大家一起ABC───英語雜誌搶灘

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1999 / 10月

文‧陳淑美 圖‧卜華志



煙硝瀰漫、爵士樂緩緩奏出樂章,亮閃閃的水晶球按出台美合作的雜誌簽約式,在美式啦啦隊勁歌妙舞的助陣下,又是一本英語雜誌誕生!

台灣英語熱熱如何?英語雜誌的興盛可以證明,只要你願意相信並且跟隨,那麼您就可以考試得高分、輕鬆說英語,而且擁有資訊,擁有力量﹗

有人形容現在市面上隨處可見的英語雜誌是出版市場的「當紅炸子雞」,發燒熱賣的程度超過想像。

以金石堂連鎖書店上半年雜誌銷售的排行榜來看,今年一到七月,熱賣雜誌的前五類分別是語言、婦女、科技、休閒及財經類,其中語言類銷售量佔所有雜誌的百分之十六,而英語類 更獨佔市場鼇頭,品牌超過二十種。賣得最好的「EZ TALK美語會話誌」,元月推出的創刊號在低價、記者會、報紙全版廣告的造勢下,十萬本在五天內銷售一空。金石堂書店 副總經理陳斌認為,英語雜誌未來還會是市場大餅。

生意上的供需法則很可以解釋英語雜誌熱賣的現象。一年內連續推出三種英語學習週報的「英文台灣新聞」事業發展處處長舒國俊指出,全台灣地區的高中職學生有八十萬,國中學生 有上百萬,這些都是英語雜誌的基本「客源」。再加上「無時不學,無處不學英語的在職人士,」格蘭英語北區業務總監蘇起安也形容,英語雜誌不成市場大餅也難。

不會英語活不下去?

英語雜誌是英語相關產業的一環,套句文化評論者邱貴芬的看法,這類產業的當紅反映了「台灣想當世界公民,擠進國際社會的渴望,」她說。一家英語雜誌發刊新聞稿這樣寫著:「 全球最新的科學技術以英文在流通,最新的金融財經報導以英文在傳遞,最重要的政治活動以英文在進行,在網際網路上,不懂英語你哪兒都去不了!」這樣的台灣,能不需要英語雜 誌?

而近年來教育政策的走向,更像足球場的臨門一腳,將英語雜誌踢進搶手市場之門。從九十學年度開始,英語將成為國小學生的必修課程之一,不管大專或高中聯考「英語考試越來越 靈活,甄試口試申請入學,無一不需要流利英語,」「跨時代空中美語」的主編張玉珩說,學 生在教科書之外,當然需要英語雜誌來補強。

「英語熱」在台灣無所不在,從學習方法到閱讀分眾、經營方式,乃至包裝手法,這一波英語雜誌展現了多元的樣貌,然而,在學院語言學者的眼中卻是噱頭的成分居多,許多教材、 教法原來就行之有年,經過商業廣告的動人包裝,顯出驚人的力量,但這也凸顯出國人多年學不好英文的困境。

學習本來應該以興趣起始,清大外語系梁耀南主任指出,台灣英語教育最大的問題在「考試領導教學」,「只考讀寫的筆試,弄得大家一想起英語就是背單字及解析句 型,最後把大家 學英語的胃口弄壞了。」

怎樣重建大家對英語的興趣,改變「學英語就等於苦差事」的印象,就是這一波英語雜誌的主打賣點,且看幾段雜誌的廣告詞:「開口說英語,其實很EZ(easy)」、「好心情 學英語」、「輕鬆游入進修級」、「讓孩子開心學英語」……,每一本英語雜誌幾乎都標榜著在它們的幫 助下,一個「無壓力學英語」時代已經來臨。

輕鬆Vs.苦讀

學英語可以不必苦讀輕鬆學?「看你對英語的期望囉,」來自香港的梁耀南教授指出,如果是生活化的口語──所謂的「口說英語」,在全英語的環境下,有點底子的人或許兩三個月 就可以聽講,若是要進一步閱讀報章或是寫學術論文作報告,那就要靠努力了。

梁耀南也指出,不管目前學校教、學英語的方式是如何無趣,對大多數中學生來說,「學英語首先得應付考試,」他說。在這樣的前提下,與「輕鬆學英語」相對的另一種著重苦讀, 勤背單字片語、解析文法的「考試型雜誌」在市場也仍然叫座。

已經有十一年歷史的「常春藤」雜誌被稱為坊間英語雜誌的「常青樹」之一,在大陸也很受歡迎,創辦者是苦讀英語出身的賴世雄。

政戰學校新聞系畢業,曾留學美國的賴世雄創辦雜誌是無心插柳之舉,十幾年前他從美國回來,應朋友之邀在軍中廣播電台開了英語時段,以解析文法、分析句型的「解析英語」型態 教英語,沒想到收到大批聽眾迴響,英語雜誌接著創刊。

「考試跟活學活用英語並不牴觸,」賴世雄說,他學英語從來不靠天分,而靠苦讀。軍校期間,他曾每天花十五到十六小時大量地閱讀英文,等到幾年之後再翻文法書,發現「任何文 法解析,一下就看懂了,」他說。經過這些經歷,他決心將自己讀英語心得整理出來,希望大家也能從隨時查字典,自我對話講英語,「苦練英語就像減肥瘦身一樣,要靠每天的運動 跟飲食,沒有捷徑,」他說。

在「常春藤解析英語」雜誌裡,除有新聞英語、歌曲園地等題材外,更多是英語考試常考的閱讀測驗、翻譯、解析文法、克漏字(字彙填充)等,「要應付考試、學寫翻譯、作文,我 就看常春藤,」就讀商專三年級的小詩說。她的經驗相當反應這類語文雜誌的讀者想法。「配合準備大學聯考、插大及托福等各種考試」,列在「常春藤」封面的大字也清楚標出雜誌 目的。

然而,對小詩來說,只有考試高分並不夠,她每天至少要花兩小時念「空中英語雜誌」、「雙語週報」、「EZ TALK」……希望能突破「不敢開口」的老問題。

beaver ?bee!

不僅是在台灣碰到外國人結結巴巴,許多托福、GRE高分的英語好手,包括教英語的老師,一到美國都有跟老外「說不通也」的無奈。「我說的別人聽不懂,別人說的我不會聽,」 這是「英文小魔女」鮑佳欣媽媽的留學經驗。

一個托福考五百九十幾分的台灣留學生王佩晴,初到美國不久,有天早上發現幾隻大黃蜂在房裡嗡嗡亂飛,她立刻逃出門外並鎖上門向外國男同學求救:「我房裡有隻beaver, 可否幫我弄出去?」,男同學瞪大眼睛問:「 beaver,不會吧?」他搬了梯子準備自窗口爬入,就在男同學梯子爬了三分之二時,王佩晴忽然想起蜜蜂的英文「糟糕﹗是 bee(蜜蜂),不是beaver(海獺)!」同學一聽大驚,結果就像卡通片般梯子往後倒、人從半空中一蹦而下。

將bee錯記成beaver或許是絕無僅有的烏龍,但台灣人的英語口語表達的確有問題。王佩晴也曾在美國超市想找一根做油餅的桿麵棍卻不知怎麼說,好不容易找到一根可以湊 合著用的短棍,結帳時店員要服務員拿來棍子的下截,王佩晴當場昏到,原來她拿的是吸馬桶器。

又如一到美國,在高速公路上看到yield的路牌,能否反應過來那是叫人「開車禮讓」之意,又如躲貓貓的英語叫peekaboo,放鴿子叫做stand someone up,形容人長相盡量不用ugly(醜怪),頂多說個plain(平凡),人家就明白了。這些大家可都知道並活用?目前九成新英語雜誌強調的都是要解決 「開口」的問題。

以鼓勵開口說英文為宗旨的「EZ TALK」發行人黃智成指出,他常在國際場合像雞尾酒會上看到東方人聚在一堆,不敢輕易開口,而其他也非以英語當母語的拉丁 裔、歐裔人士 則不管英語是否高桿,總能自在地跟西方人交談。

「我們學英語太在意是否正確,」黃智成認為,「只要開口,錯誤也是學習契機」。「EZ TALK」因而大呼「不怕說錯敢開口」,而且刻意在刊物上製造許多如餐廳、健身房等 情境,讓大家學會生活用語。為讓大家多練習,他還以「全民開講」的方式,讓讀者分享若是要跟女朋友聊天或是使用影印機,大家想當然爾的說法是什麼,而老師認為比較好的表達 是什麼,以此「從錯誤中學習」。

懂得英語=擁有世界?

這些方式說來並不新鮮。創刊三十多年的老牌「空中英語教室」總經理洪善群就指出,數十年來「空中」的教學準則就是「學英語就要學最地道的」。空中集團也一直有較重會話的「 大家說英語」及文摘型的「空中英語教室」兩種刊物,而「空中」買下大量的電台波段以及電視節目,提供每月一次打電話跟老師聊天、問問題的「Call your teacher」時間及「Youth Rally」青年晚會都希望在輕鬆氣氛的帶動下,教人開口說英語。

在台北,碰到西方人的機會很可能比不上已是國際轉運站的香港、新加坡,從英語雜誌業者的立場來看,「少了很多說英語的機會,」英文學生報、雙語週報的舒國俊認為,能不能提 供一個「多講英語」的環境,是這一波英語雜誌的決勝點。

為開拓說講英語的環境,去年創刊的「雙語週報雜誌」在今年五月成立「雙語俱樂部」提供訂戶到俱樂部以英語互相交談,談不通的就記下來,與會友討論或自己查書,「養成解決問 題的習慣,」舒國俊說。雙語週報並準備發行類似識別證的「讀友證」,以後凡想開口說英語時便可掛出證件隨時練習。「我們要創造一個中國人隨處講英文的奇景,」「雙語週報」 行銷業務副理莊重說。

但話說回來,語言學習是全方位的,除了開口講,讀寫也不能不顧,尤其是在「學英語等於掌握資訊」的網路時代,另一種以汲取新知為導向的英語雜誌也大受歡迎。

「閱讀英語就等於掌握新知」,在這一波的英語雜誌風裡,這樣的意識也不停地被強化著,與國際知名的跨國媒體時代雜誌合作,取得「解讀中文」的版權就是一例。

多元台灣呱呱叫!

民國八十五年經典傳訊出版公司創辦中文版「解讀時代」,源出於黃智成覺得美國「時代雜誌」這個國際性刊物「有太多濃縮的資訊在裡頭,」他說,而台灣真正英語能力好,有國際 觀又有西方文化背景,能讀懂「時代」的人不多,許多人「不得其門而入」。「解讀時代」創辦三年之後,經典傳訊又與「時代」旗下的兒童版時代「TIME FOR KIDS」 合作,創辦其中文解讀版,並針對學生市場更名為「時代新鮮人」,今年九月中旬正式發行。

與跨國媒體合作的英語雜誌是資訊結合英語的典型樣貌,強調與時事、流行資訊連結也是這波英語雜誌的主流。不少雜誌與台灣唯一的一家美語電 台ICRT合作,將ICRT的即時 新聞錄成解析文字,「我們都是從小聽ICRT長大的,透過它,這股神秘的感情被勾起來了,」「格蘭英語雜誌」業務總監蘇起安這樣形容。

也有雜誌與美語電台的流行節目合作,將最新流行資訊像堂娜、任賢齊的新歌、生活最新動態、新上映電影《史前巨鱷》、《國 王與我》以英語原聲帶呈現,既學英語也通流行。許多 英語雜誌更強調與時下議題靠攏,阿妹(歌手張惠妹)、電腦病毒、大哥大等無一不是話題,總之要抓住社會脈動。

老牌英文報「China News」在去年推出的「雙語學生報」 加「雙語週報」一出場便席捲學生市場,也都是同樣的理念,「鐵達尼」、「電子情書」、「哈日族」都做過封 面題材。市場最新消息是以深度生態等知性報導見長的《Discovery》電視頻道也準備投入英語雜誌市場,讓讀者從求知而學語文,一石二鳥。

英語雜誌所用的編輯策略,其實就是傳播學開宗明義的基本原理,「所謂雜誌,不是教材,不是講義,有它特殊的任務,也就是對應我們今日的生活,」黃智成英語的同時,也自然會碰觸意識底層對現實生活 的想望。

在以閱讀為導向的跨國媒體雜誌中文版裡,有名師為讀者解析拉丁美洲的歌手瑞奇馬丁為何而紅?大陸法輪功堂主李洪志接受時代訪談的字意該怎麼看。透過解析,讀者理解從莎士比 亞的文學到台灣原住民的生活、從藏族精神領袖達賴到說。台灣當今的生活是 什麼?是在外交及經濟上力圖突破現狀,要面向國際;是想對西方有深層的理解,是族群、環保問題紛擾,是流行文化當道。我們在學華裔歌手王力宏的想法,國際之外有本土,嚴肅之外有流行,台灣胃口越來越大,越來越多元,英語雜誌可以證明﹗

「不管我們喜不喜歡,或是認不認為它是西方霸權的主宰,我們都必須面對英語是個世界語言的事實,」經典傳訊文化公司名譽發行人成露茜說。清大外語系副教授陳光興卻提醒大 家,懂得英語卻未必等於懂得全世界,英語雜誌廣告裡「學會英語等於掌握知識,等於掌握未來,等於希望的『等於』是虛線而非實線,」陳光興認為,這個問題談起來嚴肅,但在一 片「英語熱」中,國人應有所反思。

新英語產業時代來臨﹗

許多人認為,今日英語雜誌的風行,在教育包裝下的是「生意眼」,看準的不僅是傳統雜誌的訂戶零售市場,還有在國際化、全球化名下, 如英語遊學營、英語補習班、英語教學帶等 龐大的英語相關產業。政大新聞系副教授陳百齡懷疑,這或許也是近幾年台灣的教育改革使得許多升學補習班業者在「升學市場」萎縮之下,轉到英語市場開展出 來的另一片商機。「 解讀時代」、「EZ TALK」創刊構思都源自於建國補習班出身的黃智成「對『教育市場』的眼光獨到,產品貼近讀者心理,難怪短期 內有如此佳績,」一家雙語雜誌的總編輯語 帶佩服。

另一方面,雖說英語雜誌業者一再強調英語雜誌是具教育性的「文化商品」,但「商品」顯然還是放在「文化」之前。英語雜誌為爭搶地盤,如削價、送贈品,與相關產品合作提供折 扣等商業手法紛紛出籠。今年九月創刊的「時代新鮮人」,一本雜誌加兩片CD,再加一片遊戲光碟只要台幣四十九元就是一例;針對在職人士學英語發行的「格蘭英語」雜誌促銷訂 戶送小家電。大家各出奇招,目的都在搶下這一波想學英語的新鮮人。

而從空中到地上,從廣播、電視、網路,從單面聆聽型CD、可在電腦對話的 CD ROM到成立聽友俱樂部,這一波英語雜誌更展現了「立體化」的服務精神。套句空中英語教室 總經理洪善群的話,在這種全力經營英語雜誌的情況下,「更多使用者被擠壓出來了,」他說,「很可能不同人選不同的英語雜誌,也可能一個人有好幾本英語雜誌。」

一個全英語雜誌世代果真來臨﹗

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Why are Taiwan's English instruction magazines such hot commodities? Their success is testimony to the power of their message: that if you believe in yourself and are willing to work hard, then you can get high marks on tests, speak English with ease, have access to all the latest global information, and attain personal empowerment!

Some people are describing the popular and ubiquitous English instruction magazines as the hottest things in the publishing industry. Their success has surpassed all expectations.

If you look at the bestsellers' list at the Kingstone Bookstore chain for the first half of 1999, magazines teaching foreign languages were one of the five most popular categories of magazines. (The others were women's, technology, leisure, and finance magazines.) Sixteen percent of all magazines sold were language magazines, of which English magazines, numbering more than 20 all told, hold the lion's share. The best-selling language magazine was EZ Talk, which in May launched a debut-issue sales campaign. It offered a special discount price, held press conferences and took out full-page newspaper ads. In three days, the entire print-run of 100,000 copies was sold out. Chen Ping, the assistant general manager of Kingstone Books, holds that these English-language instruction magazines will occupy a large share of Taiwan's magazine market for a long time to come.

The sales success of English magazines quite simply reflects supply and demand. Glen Shu, head of business development for the English-language daily paper the Taiwan News, which has launched three different student weeklies in quick succession, points out that the 800,000 students in Taiwan's high schools and million plus in its junior highs form a huge consumer base for English magazines. Then, when you add all those working people "who will study English anywhere and at any time," it's no wonder English magazines account for a large slice of the pie, notes Arty Su, the northern Taiwan operations manager for Gram English.

Can't survive without English

English magazines are just one part of an interconnected English industry. Cultural critic Chiu Kuei-fen argues that the success of this industry is testimony to "Taiwan's yearning to become a member of the world community." A press release announcing a new English magazine put it this way: "English is used to pass along information about the newest scientific and technological developments around the world. The latest financial reports are written in English, and the most important political activities are conducted in English. On the Internet, if you can't read English, you can't go anywhere!" Since this is the way that people in Taiwan think, it is only natural that there are magazines to help them learn English.

Recent trends in government educational policy are also giving English magazines a helpful push. Beginning in 2001, English will become a required course in elementary schools. "Now the English parts of both the college and high-school joint entrance exams are growing trickier. Whether one is talking about written tests or oral tests, they both require excellent English," says Chang Yu-heng senior staff editor for Landmark English. It's only natural that students need English magazines to bolster their efforts to learn the language.

There isn't anywhere in Taiwan that the "English fever" hasn't penetrated. From their study tips, to their management methods and packaging, English instruction magazines in Taiwan are a diverse lot. Yet professors in departments of foreign languages argue that these magazines are more style than substance. Most of their teaching materials and methods have been the same for years. They've just been repackaged in the style of commercial advertising to attain great popularity. But this phenomenon does expose the difficulties that Taiwanese have had for years learning English.

Study should begin with interest, points out Leung Yiu-nam, associate professor of foreign languages and literature at National Tsing Hua University. The biggest problem with English education in Taiwan is "that it is test-driven, and that these tests only measure reading and writing ability. The result is that everyone memorizes vocabulary lists and sentence structures, and they lose interest in learning English."

Changing the impression that "learning English is hard work" is the chief selling point of these English magazines. Take a look at their own promotional advertisements: "It turns out that opening your mouth to speak in English is really quite EZ." "Learn English in high spirits." "Take it easy, and float up to an advanced level." "Let your children be happy learning English". . . . Virtually every one of these English magazines boasts that with their help you can enter the age of "learning English without stress."

"Easy does it" vs. "hard labor"

So can you actually learn English without working hard? "That depends upon your expectations," says Professor Leung, who comes from Hong Kong. If all you want is conversational English for everyday living, then people who have already mastered the basics can reach their goal just by living in an English-speaking environment for two or three months. But if you want to advance further and read newspapers or write academic papers, then you're going to have to rely on hard work.

No matter how boring you think the current methods of teaching English in the schools may be, Leung notes that for the vast majority of students, "Studying English is primarily a matter of dealing with tests." It's a reality that means-in addition to the aforementioned easy-learning style of English magazine-there is another more test-oriented sort, which puts the emphasis on the hard work of learning vocabulary lists and grappling with grammar.

The magazine Ivy League Analytical English, which has been around for more than 11 years, is known as one of the "evergreens" of the English magazine market and is also very popular in mainland China. Its founder, Peter Lai, grew up learning English the hard way.

A graduate of the Political Warfare College who did graduate work in America, Lai says that he had no inkling of what the magazine would grow into when he founded it. When he returned from graduate study in America over a decade ago, a friend invited him to host an English teaching program on the radio. Teaching the old-fashioned way, by explaining grammar and analyzing sentences, he never expected to receive such an enthusiastic response from his listening audience. One thing led to another, and he started publishing the magazine too.

"The English for tests and the English for everyday life aren't mutually exclusive," says Lai, who says natural talent had nothing to do with how he learned the language. When he was at military school, Lai would spend as many as 10 to 16 hours per day studying English. Several years later, when he was flipping through some grammar books, he discovered that all the time he had put in meant that he had now had "virtually instantaneous understanding of the grammar." He grew determined to use his own experiences and conclusions to help others in their quest to learn the language. He preaches hard work: flipping through the dictionary and having mock English conversations with yourself. "Learning English is like losing weight," he says, "Every day you've got to keep to your diet and get exercise. There are no shortcuts."

Apart from news articles, song lyrics, and other examples of actual English, Ivy League Analytical English features even more materials like practice tests, translations, grammar analysis, vocabulary and so forth. "To cope with tests, write translations and essays, I often read Ivy League Analytical English," says "Little Shih," who is in her third year of commercial college. She is typical of the readers of this kind of English magazine. This self-description is written in big letters on Ivy's cover: "Well-suited for those preparing to take the joint college entrance exams, the junior college transfer exams for university, TOEFL or other similar tests."

Yet as far as Little Shih is concerned, getting a good score isn't enough. In addition to reading Ivy League Analytical English, she also spends at least two hours every day reading Studio Classroom, the Bilingual Weekly and EZ Talk, in hopes of overcoming her fear of "opening her mouth" to speak in English.

Beaver or bee

Taiwanese don't just have problems conversing in English when they meet foreigners in Taiwan. Even high scorers on the TOEFL and GRE, including English teachers, find that they have problems getting their point across when they come to America. "They couldn't understand me, and I couldn't understand them," says the mother of "English whiz" Jenny Pao.

Wang Pei-ching scored more than 590 on the TOEFL before she went to America to study. One morning there, she discovered several yellowjackets buzzing around her room. Locking the door behind her, she fled. "There are beavers in my room," she told an American classmate. "Could you help me get them out?" Eyes widening, he looked at her skeptically. "Beavers? You're sure you're not mistaken?" He moved a ladder over to the window and prepared to climb in. When he was two-thirds of the way up the ladder, she suddenly recalled that the word she had been looking for was "bee," not "beaver." "Yikes! I meant bees, not beavers!" she yelled, startling her classmate. Like in a cartoon, the ladder fell backward and he dropped off it in mid air.

True, it may not be a mistake likely to be repeated, but there's no denying that people from Taiwan really do have problems expressing themselves in English. Once, when Wang was in America, she wanted to buy a rolling pin to make Chinese you bing pancakes, but she didn't know how to explain what she wanted in English. After a great struggle, she found a short club in a store that she thought would do. When she was settling the bill, the cashier told someone to get the other half of her purchase out of the stockroom. She was dumbfounded when he came back with the rubber suction cup for a plunger.

Chinese who go to America all have difficulty with understanding slang expressions like "standing someone up," or the meaning of "yield" in traffic signs, or that what they know as "hiding from the kitty" is called "peekaboo" in English and that when describing someone unattractive, it is better to say "plain" instead of "ugly." This is the sort of knowledge that everyone could use in real life. Ninety percent of Taiwan's new English magazines try to help resolve the problem of being tongue-tied.

Huang Chih-cheng, who started EZ Talk after his Time Express was already a hit, says that when he goes to events such as cocktail parties in international settings, he often notices that Asians are gathered in little groups, scared of trying to talk to anyone else. Meanwhile, Latin Americans and continental Europeans, for whom English isn't their first language either, show no concern about whether their English is top notch and are always able to communicate with other Westerners.

"We're too concerned about being perfectly correct," holds Huang. "Just open your mouth. Mistakes can be turning points in the process of learning." Therefore, EZ Talk encourages "overcoming one's fear of making mistakes and daring to talk." It intentionally creates hypothetical conversations in places like restaurants and gyms, so that everyone can practice English in everyday contexts. It also has a section in which it teaches readers to avoid common pitfalls in certain situations, such as when talking to their girlfriend or using the copier. The English phrasing that Taiwanese might typically think of first is offered as "everybody's attempt," and then the "teacher" explains a better way of getting the point across. Thus readers are able to "learn from their mistakes."

These methods are hardly new, points out Simon Hung, general manager of the granddaddy of Taiwan's English magazines, Studio Classroom. For three decades, it has been working under the principle that "If you're going to study English, you might as well study the most authentic kind." Studio Classroom has always published two different magazines: Let's Talk in English, which is more oriented on conversation and Studio Classroom itself, which stresses excerpts of written English. Studio Classroom also buys a lot of radio time and has a television show, allowing students to call in and talk to their teachers, and it holds "youth rallies," all in the hope that people will get caught up in the atmosphere of excitement and start speaking in English.

Does English give you the world?

There are not as many foreigners in Taipei as there are in such international transport hubs as Hong Kong and Singapore. This means that readers of English magazines in Taiwan "lack opportunities to speak English," says Glen Shu of the Taiwan Student News and Bilingual Weekly. Whether these magazines can provide their readers with environments in which there are more chances to speak English may determine their success or failure.

In order to foster an English-speaking environment, in September the year-old Bilingual Weekly established a "bilingual club," where subscribers could come and converse in English. When they can't figure out a way of conveying an idea in English, they make a note of it and then discuss it with fellow club members or consult reference books. "This instills the habit of trying to resolve problems," says Shu. The Bilingual Weekly is preparing to issue I.D. cards, so that members who want to practice speaking English can just clip on their club I.D. and start practicing at any time. "We want to bring about the odd sight of Chinese speaking English anywhere and any time," says John Chuang, its assistant marketing director.

Yet acquiring a foreign language is a multi-faceted endeavor. One can't be content just with speaking and give little attention to reading and writing, especially in the age of the Internet when "learning English means getting a handle on information." This brings us to yet another group of English magazines being warmly received on the market: those that put the focus on using English to obtain knowledge.

"Reading English means gaining control of new knowledge." This is the mantra of these magazines. Time Express, a joint venture between Time and a local media company, uses Chinese to explain the content of the internationally famous English-language newsweekly.

Richard Huang explains that in 1997 Classic Communications started publishing the Chinese edition of Time Express, as a result of his feeling that the US edition of the magazine was too packed with information and references for readers in Taiwan to digest. Taiwan quite simply had too few people who had both a good enough grasp of English and the proper international outlook and understanding of the West required to really understand the magazine. "It was excluding too many people." After publishing Time Express for five years, Classic Communications then worked with the US magazine Time for Kids to develop a new magazine in Taiwan for young learners of English. In mid September of this year, they released the first issue of Time for Students.

The name of the game is diversity

The typical model for this kind of magazine involves a joint venture with an international media company. The focus is usually on current events and the latest trends. Quite a few of these magazines work with ICRT (International Community Radio, Taipei), the only full-time English station on the island. They use texts of ICRT news reports to explain vocabulary. "We've all grown up listening to ICRT, and listening to it hooks us in a mysterious way," remarks Gram English 100's Arty Su.

There are also some English-instruction magazines that work with popular television shows, using English to convey information about the latest pop and entertainment news, such as new songs by Tang Na and Jen Chien-chi, the hottest new trends, and words to the soundtracks of the latest English-language movies released in Taiwan, such as The King and I. These allow readers both to study English and to keep up with the times. Most English magazines try to cover a wide variety of news topics so as to give readers a real feel for the pulse of the times. Topics might include the singing star A-Mei, computer viruses, cellular phones and so forth.

Ten years ago, The China Post, the long-established English-language daily, began publishing The Student Post, a supplement for English learners. It has been consistently well received. The Taiwan News, the island's other long-time English daily, last year launched the Taiwan Student News and Bilingual Weekly, which have attracted a large share of the student market, and which have similar concepts. Cover stories have included The Titanic, You've Got Mail and Taiwanese Japanofiles. The latest entry in the market is the Discovery Channel, which features English-language documentaries on the environment and other topics. It too is preparing to publish a magazine, which will aim both to help its readers learn English and acquire in-depth knowledge about the subjects of its documentaries, thus killing two birds with one stone.

These magazines all follow editorial policies that adhere to the basic mass-communications industry principle of staking out a clear identity. "These magazines aren't textbooks, and they aren't teachers' handouts," says Richard Huang. "They have their own special function, which is to connect to our everyday life." What is current life like in Taiwan? Taiwan is working hard to attain diplomatic and economic breakthroughs and hoping to gain a deeper understanding of the West. Beset with ethnic and environmental problems, popular culture reigns supreme. While studying English, we are perhaps also confronting our own hopes for improving life here.

Let's take a look at these Chinese editions of international publications. In one, a famous teacher explains English phrases in an article about the popularity of Latin American pop star Ricky Martin. Another explains the English words to a Time interview with Li Hongzhi, the leader of the mainland Falun Gong cult. Thanks to this explanation and analysis, readers can understand everything from the works of Shakespeare to the lives of Taiwan's aborigines, from the views of the Dalai Lama, to those of the overseas Chinese singing star Lee-hom Wang. There is international news and also domestic news. Some of it's serious, and some of it's trendy. These English-instruction magazines attest to the fact that Taiwanese appetites for information are getting larger and increasingly varied!

"Whether we like it or not, or believe that it is the leading factor in Western hegemony, we all have to face the fact that English is the world language," says Lucie Cheng, the honorary publisher of Classic Communications. But Chen Kuang-hsing, an associate professor of foreign languages at National Tsinghua University, reminds everyone that understanding English is not the same thing as understanding the world. The view presented in advertisements for English-instruction magazines is that "learning English = getting a command over knowledge = having control over the future = hope," but Chen stresses these equal signs are "like blanks that need to be filled in, instead of solid lines." He admits that he may sound a little overly pessimistic. But he thinks that amid this "English-language fever" people in Taiwan ought to be thinking more about these issues.

Making Money off English

Many people believe that sharp-eyed business interests are behind the popularity and educational packaging of Taiwan's English magazines, and that they are eyeing not only the traditional markets of subscribers and newsstand buyers, but also a general English-study industry that has developed with growing globalism. Money can be made from English camps, English language schools, and English language tapes. Chen Pai-ling, a professor of journalism at National Chengchih University, wonders if this growing emphasis on marketing English is a result of educational reform in Taiwan forcing many cram schools out of the joint-entrance exam prep business. Looking to create new business opportunities, these companies are turning to the English-study industry. The idea of publishing Time Express and EZ Talk both came from Richard Huang, who used to work for the Chienkuo cram school. "He has unique vision about the 'educational market,' and his magazines are close to their readers' hearts. It's no wonder that in a short period of time, he's done so well," says one editor-in-chief of a bilingual magazine.

Moreover, although these English magazines are "culture commodities" stressing education, the operative word is "commodities" not "culture." To steal readership, English magazines are offering lower prices, promotional gifts, and discounts on other related products. When Time for Students debuted in September, you could obtain one issue of the magazine, plus two CDs and a CD-ROM game for only NT$49. Gram English 100, which is aimed at working people, has given subscribers small electrical appliances. Every magazine employs its own tricks, all aimed at grabbing the next wave of new English learners.

On the ground and on the air, on radio and television and the Internet, with CDs and CD-ROMs and listeners' clubs, this wave of English magazines is showing a multi-faceted character. In the words of Simon Hung, now that the English magazines have pulled out all the stops, "They're squeezing even more readers into the market. Perhaps different kinds of people will subscribe to different English magazines, and maybe some people will subscribe to several at once."

The era of the English magazine has truly arrived!

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