Japan’s English language education system is often compared with those of Korea, China, and other East Asian countries. Data are increasing for Taiwan, but much remains to be studied. In this study, I’ve focused on the evolution, in the period from 1945 to 2017, of Taiwan’s English education system and policies.
Taiwan began a prototype English education system in the 1950s, as the country recovered from World War II. Since then, English has been actively promoted and eagerly adopted, and as Taiwan began to look to the West to grow its economy and to develop its technological expertise, the status of English for communication grew. This need for English-mediated engagement with Western countries was simply one manifestation of how political the spread of English use has been in Taiwan. The postwar Taiwanese governments recognized the need for English education as an investment in human capital. This was evident, for example, in how as Taiwan rapidly modernized, beginning in the early 1970s, into a high-tech powerhouse and subsequently successfully reformed its English education system to meet new challenges. Similarly, as Taiwan embraced the rapid arrival of globalization after the late 1980s to 1990s, English language policies adapted correspondingly such that this was reflected in teaching priorities that focused on the growing relevance of capitalism.
As the country enjoyed strong bouts of economic growth and stability, a focus on democratization was promoted. This began in 1987, after martial law was lifted, and continued throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. Again, these socio-political and economic changes manifested in corresponding adaptations in the English teaching system. Such adaptations have also resulted in a virtuous circle situation such that as English education policies have promoted equal opportunities and better standards of living, these, in turn, have contributed to greater levels of societal democratization and modernization, which have then become more heavily emphasized and manifested in English education policies and priorities.
Ｉn light of the paradigm shift in pronunciation teaching to include both segmental and suprasegmental features of the L2 sound system, this study was engineered to explore the possibility of using existing pedagogical techniques such as reading aloud to improve a Mandarin speaker’s production of English vowel sounds in the context of a private lesson. By recycling familiar graded readers from the participant’s self-motivated extensive reading program, the researcher demonstrated how this approach could be incorporated into established EFL curricula. The approach implemented in this study was based on Kupzyk, McCurdy, Hofstadter, and Berger’s (2011) study of L1 learners with one key modification. Because Kupzyk et al.’s study was designed to test the efficacy of an approach that could be administered by participants’ parents, there were little to no opportunities for corrective feedback. In contrast, differing circumstances in the present study allowed the participant to receive corrective feedback from the researcher in the form of explicit instruction and recasts. The participant’s errors showed a substantial decrease between the pre- and post-tests (28 versus 10 total), suggesting that reading aloud coupled with form-focused instruction can be effective in improving learners’ production of segmental features. This is especially true of the vowel sounds (e.g., /iy/ versus /ɪ/) the participant initially found most difficult. While this approach was shown to be effective in the context of a private lesson, it remains unclear whether such a personalized means of pronunciation teaching is suitable for other populations of learners in different educational settings.