Language puts foreign brides at disadvantage

BARRIER: Experts at a Ministry of Interior colloquium said that tensions between mothers-in-law and foreign brides are exacerbated by communication problems


Wed, Oct 01, 2003 - Page 2

Academics said yesterday that the language barrier was the greatest impediment for brides from Southeast Asia in integrating into Taiwan, and suggested the government make a greater effort to help these women learn Chinese.

The Ministry of Interior's Children's Bureau held a colloquium yesterday on the welfare of children of foreign brides. Several academics, social workers and government officials took part, including Chen Shui-sen (陳水仙), who is in charge of the Eden Social Welfare Foundation's (伊甸文教基金會) Vietnamese hotline

"Chen Yu-hsia (陳玉霞), a Vietnamese, has been in Taiwan for two years now and she has a child about nine-months old. Her child often spits up milk and her mother-in-law is worried and wants to tell her about the right way to feed the child," Chen Shui-sen said.

"But because the Vietnamese woman is not able to understand her mother-in-law's mix of Mandarin and Hoklo [Taiwanese], the mother-in-law has to call the hotline to ask a translator for help," Chen Shui-sen said.

"The language barrier, cultural difference, lack of support system and economic dependence on their husbands' families are the greatest pressures faced by Southeast Asian women married to Taiwanese men," said Pan Shu-man (潘淑滿), an associate professor in National Normal University's department of adult and continuing education.

Several experts pointed out that the women's limited language skills could hinder their children's education.

They suggested that the government should try to help the women to learn the language, perhaps through compulsory classes.

But a government official said the idea of compulsory language lessons was not viable. A Ministry of Education official pointed out that the ministry had held a meeting with experts in early August and concluded that it could only push for language lessons.

"Perhaps it would be more effective if the Ministry of the Interior would set up a language-ability requirement when a foreign spouse applies for an ID card," said Wu Ming-chueh (吳明玨), the education ministry representative.

Other officials said that different government departments had created booklets in several languages about the social resources available to foreign spouses and their children, and about the women's work rights.

A social worker from Kaohsiung praised the government's efforts so far.

"Many Indonesian and Vietnamese brides were so excited when they saw booklets in their own languages on how to raise children and said these were exactly what they needed," she said.

But Huang Nai-hui (黃乃輝), chairman of the Foreign Brides Development and Care Association (外籍新娘成長關懷協會), who has a Cambodian wife, said that most of the brochures were written from a Taiwanese viewpoint, and many foreign brides had difficulty understanding the formal language.

Huang noted that many of these women could not even read in their own languages.

A social worker said that it might be more feasible to produce radio or TV programs to educate the foreign brides on different issues.

Meanwhile, officials from the interior ministry's Population Affairs Administration said they would finish a nationwide census on brides from Southeast Asia and China by the end of this year.

They said the survey questionnaires asked for basic personal and marital information and also asked what the women thought the government could do for them.