“Embrace uncertainty” became the adopted theme of an intensive English program offered by the Institute’s Custom Language Services (CLS) in November for 36 civil servants from Taiwan. Participants in the three-week program represented several ministries and bureaus within the Taiwanese government, including the Ministries of Finance, Economic Affairs, Justice, and Culture, as well as the Office of the President and several councils in the Executive Yuan. The group came to the Institute to hone their English language skills in conference presentation and international negotiation in a content-based instruction (CBI) model, a hallmark of the Institute’s approach to language instruction that is familiar to the diplomatic community in Taiwan.
CLS has an established relationship with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan, having trained its diplomats for more than a decade. The November program, however, was the first time training was held in cooperation with the Directorate General for Personnel Administration (DGPA), which supports the professional development of government officials in Taiwan. The deputy-director of the DGPA and a program administrator accompanied the group.
The rigorous short program required participants to adapt quickly to a CBI learning environment. This rapid immersion approach required students to abandon their comfort zones and leap into the new learning experience – prompting students to adopt a theme of embracing uncertainty. In the participants’ own words, this willingness to “think outside the box” and “challenge typical thinking” led to increased confidence, a higher level of preparedness, and increased learner autonomy.
Because the group had self-organized into three DGPA-selected topic areas—tourism, arts and culture; finance and trade; and green energy—the customized curriculum dovetailed each content track with three core skill courses: Discussion, Reading and Writing; Conference Presentation; and International Negotiation. The multidisciplinary content added to the authenticity of two events staged to simulate real-world language experiences: a simulated conference on the three topic areas, and a negotiation simulation on the Transpacific Trade Partnership.
Actual real-world experiences offered by the program included on-site meetings with organizations and businesses in the Monterey area such as the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the City of Monterey, the Pebble Beach Company, the Monterey Regional Waste Management District, Charles Schwab, and Go Green Monterey. The capstone event was a day trip to San Francisco to meet with experts in the participants’ topic areas at the Taiwan Trade Center of San Francisco, SF Green Business, and the de Young Museum.
“Ultimately, the participants embraced more than uncertainty; they submerged themselves in a new culture,” says program designer and coordinator Lisa Donohoe Luscombe. “Here in Monterey they achieved levels of language competency that may not have seemed possible when they first arrived.”