Thu, Sep 13, 2018 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: English should be second language

At a news conference last week, Premier William Lai (賴清德) responded to a suggestion from the Chinese National Federation of Industries (CNFI), saying that the government would implement a new policy this year to make Taiwan a bilingual nation speaking Chinese and English.

Taiwan has not legally defined an official language after the end of World War II, but Mandarin was used as the national language, while the use of other languages was banned, in effect making Mandarin the official language by default.

Now industry has suggested and the premier has concurred that English should be made a second language or an official language, which is a welcome development.

Taiwan is a multiethnic, multicultural society with the open and pioneering spirit of a maritime nation.

However, the post-war foreign regime used authoritarian methods to enforce Sinicization to denigrate the Taiwanese identity and suppress diversified development.

This was manifested in its language policy, which suppressed all mother tongues apart from the “national language” and called them “dialects.”

The long-standing exclusiveness of the “national language” has resulted in the decline or near-extinction of the mother tongues of ethnic groups.

Many Taiwanese cannot speak either their mother tongue or a foreign language, making it clear to what extent Taiwanese have been locked in the cage of “Sinicization,” making them introverted and giving them a narrow outlook on the world, and this has had a negative effect on the nation’s global competitiveness.

For Taiwan, an outward-looking and open-minded attitude and frequent contact with the international community is the way build healthy and vigorous development.

Linguistically speaking, the older prewar generation who received a Japanese education should be taken as model. Their generation spoke their native language, Japanese and the “national language.”

By comparison, the “Sinicized” generations who grew up after the war only speak the “national language,” and they have abandoned their mother tongue, while the outlook, tolerance and cultural heritage of the older generation was more extensive.

This allowed them to establish Taiwan’s economic wealth, democracy and human rights.

From this perspective, transitional justice should accomplish the preservation and revival of the native languages of different ethnic groups and connect the nation to the international community.

A native language passes on culture, while English is the language of the world and future. English has been the lingua franca of global commerce over the past 100 years and its importance has only increased after the world entered the Internet age.

On an individual level, English-language skills are necessary in every aspect from employment and career development to absorbing new knowledge and communicating with the international community.

According to a Harvard University study published five years ago, there is a close correlation between English skills and personal income, and they also lead to a higher standard of living.

On a national level, the high level of English-language proficiency in small and medium-sized nations, such as the Netherlands, Singapore, Ireland, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, has become a main selling point to attract foreign investment and it is given great attention in terms of international trade and economic performance.

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