Any attempt by any government to connect to youth culture is guaranteed to be an embarrassment. A couple of days ago the national college entrance exams contained bizarre questions about internet slang, but the Taipei City Government has gone one better.
Today’s front page story on Apple Daily (the biggest selling newspaper in Taiwan) was a story about Taipei City’s official ‘English Corner’ website. The Apple Daily seems to think that the website was a guide for foreigners to pick up local Taiwanese women – while this will certainly sell newspapers, it is a deliberate fabrication by the newspaper. Anyone who spends two minutes actually reading the website (ESWN has an image from Google’s cache – the original has been taken down) will deduce:
- The article is a joke. It doesn’t give any ‘advice’ about picking up women, but is an attempt at satire.
- The author is Taiwanese.
- The intended audience is also Taiwanese. The whole ‘English Corner’ website is (as the name implies) an attempt to teach non-native English speakers some English slang – the only people who might be interested in that are Taiwanese.
So, the Apple Daily finds a website which satirizes a Taiwanese guy giving other Taiwanese guys advice on picking up Taiwanese women, and turns it into an anti-foreigner front-page spread. Taiwanese newspapers have always been more interested in sensational headlines than in actual facts.
Taipei City Government tries to be cool
Of course, the real story about the English Corner website is that the City Government is so desperate to seem trendy to all the young potential voters out there in Taipei that they have produced an amazingly crass website. The dictionary of slang has words like napalm and ladyboy, and it tries to make learning English interesting with articles like “English is a disease: Catch it!“, and “English is a shirt: Iron it!“.
Just yesterday, many of us were mourning the sacking of Pasuya Yao,the most incompetent head of the national information office. I’m glad to see that Taipei City has an information office which is equally easy to ridicule …