On July 6, Public Television Service’s (PTS) Hoklo-language (also known as Taiwanese) channel started broadcasting from Keelung. Not only was the opening ceremony well-attended, but more than 200,000 people watched the broadcast online. This glorious start marks a new era for Hoklo broadcasts.
In this new broadcasting era, Hoklo-language news is undoubtedly one focus of attention. Aside from PTS’ four Hoklo news broadcasts per day, other TV stations such as Chinese Television System (CTS), Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV) and Formosa TV (FTV) also air news programs in Hoklo at regular hours to meet public demand.
That Taiwanese now can watch news in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka and Aboriginal languages is a concrete manifestation of the government’s and civil society’s focus on language and cultural equality.
While I am happy to encourage members of the public to watch these news reports, I often hear friends and older people say that they do not understand some of the content.
This problem does not apply only to Hoklo news programs. Hoklo-language audio information in many government departments and museums are also frequently incomprehensible without the accompanying written text. If this situation persists, it would very likely have a negative impact on the number of people watching these broadcasts.
Following are two preliminary ideas on how to handle this issue:
First, a script written in Mandarin cannot be read directly in Taiwanese. This is one of the most common problems with Hoklo-language news broadcasts.
Here are some examples from recent news broadcasts: If Mandarin phrases such as “as much as (several hundred million)” (高達 [數十億]), “will nominate (legislative candidates)” (將提出[立委人選]), “an accident (caused by drunk driving)” ([酒後開車]肇事), and “assign blame” (究責) are read directly in Taiwanese, they will very likely be incomprehensible to the average Hoklo speaker.
Second, the speed with which the text is read must be adjusted.
When reading Chinese words that can be directly understood in Taiwanese, but which might be unfamiliar to some listeners, such as semiconductor (半導體), accumulated precipitation (累積雨量) and motherboard (主機板), they should be read more slowly with clear enunciation. This would be very beneficial to listening comprehension.
If these two points are addressed, comprehension is likely to increase greatly among people who listen to Hoklo-language news.
The next step should be to address Hoklo grammar issues and the TV hosts’ pronunciation. Among the current Hoklo-language broadcasts, the most easily understood is probably the 3pm Afternoon News broadcast on PTS.
Ho Hsin-han is an associate professor at National Taichung University of Education’s Taiwanese Languages and Literature Department.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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