Thu, Sep 06, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Fate of Hoklo lies in hands of voters

By Koeh Ian-lim 郭燕霖

On Aug. 25, the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) published an article that I had written, which was subsequently translated into English and published in the Taipei Times (“PTS Hoklo channel’s fate still uncertain,” Aug. 31, page 8).

The previous day, former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) commented on the topic on his Facebook page, which he called “New Hero Story” (新勇哥物語).

However, apart from the proposed Hoklo channel, there is also concern about the teaching of Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese).


According to news reports, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) on Aug. 4 said that if he is elected, elementary schools would no longer provide classes in children’s mother tongues, but only in Chinese and English, because Kaohsiung needs to become more internationalized.

This means that classes that teach Aboriginal languages, Hoklo and other mother tongues in elementary schools would all be suspended.

Setting aside the question of whether Han’s policy proposal is reasonable, if he is elected and puts his “de-Hokloization” policy into practice, would the Ministry of Education have any legal basis for intervening?

In the case of Hakka and Aboriginal languages, at least the Hakka Basic Act (客家基本法) and the Indigenous Languages Development Act (住民族語言發展法原) provide a legal basis for protecting them, and the Hakka Affairs Council and the Council of Indigenous Peoples would be ready to argue against Han’s policy, but what about Hoklo?

What legal basis is there for protecting it? What government agency is responsible for it? The Ministry of Education? Or would it fall under the National Languages Development Division, which is being set up under the Ministry of Culture’s Department of Humanities and Publications and is to be responsible for handling the draft national languages development act?

The KMT has a history of marginalizing Hoklo. After the KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) became president, his administration axed the plan to set up a Hoklo TV channel.

In 2009, when former KMT chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) was a legislator, she proposed scrapping the Ministry of Education’s NT$40 million (US$1.3 million) budget for Hoklo proficiency tests.

In response, a group of people who care about the Hoklo language came forward to protect the official proficiency tests, while denouncing Hung’s policy.

They took it a step further by raising funds and establishing the General Taiwanese Proficiency Test. They commissioned National Cheng Kung University’s Center for Taiwanese Language Testing, under the directorship of professor Taifallo Chiung (蔣為文), to set and hold the test twice a year.

Of course, the best strategy is to speed up the enactment of the national languages development act. Meanwhile, voters should exercise their wisdom.


Even if candidates use Hoklo to win sympathy and support before elections, once they are elected, they can immediately renege on whatever they promised. Ma’s record is proof of this.

As for a candidate like Han, who is so hostile to Hoklo, Taiwanese should let him know not to push things too far, and they must not allow candidates who identify with China to show such disdain for Taiwan’s native languages.

Koeh Ian-lim is vice chairman of the Taiwan Teachers’ Union.

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