Sat, Jul 07, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Activists urge candidates to respect language rights

LESS CLASSICAL The campaign came in the wake of a call for a reduction in the ratio of articles in senior high school textbooks written using classical Chinese

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A number of civil groups and linguistic rights activists yesterday urged both Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidates to respect the right of students to receive an education in their mother tongue.

Although many languages such as Hoklo, Hakka and over 13 Aboriginal tongues exist in Taiwan, Mandarin is the only language of instruction in the education system, they said.

The groups, including the Taiwan Society, the Taiwan Romanization Association (TLH) and the Taiwan Hakka Teachers' Association, urged the two parties to support the enactment of a national language development law.

The groups also called on both parties to help push for the publication of textbooks in all subjects in local languages, to encourage teachers to use local languages in the classroom and to design a curriculum in which Taiwanese literature, Chinese literature and world literature would all be treated equally.

"For example, in Hakka communities, Hakka should be the language of the classroom, while in Hoklo communities, Hoklo should be the language of instruction," TLH chairman Ho Sin-han (何信瀚) said. "This is nothing exotic or new as that's the way it was decades ago before everyone was able to speak Mandarin."

In places where the ethnic composition is more diverse, such as Taipei, "Mandarin can be used," Ho said, while stressing that "we're not trying to wipe out any language, just trying to restore the linguistic situation to its original state."

The groups first visited the KMT's headquarters to present their demands to KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

However, as Ma was not at the party headquarters, a KMT official took the petition from the demonstrators and said the KMT would respect their demands.

The activists then moved on to DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh's (謝長廷) campaign office, where they received a positive response.

"We'd certainly be happy to work with you on the mother tongue issue, as Hsieh has always put Taiwan's interests, culture and minority issues as his priorities," said Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), Hsieh's campaign manager.

Lee also promised to hold further meetings with the groups to discuss more concrete plans to build a more mother-tongue-friendly education system and society.

The groups' call yesterday came in the wake of a joint statement issued by nine pro-Taiwan independence civic groups on Thursday, calling for a reduction in the ratio of articles written in classical Chinese in senior high schools' "National Language" textbooks.

The statement lamented a decision made by the screening committee for national language textbooks to have articles written in classical Chinese comprise 45 percent of the textbooks, meaning that these articles will continue to dominate the educational platform in the nation's senior high schools.

Additional reporting by CNA

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