Sunday, January 15, 2012


Hello Wolf,

Hello Wolf,

I am a reporter in Taiwan, 15 years, from Boston USA, now in
Chiayi..... used to work for Taipei Times, now freelance writer'and
teach Engliush at Chung Cheng University in Minschiung...

I read the newspaper story about your ENGLISH VILLAGE and what i want
to propose to you and Dr Lin the principal of Dongren JHS is this

A monthly or quarterly ENGLISH NEWSPAPER, just 4 pages, one sheet of
paper folded to make pages 1 2 3 and 4. Mostly all in English,
about life in Huwei, fun things, photos of local people and local
stores with English signs etc, and the paper is for the English
in Huwei, not for foreigners but for the people of Huwei, to see their
town reported about in English about their English Village activities,
to get
used to seeing and reading an English newspaper in order to help boost
their English skills and confidence in interating with foreigners

The consulting editor will be me. The local editor will be YOU. Local people will write the news. I will help them. Local people will take the photos too. A local design will design the newspaper. Local people
will distrbiute the paper. Free of charge.

I will mostly be a consultant.
Mr Wu can be the editor in chief. I can serve as English consultant.
it is YOUr
newspaper, published by the town of Huwei, paid for by the city, and
distributed all over town in stores and 711 and taxi stands and homes
and everywhere, post office too.

Maybe 3000 copies, or just 500 copies to start. and let the idea GROW
bigger later.....

the newspaper might be called ''Y.U.N.L.I.N NEWS'' and YUNLIN stands
for [Yunlin United Nations Language Interactive News] - smile

here is a sample website


Monday, January 02, 2012


Going through immigration

Students from Dongren Junior High School in Huwei in Yunlin County simulate going through immigration in English with foreign teacher Ainesley Crabbe acting as the ''immigration officer''. The school's English Village program promotes English learning in the community.

CNA photo Dec. 31, 2011

Classroom video at Dongren Junior High School from YouTube


Yunlin is building an English-friendly environment

The town of Huwei in central Taiwan's Yunlin County is an
English-friendly town, writes Elizabeth Hsu for the Central News Angecy in Taiwan:
On one of the city streets, Denny Liao, the 62-year-old owner of a
juice store, sees students coming to his store and instead of speaking
to them in Mandarin or Hoklo Taiwanese, asks them in English: "How may
I help you?" Mr Liao also hopes to get a response in English, too.

On a shelf of his store stands a small sign in English that reads:
"Dung-Ren Community English Village Learning Site."

Several streets away, Cheng Chien-chih, who runs a small clothing
store, invites overseas customers in fluent English to visit his
wife's handicraft and folk arts shop next door.

His store, too, has a sign in English like the sing at Mr. Liao's store.

Liao and Cheng are among some 40 Huwei residents who have been
voluntarily assisting the school's English Village program.

The idea came from Lin Cheng-hsiung, the principal of Dongren
Junior High School in Huwei in central southern Taiwan. The town has
a population 70,000 people. Some dogs and cats, too!

Since 2009, Mr Lin has been overseeing the project, which tries to get the
whole community involved in speaking English, so that the school's
children will have an environment that promotes English learning.

As part of the project, the adults in the community can attend a free
community English class that helps them learn and improve their
English, so they can help the students.

The project -- known as the Dongren International English Village --
has become one of the most successful programs of its kind in Taiwan,
attracting the attention of local media and other schools around the
country that hope to learn from the Dongren experience.

"We have influenced the high schools close to ours, including Huwei
High School, which has decided to open a special English class for
gifted students. Even schools in other cities and counties are
attracted by our English teaching program," Lin said.

That's no small feat for Yunlin County, an agricultural bastion that
is economically less developed than those in northern Taiwan. Compared
with big cities, the county has fewer after-school centers that teach
English, and fewer foreign tourists, which makes English learning
challenging for the local children.

In 2006, Lin was asked by the county's Bureau of Education to try to
improve English learning for the county's students, but was given a
tight budget of only NT$3.98 million (US$132,000) from the financially
strapped local government.

"That's all I got for the project, while other rich counties and
cities like Taoyuan and Kaohsiung would get as much as NT$10 million
to fund an English Village program aimed at lifting students' English
speaking proficiency," Lin said.

With such a shallow pocket to work with, he thought: "Why not turn the
community into a big English village?"

Lin and his school staff then busied themselves setting up the
"village." They transformed empty classrooms into facilities equipped
with life-size models of an "airport check-in counter," a section of
an airplane cabin, a corner of a supermarket, and a restaurant. Lin
later made the acquaintance of Wolf Wu, a businessman who returned
from Australia to Huwei, his hometown, not long ago to open an English
cram school.

Lin and Wu then jointly set up the non-profit Yunlin International
Education Communication Promotion Association, through which they
opened their free English class for community residents to teach them
the international lingua franca.

"Then I invited those who attended the class to assist our English
Village program at the school," the principal said. "We had a warm
response from Huwei residents, who showed great support for my idea
that English must enter communities and be integrated into daily

The results have been surprisingly successful, Lin said. With the
community's participation and the school's English teaching, Dongren
students do not just speak English at school, but also outside the
school, Lin said. For example, when the students shop at Liao's store,
they can practice English conversation with the owner, Lin said.

"At present, we have three learning sites outside the school. I expect
the number to increase soon because many township residents are
passionately learning to speak English, including me," said Lin.

Humble about their English proficiency, Lin and 11 other principals of
junior high and high schools in the area have also joined a weekly
English class to sharpen their English conversation skills, with Wu
serving as their teacher.

"My dream is to be able to deliver a speech in English in front of my
students," Lin said.

Huwei's approach to learning and teaching English is unusual for
Taiwan. English education in Taiwan has traditionally focused on
asking students to memorize vocabulary, grammar and sentence patterns
in order to score well in examinations.

In middle school, English is a required subject besides Chinese
literature and mathematics. However, most high school graduates, or
even bachelor-degree holders can't communicate with foreigners in
English because of the rigid English teaching method that ignores the
importance of actually being able to speak the language.

Attracted by the free English course, more and more community
residents -- some of whom are retired public servants and some of whom
run their own small businesses -- have joined the circle of community
English learners, treating speaking English as a pleasure, according
to Wu.

"The adult students have received good feedback about their volunteer
services," Wu said, explaining that it gives them a sense of

Since they opened the class in 2009, the number of adult students has
increased from 40 to more than 100. They attend the class twice a
week, and most of them rarely take time off, Wu said, praising the
students' passion for learning.

Asked why the adult students are not scared off by the English course,
Wu explained that it is because it is free. The class attendants "can
learn without pressure," he said. They are also happy to be able to
assist with the English teaching in the Dongren English Village
program, help schools in remote villages and towns organize their
English books, and serve as English-speaking guides at tourist spots
in the area.

To encourage his adult students to conquer their fear of speaking
English, Wu, also known as "Teacher Wolf," asks them to learn from
foreigners who are not afraid of speaking Mandarin incorrectly,
according to one of his adult students, the clothing store owner

"When they want to say 'ni hao ma (how are you),' they will mistakenly
say 'ni ma hao (your mother is good),' and they are not afraid of
being laughed at. Why should we?" Cheng said.

Thanks to Wu's encouragement, he said, "we are no longer afraid of
speaking English despite not being good at it."

As for Principal Lin, he feels it's his duty to cultivate in his
students the ability to "introduce Taiwan to foreigners in other
peoples' language," as the distance between people from different
countries is narrowing thanks to modern technology.

"I call it 'New Mother Tongue' education," he said.

To help achieve this goal, he has taken students overseas to visit
arts and cultural festivals, and promotes student exchange programs
with schools in New Zealand. He has also recruited students to serve
as English-speaking tour guides when the school has foreign guests or
when students and teachers from other schools travel to Dongren to use
the English Village facility.

"Recently, our students have even helped a neighboring temple
translate its advertising brochure from Chinese to English for foreign
tourists," Lin said.

The school and community are not focused only on English. They are
also planning to open after-school courses teaching other languages,
including Japanese, Korean and Spanish.

By integrating the school with the community in this effort, students
will have more opportunities to use the skills and knowledge they
learn at school, Lin said.

The program has also won praise from the people it is aimed at helping
in the first place -- the children.

"I like the English Village program," said Dongren Junior High student
Wendy Chen. "The most interesting part is serving as an
English-speaking tour guide when there are visitors to our school and
the English Village."

Lin explained that inviting students to work as English interpreters
is also one of his strategies to encourage them to speak the language.
As one of two schools in Yunlin equipped with English Village
facilities, the Dongren English Village is a place all Yunlin middle
school students will visit at least once each semester to practice
their English conversation.

Now, the school is organizing a new program called "Community English
Tour Bus," which will take the students and adult volunteers to other
townships and villages to help people there with English tour guide
services, Lin said.

"I hope that in the future, even our vegetable vendors in traditional
markets can communicate with people from overseas," he said.



A year in Huwei: Learning, living and teaching in another culture

Phil and Annalicia Niemela of Cokato recently returned home after teaching English as a second language in Taiwan, writes Kristen Miller, a reporter in the USA:

COKATO, Minnesota – Traveling to another country is not a foreign concept. However, for Phil and Annalicia Niemela of Cokato, living and working in a different culture was an experience in and of itself.

After graduating from North Dakota State University in 2008, the couple thought about going to South Korea, but they decided to stay put, Annalicia said.

Instead, the couple got part-time teaching jobs – Annalicia at Montrose Elementary and Phil at Dassel-Cokato Middle School – teaching physical education.

After the school year was over, they had “a flash of inspiration” to look into teaching in Asia once again.

“We both value traveling a lot and thought this would be a great way to do it inexpensively,” she said. This would also be an opportunity for them both to have full-time employment.

Annalicia looked online and found ''Footprints Recruiting'', a recruiting agency for teaching English as a second language.

On Aug. 1, 2009, the couple landed in Taipei, Taiwan, its capital city. Taiwan is an island nation just south of Japan and near South Korea and the Philippines, too.

The couple lived in Douliu in Yunlin County. For Annalicia, this was also where she worked. That wasn’t the case however for Phil.

Phil commuted to his school, where he taught English to seventh and eighth graders in Huwei.

This required a 10-minute bike ride to the bus station, a 30-minute bus ride, and 10-minute walk to school.

“And I was just a half a block away from my school,” Annalicia said with a laugh.

Needless to say, Phil began to appreciate the quality of Taiwan’s transporation system.

In Taiwan, the people speak Chinese, Taiwanese, Hakka and many Aboriginal languages. The couple was embarrassed to say that they didn’t even know how to say “hello” -- in hao -- upon their arrival.

By the time they left Taiwan to come back to the USA, the couple had learned quite a bit of the language, though mostly only what they called “survival Chinese and survival Taiwanese Hoklo.”

Since they were there to teach English, many of the people wanted to practice their English with the couple so it wasn’t much of an issue inside of school, according to Annalicia.

The couple both taught in what are called ''English villages''.

Unlike the typical classroom setting, ''English villages'' are rooms have been transformed into airports, airplanes, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, and more. The idea is to teach students English in popular settings where they would likely visit in their travels to the US.

Their job as teachers was mostly to get the students excited about learning English, as well as teach them about the American culture. The students had formal English classes with other teachers.

They learned how similar the students were compared to those they taught the previous year in Minnesota.

“Kids are kids, is what we found out,” Phil said, explaining that the girls are still “giggly” and the boys are boisterous and like to play rough.

Learning another culture and the language barrier were the most challenging aspects of their time in Taiwan, but there were a lot of highlights, as well.

For instance, they were able to create a lot of connections and good relationships with people; both Taiwanese and other foreigners. The couple also found the different world views of others “eye-opening and refreshing.”

Aside from their full-time jobs, the couple was able to do a lot of traveling around the nation, too.

“We didn’t realize what a great travel destination Taiwan is,” Annalicia said.

Phil explained how the geography is so diverse throughout the small island nation, from mountains to beaches.

One of the most beautiful places they visited was Taroko Gorge National Park, on the scenic east coast of Taiwan.

For example, the couple tried and enjoyed eating ''cho dofu'', or stinky tofu. This is considered a comfort food (like French fried potatoes are for Americans).

The couple learned a lot about the Taiwanese culture, and that “normal” is a relative term.

NOTE: Phil is the son of Bonnie and Aaron Niemela of Cokato, and Annalicia is the daughter of Randy and Lynda Johnson, also of Cokato.

For more stories about their time in Taiwan, the couple has a blog:


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