Sakizaya added to Wikipedia as a language option

By Lo chi and Dennis Xie  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Mon, Dec 16, 2019 - Page 3

The Sakizaya language, which is listed by the Council of Indigenous Peoples as an endangered language, was on Nov. 22 added to Wikipedia as a language option thanks to efforts to preserve and promote the Aboriginal language.

The Sakizaya people, officially recognized in 2007 as the 13th Aboriginal community in Taiwan, has a population of only 974 nationwide, making it difficult for speakers of the Sakizaya language to pass it down to younger generations, the council said.

Tuku Sayion, a Sakizaya and principal investigator for the language preservation project, on Monday last week told a conference about the development of Aboriginal languages that his team has since 2015 made efforts to make the Sakizaya language available on Wikipedia.

Computer terms, such as “visualization” and “program code,” took the most time to translate, as corresponding vocabulary does not exist in the Sakizaya language, he told the conference held at National Chengchi University.

There are about 3,600 Wikipedia entries in the Sakizaya language, with an edit count of more than 60,000 and a word count reaching 2 million, he added.

Atayal and Amis communities also expressed an interest in incorporating their native languages into Wikipedia, but that project has ground to a halt due to the difficulty in translating modern computer terms, said Lim Siu-theh (林修澈), the project’s co-principal investigator and professor emeritus at National Chengchi University’s ethnology department.

The Atayal and Amis are among Taiwan’s 16 officially recognized Aboriginal groups.

Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), who attended the conference, said that Taiwan’s diverse culture and languages demonstrate the prosperity of a liberal and democratic nation, adding that the availability of the Sakizaya language on Wikipedia would help the world to learn about the language.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has promoted transitional justice for Aborigines since she assumed office in May 2016, especially the conservation of Aboriginal languages and cultures, such as the enactment of the National Languages Development Act (國家語言發展法) in January and amendments to the Education Act for Indigenous Peoples (原住民族教育法) in June, Chen said.

The council has launched a mentoring program to preserve indigenous languages, Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Icyang Parod said.

In the program, one or two students are assigned to a mentor, who teaches them an Aboriginal language, including the Kanakanavu, Saaroa and Thao languages, Icyang said.

The council is also planning to establish a foundation early next year for the development of indigenous languages, which would be the nation’s first such research institute, he said.

Aboriginal students who pass indigenous language exams would receive certification, which could be used to apply for government subsidies to study abroad, he added.