Hakka leader Yeh worries about Hokkien in exams

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tue, Sep 23, 2003 - Page 2

Chairwoman of Council for Hakka Affairs (CHA) Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) yesterday visited the Examination Yuan President Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文) to express opposition to Hokkien language questions that appeared in the national examination for civil servants.

"I hope that when future examination questions are being drawn up, the diversity of the different cultures and languages in Taiwan will be taken into consideration," Yeh said.

On the promotion exam for customs officials and the admittance exams for police this year, there were questions on the reading-comprehension portion written in the Hokkien language. Although these passages are written in Chinese characters, they make sense only to speakers of Hokkien.

It raised quite a few eyebrows among non-Hokkien civil servants and protests were voiced at one press conference held by DPP Legislator Chin Wei-chu (秦慧珠) last week.

Yeh pointed out yesterday that Hokkien-language reading materials made people who were not able to speak the Hokkien language unable to answer the questions, and the Hakka people were concerned about this.

"The Examination Yuan is in charge of only the administration aspect of the national examinations. Its members are not in charge of creating questions for the national examinations. The questions are created by an independent examination committee over which the Examination Yuan has no control," Yao said.

But Yao said that he would gather opinions from all sides of the issue and make them known to the committee. He added that most students did well in the Chinese exam, and there was no evidence that anyone suffered from being unable to answer the Hokkien language questions. He also showed determination to improve the examination.

"The Chinese portion of the examination has often caused controversies. Now we are pushing to make the Chinese exam more relevant to the professions -- for example, the Chinese exam for lawyers would require knowledge of legal writing -- and get rid of questions on ancient Chinese culture which have no relevance to the professions," Yao said.

Meanwhile, the language problem again emerged when the Council for Cultural Affairs unveiled its draft for a national languages development law yesterday.

The bill aims to preserve and develop national languages, and the the council said yesterday it would base the law on the CHA's Language Fairness Law (語言平等法), Council of Indigenous Peoples' (CIP) Indigenous Peoples' Languages Development Law (原住民語言發展法), and other relevant laws.

CHA officials pointed out that its law aimed to raise the status of the Hakka language.

"The Council for Hakka Affairs is working on promoting the Hakka language to be an official language of the country," said Vice Chairman of Council for Hakka Affairs Leo Liu (劉永斌).

The CIP Vice Chairman Jeng Tian-tsair (鄭天財) said that the CIP's law was focusing on preserving Aboriginal languages, and had little to do with the relevancy to the national languages development.