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Tue, May 01, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Speaking Hokkien sets lawmakers' tongues wagging


The divisive issue of language reared its head in the legislature yesterday, as lawmakers argued about whether Hokkien could be used over Mandarin.

During the Organic Laws Committee (司法委員會) and the Education and Culture Committee's (教育及文化委員會) joint session yesterday morning, KMT Legislator Kwan Yuk-noan (關沃暖) interrupted DPP lawmaker Tai Chen-yao (戴振耀) -- who was speaking in Hokkien -- saying that Tai was disrespecting the Legislative Yuan by not speaking in Mandarin.

According to Kwan, the meeting's convener, the KMT's Yang Tzuo-chow (楊作洲), and some other lawmakers, including himself, did not speak the language and could not understand what Tai was talking about.

"I asked Tai to speak in Mandarin, the ROC's official language," Kwan said yesterday.

Tai, however, said that he had always spoken in Hokkien -- his mother tongue -- at the legislature, and that Kwan should respect his choice.

Tai said that he was a legislator elected by the people of Taiwan, of whom a majority are Hokkien-speakers, and that he saw nothing wrong with speaking the language in the Legislative Yuan.

The session was adjourned for five minutes due to the argument. During the break, however, DPP lawmaker Wang Shih-hsun (王世勛) scolded Kwan for not respecting others.

"If Kwan does not understand Hokkien, he should go and look for an interpreter," Wang said.

Meanwhile, DPP lawmaker Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) questioned Kwan's motives, saying that perhaps Kwan viewed Hokkien as an unworthy foreign language.

DPP lawmaker Wang Li-ping (王麗萍) said that people in Taiwan should respect each other in order to reach the goal of "reconciliation among ethnic groups."

The argument reached a conclusion, however, when an interpreter was assigned to Kwan for the duration of Tai's speech.

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