Earlier today (June 10, 2016) I strolled through the 9th floor of the Mitsukoski Department Store on Nanjing W. in Taipei.
The 20ish young male sales clerk at one of the pop-ups selling silver charms and upscale luggage seemed fashion-conscious with a neat haircut.
"Do you happen to speak English?" I said slowly.
He first knitted his brows. I repeated myself. He then responded "A little."
His reply is the go-to solution for most Taiwanese stumped by relatively easy-to-understand spoken English.
"Where are these charms made?" I asked slowly.
He again seemed perplexed as if I had asked him to recite the value of pi to the 25th digit.
There are no shortage of English as foreign language schools in Taiwan and the language is taught in junior high.
But the problem is that any English-gifted Taiwanese would not likely work as a salesperson, considered a lowly job in the nation. So those who end up behind a counter pitching vacuums, blenders and jewelry are typically slackers in school, which only reward for scoring high on tests.
And how much spoken English does one need to score 90% on exams?
Obviously much less than this young salesperson, who probably would, if more academically inclined, take a civil service exam to secure a stable, more respectable job.
Now you know.