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Mon, Dec 31, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Council holds first tests for Aboriginal languages

STAFF WRITER

More than 2,000 people sat Tai-wan's first-ever Aboriginal language proficiency tests held simultaneously at eight locations across the country on Saturday.

Successful candidates will be issued certificates that can be used when applying for teaching jobs.

Taiwan launched its formal Hokkien, Hakka and Aboriginal language courses for elementary and junior high schools this year.

Previously, a serious shortage of Aboriginal-language teachers had prompted the Ministry of Education to approve informally hired teachers certified by specified language institutes.

Yesterday's tests were commissioned by the Cabinet-level Council of Aboriginal Affairs and organized by National Chengchi University. It will be up to the schools to decide whether or not to hire the certified candidates as teachers.

"Many Aboriginal people are worried that their children may be uncompetitive [if they do not speak Mandarin], so they speak Mandarin to their kids. Because of this and other factors, fewer and fewer young Aborigines are now able to speak their languages," said Lin Hsiu-che (林修澈), an ethnologist at the university.

The examinations included 38 tests for the major Aboriginal languages and some of their dialects. Those sitting tests for the Ami language, for example, were offered specific tests on the Northern, Maran and Hengchun dialects.

The tests did not require any particular educational credentials and there was no limit on age, nationality or ethnic background of the candidates.

People from the Ami tribe accounted for around one-third of the examinees, while those from the Bunun tribe accounted for around 20 percent. The Ami tribe accounts for around half of Taiwan's Aboriginal population of 400,000, while the Bunun tribe accounts for 14 percent.

In related news, the Executive Yuan on Saturday held a ceremony honoring 14 individuals and organizations for their contribution to the development of Taiwan's Aboriginal society.

Among those honored were Bjarne Gislefoss, a veteran Nor-wegian nurse who served at a Christian hospital in Puli for 50 years, and his wife Alfhild.

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