Native language advocates yesterday debated the ideal terminology for a national language development act at a forum as the Ministry of Cultural Affairs continues to draft the legislation.
“The culture and language of the Hoklo, Hakka and Aborigines should all be gradually restored and cultivated before Taiwan can become a normal nation,” said Northern Taiwan Society chairman Chang Yeh-sen (張葉森), whose organization hosted the forum.
The event doubled as an official public hearing through cooperation with National Taichung University of Education, to which the ministry has delegated initial drafting.
“The main objective of the law is to ensure that Hoklo [commonly known as Taiwanese] has a definite budget and responsible government body,” said Taiwan Mother Tongue Alliance chairman Ho Sin-han (何信翰), who is a Hoklo-language professor at the university. “Hoklo deserves a lot of sympathy, because only about NT$400 million [US$13.1 million] is budgeted annually for its maintenance and promotion, compared with a budget of NT$3 billion to NT$4 billion for the Hakka Affairs Council and NT$7 billion to NT$8 billion alloted to the Council of Indigenous Peoples.”
While the Executive Yuan has promised to increase the funds allotted to Hoklo, it is not clear how the increase would be budgeted, given the lack of a specific agency charged with promoting the language, he said.
Taiwan Society Hakka deputy director Chuang Chen Yueh-hsiu (莊陳月琇) called for the passage of legislation mandating equal standing for each language’s written form, as well as development of a unified computer input system.
“As there are different input methods for each language, children have to study separate systems if they want to learn more than one language, which just increases the incentive to study languages with the most speakers,” she said, adding that the Hakka Affairs Council and the Ministry of Education sponsor two competing writing and input systems for Hakka, which have different representations for about 50 characters.
Whether and how to define Hoklo as the national language was a major point of discussion, with one draft calling it “Taiwan Minnan,” while another proposal called for the Executive Yuan to issue regulations defining “national language” after its passage.
How to refer to Hoklo is controversial, because Hakka speakers will likely object to the use of the term “Taiwanese,” Ho said.
There was also debate on whether sign language and languages spoken by foreign spouses should be included in draft legislation, he said.
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