About English speaking and listening

Many of my Taiwanese friends love to make fun of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s English accent.

On the YouTube clip of his short English speech officiating Taipei Universiade, some netizens commented that his accent is actually the typical Taiwanese-English style, while some opined that his accent could make him a good Japanese speaker when he switches.

Another clip showed that Ko, previously a doctor, explained to Taiwanese reporters that he could only speak English on the third day of his U.S. business visits. And he said that there is a lack of English-speaking environment in Taiwan.

What he said is true, and there is a way to solve the problem. To be a fluent speaker of a language, you first have to listen a lot. When I listen less, I found myself unable to understand simple Japanese; when I listen a lot, I somehow managed to guess the meaning by picking out several of my familiar terms.

Same goes for English. When I drive I listen to English-language podcasts produced by various radio stations including ICRT, whose audio clips offer in-depth analysis of the latest issues in Taiwan. When I listen to English conversations a lot, I found myself talking fluently and clearly when discussing deeper issues.

A good speaker speaks confidently. He needs not intentionally come up with bombastic vocabularies and complicated sentences to show that he is good.

What Mayor Ko needs is more listening and a conducive environment to converse in English with his friends and colleagues about what they do in their daily life. When they are talking about what’s going on in life, they’ll soon learn how to elaborate on complicated matters.

I would suggest Mayor Ko to join Toastmasters clubs in Taipei to brush up his speaking skills. Members in Taipei, please invite him and teach him more.

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