Thu, Jul 30, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Activists angered by ministry’s use of ‘Minnan’ for Hoklo

WAR OF WORDS National Cheng Kung University professor Taiffalo Chiung said the education ministry should call Hoklo ‘Taiyu’ in its curriculum guidelines

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Protesters carry a “snake” outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei yesterday to protest against the use of the term “Minnan” instead of “Taiwanese” to describe the Hoklo language.

PHOTO: LO PEI-DER, TAIPEI TIMES

Activists gathered outside the Ministry of Education yesterday to protest against the ministry referring to Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) in curriculum guidelines as “Minnan language” (閩南語).

About 100 demonstrators attended, carrying placards that read “I live in Taiwan, I don’t speak Minnan. Don’t call me a speaker of Minnan” and a giant snake toy to represent the Chinese character “min.”

“Min” refers to China’s Fujian Province, but the protesters said the character’s original meaning was “snake.” “Minnan language” or “Minnan dialect” is used in China to refer to a family of dialects spoken mostly in Fujian.

Lee Wen-cheng (李文正), one of the protesters, said the ministry had violated the spirit of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights by describing the Taiwanese people and their language as “Minnan.”

Taiffalo Chiung (蔣為文), a professor of Taiwanese literature at National Cheng Kung University, said the ministry should call Hoklo “Taiyu” (台語) in its curriculum guidelines, adding that the term was more than 100 years old.

The demonstrators threw sacks full of fake snakes over a closed gate into the ministry’s parking lot to express their dissatisfaction after Yang Chang-yu (楊昌裕), director of the Department of Elementary Education, said he did not have the authority to change the curriculum guidelines.

Yang, who met the protesters on behalf of Minister of Education Cheng Jei-cheng (鄭瑞城), said the ministry had long used the term “Minnan” in curriculum guidelines.

Yang said he would convey the protesters’ message to the minister.

In related news, the Department of Elementary Education said yesterday it would encourage junior high schools to offer English proficiency tests for incoming students to gauge their level before starting junior high.

Wu Lin-hui (吳林輝) of the department said schools could then offer summer classes to help students with low scores improve their English.

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