Wed, Oct 24, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Teaching Hoklo by watching Hoklo films

By Lin Jung-shu 林榮淑

Since its launch in 2013, the Taiwan Film Institute’s Taiwan Cinema Digital Restoration Project has restored two to three classic Taiwanese films every year. The restoration of Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) subtitles on Hoklo-language movies is not only significant for cultural preservation, but also serves to promote the use of the language.

Last year, the institute collaborated with National Taiwan Normal University’s Department of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature to create the world’s first Hoklo subtitles, for the Hoklo movie Back to Anping Harbor released in 1972, starring Taiwanese opera superstar Yang Li-hua (楊麗花).

The National Education Radio has prepared a brilliant report on the movie for its Hoklo-learning program’s episode on Hoklo movies.

Screening vintage Hoklo drama movies in the 21st century serves a specific audience. To attract new moviegoers, more effort needs to be made to teach the language to the younger generation by having them watch Hoklo movies.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the screening of Back to Anping Harbor at the Taiwan Association of University Professors in Taipei on Wednesday last week. After the screening, a survey of the audience’s opinion about the efficacy of the Hoklo subtitles was conducted.

However, the audience could hardly make up a proper sample for the survey, as it was mainly composed of a niche group, so its representative significance is questionable.

To study the Hoklo subtitles’ effectiveness, more public participation and attention from people with insight and knowledge on the matter are needed.

Hoklo and Mandarin are derived from the writing system of Chinese characters, but there are differences. The movie title serves as a good example: It would be written as 回來安平港 in Mandarin, but 轉來安平港 in Hoklo.

Past government policies have led to a decline in the number of people who understand, speak and read Hoklo.

Hoklo movies with Hoklo subtitles would definitely be more authentic than those with a Mandarin counterpart. However, if the audience is not familiar with the Hoklo pronunciation, reading Hoklo subtitles to assist their understanding of the movie would only pose more challenges, as scenes change rapidly, while people reading text in a book or magazine can pause or slow down whenever they need to and digest the meaning of the text at their own pace.

The Contents of the Times (文藝春秋), winner of the literature category in this year’s Golden Tripod Awards for publication, and Shih Bai-jiun’s (施達樂) Lang Hua (浪花), the first Taiwanese winner of the Wuxia Novel Contest, along with Shih’s previous Taiwanese martial arts novel Ben Se (本色), all fully deploy the wittiness of writing Hoklo in Mandarin. Reading out sentences from these books will bring enormous fun and a deeper understanding of the content to readers who are familiar with Hoklo.

Hoklo education should first aim to teach children how to understand and speak the language before teaching them to read and write, which are more challenging. As elementary schools only teach Hoklo one hour per week, progress for children from families who do not value the language would be even slower.

A policy to implement bilingual education in Mandarin and English is around the corner, which would certainly squeeze the space and time for Hoklo learning. If people leave the tasks of teaching Hoklo reading and writing skills to texts and try to cultivate young people’s listening and speaking skills by watching Hoklo movies, it would contribute more to learning the language than one could hope for.

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