Feb. 21 is the UN’s International Mother Language Day. It is a day dedicated to promoting the protection of languages and cultures of smaller peoples and groups around the world. Over the last 60 years, the languages and cultures of Taiwan’s Aborigines, and the Hakka and Hoklo people, which make up 90 percent of Taiwan’s population, have been all but destroyed. The government has never realized that this constitutes human rights abuse.
During the presidential elections, everyone kept talking about “Taiwan,” but after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was elected president for the first time, the “Taiwan” in “Taiwan Post” was immediately changed back to “Chunghwa.” Immediately after the Jan. 14 elections, the government launched a Chinese Language Knowledge Database and Ma proclaimed that the Chinese writing system had once again been standardized. Why didn’t he say anything about how great the languages of Taiwan are? Preserving Taiwan’s local languages should be a primary task for the government, so why has Ma spent time and effort on standardizing the Chinese written script used by Taiwan and China?
Standardization of script and other items was a measure employed by Qin Shihuang (秦始皇) to cement his control over China. China’s version of the database includes a statement that says its goal is to involve more young people from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, create a more patriotic education and establish a platform for the common spirit of the Chinese people. However, just which country are young people from Taiwan supposed to feel patriotic toward? Surely this database was designed for unification purposes.
Everyone knows that eventual unification is Ma’s ultimate goal. Standardizing the written script, then, is a major part of Ma’s unification policy.
I recently mentioned three things the Ma administration might do. First, I suggested that they would replace the use of the Zhuyin fuhao, or bopomofo, system with China’s Hanyu Pinyin. Second, I said they might promote simplified characters in school alongside traditional characters. Third, I said they might change the English spelling of names on Taiwanese passports to Hanyu Pinyin across the board.
The Presidential Office only responded to one of my concerns, saying they were not going to scrap the Zhuyin fuhao system.
The use of a romanization system representative of Taiwan’s unique qualities is closely related to Taiwan’s sustainable development, but I oppose the use of Hanyu Pinyin. Zhuyin fuhao is a feasible system and it is currently in use. Ma wants standardization and pushes the use of Hanyu Pinyin, which means that he will first have to get rid of the Zhuyin fuhao obstacle.
The Presidential Office only responded to my first proposal. Can we believe what they said? What about my second and third proposals? Will they put these policies into effect? Ma himself has said on TV that he hopes in future Taiwanese students will be taught to read traditional characters and write simplified characters.
What Ma wants is a system in which both traditional and simplified characters are used, but at what cost to Taiwanese? The truth is that Hanyu Pinyin is already widely used around Taiwan and there is nothing we will be able to do about the government changing the English spelling of the names on our passports.