Wang Lilan: Why Taiwanese want to Learn the Second and Third Foreign Languages?
Wang Lilan (王麗蘭- front with red dress ) took the students to Y Underground to take a look about the Little Indonesian (source: Wang Lilan)
Every year in September, is the starting time of the new school in the year of the university. I am in the Indonesian language class at the National Taiwan University, with more than 30 students who wanted to take this class. By the convention, firstly I will ask the students to write the reason why they wanted to take this class, why they want to take the Indonesian class at this term of age?
I asked because there must be a reason. I have met many people in the community, for the working people, retired people learn the Indonesian language, their reasons and motivations are nothing more than wanting to know about the foreign cultures, wanting to travel to Bali or others (yes! Bali Island is in Indonesia). I have heard the most unexpected one, it’s also a little bit lost when the reason is: “perhaps when I am being old, the foreign language that I will use is the Indonesian language.” This response is the bloody reaction of Taiwan’s super rapid-aging society, with the status quo of relying on the Indonesian care takers to support the long-term system. But actually, no one can say, in the next 10 years or 20 years, will it be have the same scene? According to the statistics of the Indonesian Statistical Bureau, Indonesia’s GDP grew by 5.17% in 2018. With the population about 250 million people, it is one of the fastest growing economy countries in the Southeast Asia.
Despite it, I am curious, why the college students who are about 20 years old willing and ready to learn Indonesian language as well as the culture in the university, at least 3 hours (or more) per week. I am really motivated with the curiosity. From the notes that taken back, many students have realized that Indonesia is a populous country and has a great potential for the development in the future. It can be seen those in recent years, the government and the media towards the new southbound policy related reportage have some results. A lot of elders in the families have the Indonesian care takers, hopefully can communicate with them, let me seeing that the young people slowly know how to respect the caretakers who are helping and coming from far away. In recent years, there are many “new second generation”, whether the father or mother is coming from Indonesia. Since childhood do not have chance to speak Indonesian language, when studying in the university, they have a time and space to learn the “mother’s language”. Others probably just choose it by the accident or curious, let see and find it out.
Usually, as soon as the students walk into the classroom, I won’t let them go out (laugh~)! Because it is a rare opportunity, allow me to use the 18 weeks precious time of university education, gathering them with the multiculturalism, through the simple and easy to use language, with a colorful culture, pass it to them, let the students open their eyes, expand the horizon. During the study, I am valuing the learning outcomes of the students, but I don’t pay attention to the results of the written test; I value the students’ gains, but I do not “staking” them with the scores. I pay the attention to the attendance, but I do not name it, I just trying to remember all the students’ name, using all kinds’ methods, put the student’s face, name, background, and habits of the sitting to remember, let the students feel the teacher’s attention towards them. Without hesitation, I think as long as the students feel the teacher’s attention towards them, they will pay an equal attention to this course as well. More importantly, through the knowledge in this class, slowly the culture and the people are producing a closer link. If it goes well, it can form an automatic spontaneous learning motivation.
Of course, I still face other challenges. In order to avoid these students staying up late every day, falling asleep at nine o’clock in the morning; or at 1 pm, because too full and inadvertently dozing off, I use the practice method for every class, in listening, reading, culture, grammar, popular songs, Indonesia’s little knowledge, the observation of Taiwanese culture, a variety of jokes in Indonesian learning. Those take turns, like an illusionist, every five to ten minutes and change the pattern, so the students in the class almost cannot slips the phone or doze off during the class.
Saying that much, why you want that tired? It is because there are too many reasons. Just few of them, first of all, many of the college students must have enough credits to have a chance and time to choose their favourite, the interesting class. Therefore, before they going out to the society, I have to take this opportunity, let them know and contact with the culture and the language with the right attitude; hopefully after they growing up in the future, they have more knowledge of the Southeast Asia people and culture, more understand and be inclusive. Secondly, I often feel the collective anxiety of young people in Taiwan, whether it is the lifestyle, progression, employment, etc. It seems that everyone is walking in the same way, do not dare to be different a lot. Perhaps, through the Indonesian language and culture, I can let the students to see the other places in the world, where there are many people who are living in different lives, have different lifestyle and philosophy. They have their own happiness in life, optimistic, or perhaps the sorrowing, perhaps it helplessness, but they have the ability to choose for their selves.
Just like this, I think the intention to learn the second, the third, or event the fourth foreign language also allow us to look at the other side and corners of the world with our own eyes. A high-scoring language test may be developed as an effective competency test and motivations for learning, but in the days where people living desperately fight for a single high-score, do not forget to return to the original intention for learning a foreign language. Look back, this world is beautiful and fascinating.