Sat, Nov 20, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Aboriginal languages threatened as fewer test: CIP

Staff Writer, with CNA

The nation faces a great challenge to keep indigenous tribal languages alive, as the government’s tribal language proficiency test program is seeing fewer and fewer participants, the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) said.

Council officia Chiang Wen--chuan (蔣文鵑) said that for the past two years, not a single person has registered to take the proficiency test for Thao — one of the 43 languages and dialects spoken by the 14 officially recognized Aboriginal tribes in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the tribal language tests for Saaroa and Tona Rukai have had no participants this year, the first time this has happened, Chiang said.

A total of 1,160 people took part in the tribal language exams this year and 47.4 percent of test takers passed — a 5 percent drop compared with last year, according to the council.

There are about 600 Thao living in the Sun Moon Lake region in Nantou County, Chiang said, adding that today, only the tribe’s middle-aged and elderly members can speak fluent Thao.

Young indigenous people normally speak Mandarin when communicating with tourists visiting the area, leaving few occasions for them to use their mother tongue, Chiang said.

The council has started to compile a digital tribal language dictionary and it also organizes language courses and promotes tribal language speaking within indigenous communities.

Its language program is expected to recruit 400 students in January, Chiang said.

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