David's Guide to Taiwan updated

I just updated my website David’s Guide to Taiwan. The main updates are on the Taipei and Banqiao pages. I have a lot more photos and information to add to the site, but I don’t have my own computer at the moment. I will add more to the site soon.

I have also added the Technorati search box to this blog. It is in the side bar and I think it is a lot more reliable than Blogger’s search function. Use it if you are looking for any information about a particular topic.

The future of this blog

I started this blog a little over a year ago. I wasn’t living in Taiwan at the time, but the blog was a good way for me to maintain my interest in Taiwan. I also saw the blog as being complementary to my website, David’s Guide to Taiwan, which I had been maintaining for several years. The dynamic nature of blogging allows me to write about a wider range of topics than I can on a static website.

I am not sure how many people actually read this blog. I guess the number is in double figures, although probably at the lower end of that range. The occassional mention on Michael Turton’s blog has probably helped a few people discover my blog. Michael’s blog has also helped me discover a number of interesting Taiwan blogs, too.

Anyway after more than a year of blogging about Taiwan, as of last month, I am finally in Taiwan. I haven’t been posting much more frequently yet, partly because I don’t have my own computer. Internet cafes in Taiwan tend to be smoky and noisy so I don’t like spending too much time in them. It is also difficult to find an internet cafe where I can upload and edit photos.

I hope to have my own computer and internet connection sorted out in a week or two. After that I will aim to post two or three times a week. Sometimes I will post a bit more and other times a bit less. I will continue to focus on similar topics to those I have in the past. Chinese languages (note the plural s) will be a major focus. Other topics will include teaching English, books and movies related to Taiwan, cycling and hiking and interesting places that I visit.

I will also post more photos. I have put some of my best photos at the bottom of the side bar. Just click on the photo to see a higher resolution image in a new window. I will add some new photos there from time to time.

David’s Guide to Taiwan will also get some much needed updates and more photos, too. I am thinking about splitting some of the content of that site in to a new website with it’s own domain name. I really need to learn CSS before I set up a new site though. The HTML coding on the current site is a bit messy, although I am sure most people never notice.

English teaching blog round-up

There have been a few interesting blogs about English teaching in Taiwan recently. I want to post a few links and comments about them.

At Forumosa ImaniOU laments that no matter how well qualified or experienced you are its tough finding a job in Taiwan if you are black. Doubting to shuo further explored the issue in his post on Non-racist Recruiting. I made some comments there about discrimination against people who aren’t from North America. Doubting to shuo then posted some more comments on this issue:

One thing David questioned about my school last week is why my boss is looking for North American teachers as opposed to British, Australian or other native English speakers. I can completely understand how this sort of policy would be annoying to those it excluded, much like the fact that high paying IELTS jobs prefer teachers from the UK or commonwealth countries is frustrating for some Americans. There’s no doubt that the preference of schools skews heavily towards American English.

Daniel at Suitcasing.com also weighed in on the issue.

To start with, something light. Is it good or bad to be a British English teacher here in Taiwan?

My view is that essentially it isn’t a big issue: given that there are such huge racial divisions in the teaching market in Taiwan, worrying about where you fall in the top bucket seems a little frivolous. That point made, having a North American accent is a big advantage for teaching children. People seem to want their children to get an American accent, or to at least get used to hearing it, and so as non North American arrival, a lot of job adverts announce that they do not prefer you. What “preferred” actually means is a good question… From what I’ve seen and heard of much of commercial cram school (buxiban) market, the stress is on: are the students happy, are the parents happy, are you coming to work on time, not creating problems – rather than some abstract view of what education you are giving children.

It marks the start of a series of posts by Daniel about English teaching. His next one is Teaching as therapy.

Taiwantroll has been silent for a while. He has recently moved to Bangkok and is reorganising his blog to separate the posts on Taiwan and Thailand. He has started writing a monthly column for the Thai English teaching website Ajarn.com. You can find his columns here (you will need to scroll down to find the articles by Taiwan Troll).

Scott Sommers makes some interesting observations about differences in politics and education policy between the West and the East.

In a series of posts appearing on the blog Crooked Timber, the developing conflict in the USA between science and Republican party politics is discussed. This discussion stems from a recent book by Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science. Mooney states that there is a growing number of issues on which Republicans are lined up on one side and the scientific community on the other. He includes in this conflict over issues evolution, global warming, and the dangers of cigarette smoking. For more information, check out the book website and blog.

Regardless of how one feels about these issues, it is significant that no such conflicts have emerged as political issues in Asian countries. Education and science have been interpreted strictly as tools for economic development. While there is often conflict between political parties on how best to utilize these forces in the struggle for development, it is clear what their function is. They are neutral commodities in a struggle to make the nation strong. In this sense, they serve a function similar to the military or health care.

While most Taiwan bloggers tend to focus on politics, culture and the highs and lows of living in a foreign country it is good to see there is some interesting stuff about English teaching being posted. It also made me think that although there are many foreigners here in Taiwan studying Chinese I don’t know of any blogs that really discuss the experience of learning Chinese in much detail. If there is anyone out there blogging about this post a comment and I will link to your blog.

On good source of interesting information about everything related to issues about Chinese languages and romanisation is Pinyin News.

Not Chinese but Signese

Signese.com is a photoblog that looks at Chinese characters in daily life. A couple of my photos from Taiwan have appeared on there recently. The photos show Chinese characters as they appear on signs and in public places. The photos come from a variety of people and places. Most are from China, but there are also some from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The Signese website is the brainchild of Roddy, a Scottish expat in Beijing. It is part of his stable of websites, which also includes the Chinese Language & Culture Forums and News in Chinese. Both are excellent resources for anyone learning Chinese.

I have also been snapping away at Chinese characters here in Thailand. I posted a few photos on my other blog.

Sogo Department Store in Taipei
Sogo: one of my photos from Taiwan published on Signese.com

About teaching in Taiwan

There have been a few interesting blog entries and news articles about teaching in Taiwan recently.

Michael Turton presents a very interesting analysis of why pay rates for foreign teachers have stagnated. Some people suggest the reason for low rates of pay or the lack of pay rises is the presence of many South Africans willing to accept low wages. Michael’s analysis suggests that there are actually larger market forces at work. Hence South Africans accepting low rates of pay is merely a symptom, rather than a cause of the problem.

Another Taiwan teacher laments the poor working conditions in Taiwan. Many schools unreasonably expect teachers to attend various school events without being paid. Unfortunately too many teachers are happy to do this (or at least unwilling to complain).

Meanwhile the Taipei Times reports that the Ministry of Education has failed to recruit enough applicants to teach English in Taiwanese schools. The Ministry wants to have a foreign English teacher in all 3,300 of its schools. So far it has managed to recruit just 22!

A useful source of commentary and information on English education in Taiwan is Scott Sommers’ Taiwan Weblog. Scott also comments on the issue of teacher’s salaries.

If you want to know more about teaching in Taiwan, my own webpage Teaching English in Taiwan is a good starting point. Michael Turton’s site is more comprehensive and definitely worth reading if you plan to head to Taiwan and teach.