Tue, Mar 26, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Education ministry dodges issue of language policy


Education Minister Huang Jong-tsun (黃榮村) said yesterday that Taiwan's official languages should be "unified," while different linguistic traditions should be preserved.

Referring to proposals by various legislators that Minnan or English should be made the country's second official language, Huang said that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the Education ministry to decide on a second official language.

He added, however, that if it becomes national policy to designate a second official language, the Education ministry will first work out supplementary measures to make sure the policy is successfully implemented.

The minister said that the four spoken dialects and language groups in Taiwan -- Mandarin, Minnan, Hakka and the aboriginal tongues -- are equally important and that the public should learn to appreciate the multiplicity of Taiwan's society.

The proposal by opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislators to make Minnan a second official language, received mixed reactions from other legislators, with Lo Wen-jia (羅文嘉) of the DPP, for instance, disagreeing that Minnan should be the second official language.

Lo, who comes from a Hakka family, said that as a dialect, Hakka should get more attention from the authorities because increasing numbers of Hakka offspring have lost the ability to communicate in their mother tongue.

A recent survey shows that at least 10 percent of people of Hakka origin aged between 30 and 39 are unable to communicate in their native tongue, according to Lo.

He added that the same survey indicates that less than 30 percent of the 5 million Hakka people in Taiwan still converse in Hakka.

While it is important to preserve linguistic tradition and to learn a dialect, Lo said that it is not necessary to make Minnan an official language.

With the promotion of the government, some elementary schools are offering Mandarin-Minnan bilingual education.

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