Sun, Apr 28, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Educators demand better Hokkien school textbooks

PRESERVING LANGUAGE Teachers have far too much leeway in choosing books for their Hokkien classes, which is undermining the language, scholars charge

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

In a bid to preserve the Hokkien language, educators yesterday urged the Ministry of Education to tightly regulate Hokkien textbooks for elementary and junior high schools.

"This is an important way to ensure that our students are building their Hokkien language ability on correct linguistic foundations and not on some loose and inconsistent basis," said Chu Yuan-kai (邱元愷), a member of the National Teachers' Association, which held a meeting to discuss the matter yesterday.

Hokkien (河洛語), the language of the southern region of Fujian Province -- more commonly known as Min Nan Hua (閩南話) or Taiwanese -- is the first language of about 14.35 million people in Taiwan, or 67 percent of the population.

"As the Ministry of Education encourages national schools to dedicate themselves to promoting Taiwan-oriented values by teaching Hokkien in their curriculums, it is quite important to make sure that the language is being taught and learned correctly," Chu said.

According to Chu, schools offer a freestyle Hokkien curriculum, "meaning that teachers of Hokkien are free to get their teaching and classroom materials from the general market."

"However, most of the Hokkien writing publications we came across on the market nowadays use various incorrect and inconsistent styles," Chu said.

Writing of Hokkien has been distorted during this past century because of Japan's colonization and then the KMT's rule, during which the use of Hokkien was discouraged or banned, Chu said.

"The correct way to write Hokkien, which is made up of 15 consonant sounds and 30 vowel sounds, is to use Chinese characters to spell out every Hokkien syllable," Chu said.

"So using romanization or direct Chinese characters to represent the Hokkien sounds, or a combination of the English alphabet and Chinese characters are all incorrect," he said.

Chu added that all these incorrect methods of Hokkien writing have distorted the original essence of Hokkien writing.

Chu called on the Ministry of Education to canvass Hokkien linguistic specialists to compile standard classroom Hokkien materials.

"Only by ensuring students are building their Hokkien language on a correct basis will it help the government's efforts in enhancing the promotion and preservation of Taiwanese culture," Chu said.

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