Mon, Mar 09, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Kuan slams Liu’s remark on learning mother languages

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) criticized Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) yesterday over his remark that children should learn mother tongues other than Mandarin at home “instead of taking up too many hours at school.”

The remark showed that the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) “does not understand that the nation’s underprivileged families are in crisis when it comes to passing on their mother tongues to their children,” Kuan said when asked for comment.

Many parents with mother tongues other than Mandarin want to speak their language with their children, but refrain from doing so for fear that their children may have difficulties with Mandarin, she said.

“Mandarin is, after all, the dominant language” in Taiwan, Kuan said.

Schools should promote bilingualism to help preserve Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), Hakka and Aboriginal languages, she said.

“Promoting the teaching of mother tongues at home does not contradict teaching local languages at school,” she said.

Kuan made the comment in response to Liu’s remark during a question-and-answer session with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) in the legislature on Friday.

Hung criticized Hoklo education in schools, saying students were overburdened and confused by the Romanization system used in Hoklo textbooks.

Hung questioned the value of the lessons. The premier agreed, saying that students should learn non-Mandarin languages in a more natural way.

“The Ministry of Education should review our approach to language teaching and rid it of ideology so that language education will be effective,” he said.

“Our current approach is very inappropriate and problematic. True mother tongue learning should take place at home — with the government providing [parents] with all kinds of excellent teaching materials — instead of taking up too many hours at school,” he said.

Elementary and junior high school curriculum guidelines require that students in the first to sixth grades take classes in Hoklo, Hakka or an Aboriginal language, while junior high students choose whether to study one of the languages.

Cabinet Spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) defended the premier’s comments, saying Liu was emphasizing the need to improve the nation’s approach to preserving non-Mandarin languages.

Liu said “mother tongues should be taught naturally at home instead of using Romanization because [learning the Romanization] can be another burden on children. He did not mean that mother tongue education at school should be scrapped,” Su told the Taipei Times.

“Hoklo education is an important issue in Taiwan. It is impossible that the premier would suggest [scrapping it],” Su said.

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