The nation’s Aboriginal languages are disappearing steadily, according to a survey by the Council of Indigenous Peoples.
The council just concluded a survey of five tribal languages spoken by three of the nation’s Aboriginal tribes that showed that less than 40 percent of those Aborigines still converse in their mother tongues.
Based on the poll results, the council estimated that there are only about 50 members of the Tsou tribe who still use the language, known as mavacangi ui, in their daily life.
There are 14 officially recognized Aboriginal tribes in Taiwan, who speak 42 different languages.
The council last year launched a three-year program to survey Aboriginal languages.
The first phase of the study, which lasted for 10 months, focused on five tribal languages — Kavalan, Thao, yokeoasu, mamanung kara kasu and mavacangi ui, which are used by three Aboriginal tribes — Kavalan, Thao and Tsou.
The last three languages are spoken by three groups of the Tsou tribe.
The total number of people using the five languages stands at 8,494 and 2,112 of them were interviewed in the survey.
About 96 percent of the total Thao population of 722 people were interviewed.
The poll results showed that the Tsou tribe’s yokeoasu group, who live in the mountainous region around Alishan, boasts the highest ratio of people who can still speak their mother tongue.
Up to 61 percent of people in this language group said they speak their tribal language during traditional festivals or ceremonial activities.
However, they added that they mostly speak Mandarin Chinese in daily life.
The Tsou tribe’s mavacangi ui language group, who live in Kao-hsiung’s Taoyuan District (桃源), has the lowest ratio of people who still can speak their mother tongue.
There are only about 500 people in this language group and only about 50 of them still converse in their mother tongue.
Most of the people in this group speak Mandarin and about 40 percent of them can speak the Bunun language.
The survey results were based on interviews, each of which lasted for between 30 minutes and one hour. Council interviewers tested tribal people’s mastery of their mother tongues in terms of reading, listening, speaking and writing.
Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Sun Ta-chuan (孫大川) said the government had spent NT$120 million (US$4.13 million) annually on preserving tribal languages, including compiling textbooks and dictionaries, holding tribal language examinations, training language teachers and improving learning environments.