A group of language professors expressed concern yesterday that a new language database shared by Taiwan and China is part of an effort by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to push for unification with China and called for more attention to other languages spoken in Taiwan.
Ma on Wednesday applauded the launch of the online Chinese Language Knowledge Database (中華語文知識庫), a database of the way Mandarin is used differently in Taiwan and China.
Ma said at the launch ceremony that the database would help the two sides understand each other and promote cultural exchanges, adding that there were no political intentions.
However, members of the Taiwan Association of University Professors expressed concern that following the launch of the database, the government would move to create an environment where both sides of the Taiwan Strait would adopt the same writing system, which they believe would sabotage Taiwan’s local culture.
“We don’t object to a platform that introduces the different language usages in Taiwan and China,” Chang Yen-hsien (張炎憲), president of the association, told a press conference in Taipei.
“But we’re concerned about the implications behind such a move,” he added.
Saying that traditional Chinese characters are beautiful, while the simplified versions are “fragmentary,” National Changhua University of Education professor Chou Yi-chun (周益忠) said the country should not accept simplified characters or terms and phrases commonly used in China just because it wishes to expand economic exchanges across the strait.
“I am concerned that the erosion of Taiwan’s language and cultural independence would one day eventually lead to the erosion of Taiwan’s political independence,” said Andrew Chang (張德麟), an associate professor in Taiwanese languages at Chung Shan Medical University.
According to Chang Yen-hsien, Ma has said he values local culture, yet his government and the legislature, in which the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) controls or influences a majority of the seats, has never worked to promote a language equality act.
“Instead, Ma promoted further language and cultural exchanges with China, suggesting that the intention behind Ma’s language and cultural integration policy was to move Taiwan toward unification with China,” Chang Yen-hsien said.
The government should increase its efforts to promote and safeguard the many languages used in Taiwan, such as Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), spoken by Taiwan’s largest ethnic group, the Han, as well as Hakka and several languages spoken by different Aboriginal tribes, Chang Yen-hsien said.