Wed, Apr 04, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Don't marginalize Taiwanese

By Steve Lin

Language has always been the keeper of cultural memory.

As a Taiwanese father of two, I could not agree more with Tiunn Hok Chu (張復聚) ("Taiwanese languages need to be protected," March 26, page 8) on the preservation of Taiwanese languages and the celebration of indigenous Taiwanese cultures.

Political recognition, as by the Cabinet and the UN, offers a form of paper legitimation that ought to be actively realized. The next step involves real people.

One of my greatest regrets has been the exclusion of Taiwanese from my children's education. We needed our family to stay competitive, so the children learned English.

My wife and I have Mandarin, the public school language, in common with the children, so we reserved Taiwanese for ourselves, so that we could discuss adult matters in front of them.

My job with a US firm allows us the finest English education. We are privileged and we know it.

But when I read Tiunn Hok's article, I knew that it was a mistake to sideline Taiwanese. I remembered being punished in class, when I was a child, for speaking Taiwanese, under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). I remembered my mother saying after the 228 Incident, "Even the Japanese were kinder to us!"

But I always wondered how my grandfather learned Japanese.

It is one thing to be forced to learn. I felt that way about piano lessons, a bittersweet privilege (I now appreciate) that cut into my free time.

It is another thing to be forced to forget.

It is an oppression of eradication, a denial of the dirt under which my ancestors rest.

While I have taken measures to ensure that my children will remain competitive in the international business environment, I am heartened that they are still young enough to absorb a new language, one that is older than their grandmother's memories.

I plan to take them to the morning markets where Taiwanese is prevalent. I plan to speak more Taiwanese at home. I plan to support Taiwanese publications and authors, writers who speak for and about Taiwan.

And, much to the horror of their little eyes and ears, I plan on serenading my wife with popular Taiwanese love ballads on our home KTV machine, in the car, in the shower, and maybe even at the market!

Many of the families in my neighborhood have children who study overseas. We hope they will bring their educations back to Taiwan.

Some of our neighbors are expats with children. We hope their curiosity will continue to foster cultural mutuality.

But we Taiwanese, who are here, who value balance and thrive on hearty competition, understand that we do not need to forget in order to ride the global wave.

We live in a democratic and open society now and we remember how we got here. We can look ahead, while recalling the obstacles we overcame.

Taiwan will continue to flourish, because we remember.

Steven Lin

Taipei

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