Taiwan are mystified that a higher proprotion of the business community do not speak English. I have absolutely no statistics, but from my experience and those of colleagues in the region, Taiwan would rate up with Japan & Korea as a nation with quite a poor understanding of English within Asia (yes, there are many reasons for this, i.e. not being colonised by the English, etc.) but it is the 21st Century.

George67, what the hey, we should ALL become fluent in Chinese and/or French - oui?

Also, I find it incredulous the arrogance that we should all sit around (what in our spare time?) studying to be fluent in Chinese? Additionally, a lot of professionals have no intention of staying for more than a couple of years, so we learn what we can, when we have the time, but FAR from fluent.

I think wanting everyone to understand English is pretty much the same as wanting everyone to speak French. If your company sent you over here and you have to communicate with Chinese about business, why didn’t they send someone who can speak Chinese? I don’t think we should expect Taiwanese to speak English. It’s not their language.

Also, I think learning a little of the language of the country you are living in is polite, whether you are here by choice or not. Sure you might not be able to do business in Chinese (although this is certainly possible in 2 years), but you can get by on the street after a few months.

As for the French guy - again tis attitude that if you don’t like something in Taiwan you shopuld shut up or get out. I love Taiwan, but I’m entitled to dislike some things about it.


You people are missing george67tw’s point, I think. Clearly he was stating that one should respect the hosts of the country in which one lives. I’m all for that. Also, this French bashing is so immature it hardly bears responding to.

I agree 100% that everybody living here should make an attempt to learn Chinese. If you’re here for just a few months or a year, then I can understand not committing a lot of time to it. But, if you’re here for longer than that, and you’re still not interested in learning Chinese or cultivating a deeper understanding of the people you live around, then I really must wonder why you want to stay here.

The first time I came to Taiwan, many years ago, I had a really tough time not being able to speak to most of the people around me (of course, I had friends who spoke English). I realized that speaking Chinese was a basic prerequisite for living here, so I took classes, both in the States and locally. Years later, I’m fascinated by the complexity of the culture, which I’m still trying to fully understand.

These days, most of my friends are Taiwanese. If I hadn’t learned Chinese and a bit of Taiwanese, I would never have made those friends, and my life here would be so much more impoverished for it.

I realize folks are here for different reasons, but really, I’d love to hear from people who have been here a long while but still don’t feel the need to learn fluent Chinese.

george67tw - Je suis d’accord de tout que vous avez dit. Evidemment, c’est difficile vivre ici si on ne parle pas l’anglais ou le chinois comme la langue maternelle. Bonne chance.


Immature to knock the French, yes - I plead guilty to this charge, but it is an institution for most of the world that cannot be ignored.

Re. Taiwan, I see where you’re going. To come here and not bother to learn ANY Chinese is not smart (it also would make life quite difficult, getting back to the original point made by Jolie that there isn’t a high level of English in the community). Expecting people to be fluent in anything over a year is a little rich. Another European language for a westerner, OK- but I for one find Chinese difficult to learn. If you can spend several hours a day, or study before you arrive, no problem.

If a company sends their employees here, their main focus should be on the job. I think it is out of interest that they want to learn Chinese. It is an initiative that should be supported, not deemed by you to be mandatory. Obviously the more you learn, the more you can interact, but people can have a fruitful stay here regardless. I think it’s also important to keep in mind that many expats spend time in several Asian countries, and really shouldn’t be expected to learn each & every language fluently. We’re business people not professors of linguistics.

Oh please. What is with this “citizen of the world” spiel? The reason we foreigners were sent here in the first place is (most of the time) because we have some skill to offer. This has nothing to do with our ability to speak Chinese. Yes, if you have the time and energy (and skills) by all means, go ahead and learn. But what is it with this attitude that we should learn to speak Chinese or else be labelled arrogant foreigners?

Originally posted by musasa: But, if you're here for longer than that, and you're still not interested in learning Chinese or cultivating a deeper understanding of the people you live around, then I really must wonder why you want to stay here.

I realize folks are here for different reasons, but really, I’d love to hear from people who have been here a long while but still don’t feel the need to learn fluent Chinese.


I don’t want to stay here particularly, its not like I woke up one day and thought ooh I would LOVE to live in Taiwan for while. Its alright (today’s a good day) but its my work that keeps me here. My job is great and rewarding - everyone speaks English here - and I have no need for the Chinese language. The fact that I am tone deaf sort of rules out the possibility that I will ever learn. That’s not to say I haven’t learned about the culture…the wonderful way used toilet paper is thrown next to the toilet not in it, the smell of garlic and beetlenuts in the morning cab ride and the awesome funeral processions that go around waking the dead. But seriously, respect for the Taiwanese culture - yes, appreciation of the culture - yes, chance in hell I will ever feel the need to learn Chinese - never.

I am here to do my time. What I learn along the way about Taiwan and its culture is nice but not the main mission of my trip.

… and, with English language schools/institutes etc. almost as common as 7Elevens, why can’t more Taiwanese speak English? Perhaps it’s the quality of the teaching in these places, rather than the students.

Is the reason for most Taiwanese not being able to speak English because they think it’s just a matter of time before they become part of China again, and therfore it’s not so important to understand how to communicate with westerners?


Yes of course it would be lovely going from country to country becoming fluent in every language, but it is not that realistic for most.

One thing some people have to realise, not everyone thinks it is a paradise here. Don’t take my word for it - there are hardly millions of tourists flocking here to soak up the atmosphere or marvel at the gorgeous architecture. Also, what do you think the ratio of Taiwanese wanting to take up residence in Western countries would be versus people wanting to become Taiwanese?

For many, the rewards for living here are financial. Additionally, many companies will post their staff to significantly better places as a reward for “doing their time” here. This doesn’t mean it has to be a nightmare, it just means that people would prefer to be some place else. You most likely will not learn world’s best business practice here, for a start.

I’ve met a lot of people who have lived in HK for many years having never bothered to learn Cantonese. There it’s not such an issue, here, I can’t imaging spending many years living here & only speaking English. It is just too difficult, and learning Mandarin would be a good investment of your time & effort.

Good that you love it so much & enjoy learning the language. You’ll be richer for the experience. Others will be, just in different ways…

Non Teacher and Jolie. It seems really sad that you’re living in a country you don’t like becuase your company sent you here. Why are you working for them then?

Anyway, although I understand that not everyone has the passion for the language, I still think it’s polite to learn a little. You really can get to a level where you can make simple conversation in justa few months, even if you’re tone deaf.


I agree, Mr. Bu.

People get mad at foreigners in the states that don’t learn English. “This is America, learn English or scram!” But when we leave America, somehow we don’t carry over that concept to our new surroundings. Of course, the Taiwanese don’t tell us to, “Learn Chinese or scram!”, but perhaps they should.

OK, our object here is to get zero stars. So everybody please vote against me! I suck! I looked at my member page and I saw that I’m member # 444! Isn’t that death death death? How do you vote for people or is it only Christine and Gus who give the stars? Ah, yes. To free yourself from the scorn of others, must you also free yourself from their praise? Is that the power of modesty?

But I don’t know what to make of George67. Is he saying that you should learn Chinese or get out? Or is he saying not to learn Chinese because the culture doesn’t expect foreigners to learn it (assuming that part of the culture is for foreigners to speak only English and urging people not to upset the local cultural norms because you’re a guest…follow?)? [?]

Wow, people. If English isn’t so big in Japan or Korea, I guess I better get out of Taiwan. But I’m too in love with the language here.


Big DOrK

Hey Bu Lai En,

Aren’t we quite the idealist - oh I hate the country so I will leave my well paying, career advancing job. NOT.

If no one TRIES to understand me when I TRY to speak Chinese, what’s the point. I lived in Thailand for years and there, if you said something in Thai, or tried to, the Thai people were always so great at trying to look at the situation and figure out what it is you are trying to say. Here they just look at you like you are an alien.

I am here of my own accord - although I do feel CHEATED - I previously worked in Vietnam which is considered way more backward than here but you know what…life there was GOOD. Great even. So it’s fine, I will work and make money and accept the fact that my quality of life is not so great for this period.

Bu Lai En,

What is really sad is that people who presumably come from decent places relax their standards so much that they manage to convince themselves that cities like Taipei aren’t ugly, polluted, and totally devoid of any aesthetic charm.

I mean, it’s not exactly Florence that you seem to have fallen in love with, is it now?

That’s not to say that it’s not interesting, or that the people are not great (which I think is Taiwan’s only saving grace, and the food - otherwise it would be unlivable). At least we should be honest enough to say that Taipei, and most decent sized Taiwanese cities are cesspits, but you still manage to find something good about living in them. If you’re not here to learn Chinese (i.e. mainly here as a career step or for pay) it can be challenging.

Every day I scratch my head and wonder why a “nation” with such a high income can have such a poor lifestyle. The more I see of China’s rich and creative past, the more I wonder where it all went. A ferro-concrete temple here, a small garden with a couple of carp there - is not on a par with the Haussmann vision I fear. Oh, I forgot, since 1949 this was all “temporary”. I wonder when/if it finally sunk in that 22 million Taiwanese may not be able to invade and occupy the mainland with it’s 1.3 billion?

On the topic of becoming desensitised, and in the interests of lightening the mood for a short while…

I had not realised how used to life in Taipei I had become until once, on a recent trip home, I was accused of behaving like a refugee. It seems that my circle of friends had become rather sick of my marvelling over seemingly every day things such as clean air, beautiful surroundings, friendly and attentive service and reasonable prices for basic commodities. It made me realise what I had given up.

For the record, I have little say about my stay here as I am under contract until next year. I don’t hate the place, and I certainly don’t love it either, but you know, it would not be the place I would nominate as top of my list for “idyllic surroundings in which to live out the rest of my life.” I think we can all at least agree on that. Surely the number of Taiwanese with foreign passports or the masses who travel overseas frequently are also of the same mindset???


I can see how all this negativity is depressing but the ranting helps let out frustration. This IS a CESS POOL and doubly so because its so hard to get out of it. If you live in Jakarta or Manila, you have wonderful little islands just a hop away (disregarding the rebels). And for Indonesia at least, I think there is a real sense of beauty ingrained in the people and culture. They have aesthetic sense.

And surely you will agree that the people here (at least the ones that built the city) have none. And who on earth chose that green colour to paint all the public structures - overhead passes, Civil Blvd etc?

Originally posted by musasa:

Anyone who’s been here 5-10 years will tell you how much this place has changed.

All I can say is it must have been hell on earth if it has improved dramatically since then.

Keep laughing if you think American cities are worse than Taipei. Sure, there are areas which are dirty, poor & dangerous etc. What you’re missing is that there are areas that are NOT. You know, nice suburbs, shopping areas, etc. In Taiwan, a small space of grass surrounded by buildings that the poorest public housing dwellers in the West would be complaining to Amnesty International about, is hardly a serious attempt at urban beautification. Perhaps the Taiwanese government might want to spend some of those billions in cash reserves on improving the lifestyle of it’s citizens. Perhaps, though, these same citizens are simply not interested, and the pursuit of material gain is clearly more important than even a token attempt at improving their environment.

In Manila & Jakarta you CAN get on a plane, or even drive a short distance and be in some of the most beautiful places on earth. The main point about these cities is that most of the population are so dirt poor that they have a viable excuse for not worrying about keeping things “looking nice”. Feeding their kids is a higher priority. The Taiwanese have no such excuse, it would seem to me that they simply can’t see what people like me would be getting so worked up about. What if they actually think it looks pretty here and that somewhere like Vienna or Paris is full of ugly old buildings?


Please , I am dying in anticipation…HOW could it be MUCH worse?

Well actually, you do sound like an apologist for Taiwan.

The fact that Paris and Vienna (not Venice, but same point) is not that they are old, they would have been as ugly as Taipei at some point, well maybe not that bad. It is that they are populated by people with style. Tacking an air-conditioning unit to the side of your house and running wires across it, letting the horrible green paint and external tiles fall off, and letting rubbish collect in your front “yard” has nothing to do with martial law, economics or anything else. Aesthetics are either important to you or not. My earlier question was - do the Taiwanese themselves see this, or is it only me?

Me thinks that the only way that Taipei could be worse was if there was more of it. It doesn’t get any prettier the further you drive out.

I have a further question: is there ONE nice suburb or area in this place. I will go there - I promise. To shop, have a coffee, walk around, whatever… just ONE!