A holistic language policy
Taiwan is a multilingual country in a multilingual ASEAN context. It deserves a holistic language policy that respects this fact.
The “official bilingualism” advanced by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration would be as damaging and alienating as the Mandarin “official unilingualism” imposed by the Chinese National Party (KMT) for decades. It would work against the natural linguistic diversity of Taiwan.
First, the facts. Contrary to the claim of Lee Po-Chih (李博志) (“Bilingualism beneficial for Taiwan,” Dec. 13, page 8), Singapore is not “bilingual,” but has four official languages: English, Mandarin, Tamil and Malay — with the last constitutionally enshrined as the national language. Most of the other countries he listed as “bilingual” — the Philippines, Malaysia, India, Pakistan and Nepal — legally recognize several languages.
Take legal matters as an example of the potential damage: Rushed implementation of official bilingualism risks introducing unintended side effects in Taiwan’s legal system, which already has enough problems. Translators for the legal texts, to be deemed as equally authentic, would be hard pressed to hastily reproduce the delicate compromises obtained years ago in the legislature.
The textbook lesson is the Stauder v City of Ulm case (1969), in which the European Court of Justice had to interpret four-language versions of the same law whose plain reading did not match one another.
Are Taiwanese lawyers ready for such jurisprudence as soon as 2030? Not if the “criminal bulletin board” I spotted recently in front of a Tainan courthouse is any indication (read: “bulletin board for criminal cases”).
It took a decade of work before the 1997 handover to prepare the Chinese text of the Hong Kong statute book. Singapore statutes are only available in English. The city-state also stifled its own linguistic diversity through the Speak Mandarin Campaign.
National Development Council Minister Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶) said in her interview (“Minister outlines blueprint for bilingual nation,” Dec. 17, page 16) that the colonial background of Singapore and Hong Kong “help[ed]” their bilingualism.
Is colonialism or the geopolitical status of Hong Kong seriously what the DPP wishes for Taiwan?
Likewise, it is difficult to understand why the DPP administration is competing with Kaohsiung mayor-elect Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) by promoting official bilingualism in this fad-chasing way. All this at the expense of tongues like Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), Hakka and the Aboriginal languages — alienating these communities.
Hoklo has especially been left by the wayside: Even though it is the mother tongue of a majority of Taiwanese, there is still no state-funded public service television station for it, unlike the other native tongues.
Every time this is raised, cries of “Hoklo chauvinism” resound, but such an accusation is never directed at policies to force-feed Mandarin or English.
Chen’s response to the question “Will the bilingual policy suppress efforts to preserve mother-tongue culture?” was shockingly cavalier.
She simply told us: “No need to worry about that,” changed the subject to talk about “digital technology,” and went on reading from her press briefing.
Instead of piecemeal “official bilingualism,” let me repeat my exhortation for the third time in two decades: Taiwan needs a holistic language policy (Letters, Jan. 12, 2000, page 8; Jan. 21, 2017, page 8). The best way to proceed is a national languages development act, as proposed by the Ministry of Culture (“Hakka group slams caucus whip’s comments,” Nov. 15, 2017, page 3).
There are university professors with expertise: Tiunn Hak-khiam (張學謙) and Shih Cheng-Feng (施正鋒) in Hualien, and Wi-Vun Taiffalo Chiung (蔣為文) in Tainan. They could help develop a holistic policy respecting Taiwan’s multilingual diversity, including the use of English and Mandarin.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) talked about “opposing the Chinese Communist Party [CCP]” in a recent Facebook post, writing that opposing the CCP is not the special reserve of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Not long after, many people within the KMT received a mysterious letter signed “Chinese Nationalist Party Central Committee” containing what looked like a declaration of opposition to, and a call to arms against, the CCP. Unexpectedly, the KMT’s Culture and Communications Committee came forward with a clarification, saying that the letter was not sent by the KMT and telling the public not to believe
Australia’s decades-long battle to acquire a new French-designed attack submarine to replace its aging Collins class fleet bears all the hallmarks of a bureaucratic boondoggle. The Attack-class submarine project, initially estimated to cost A$20 billion to A$25 billion (US$15.6 billion to US$19.5 billion at the current exchange rate), had by 2016 doubled to A$50 billion, and almost doubled again to A$90 billion by February last year. Because of delays, the French-led Naval Group consortium would not begin cutting steel on the first submarine until 2024, which means the first vessel would not be operational until after 2030 — and the last
When Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) called for a reset of bilateral relations with the US, a White House spokesperson replied that Washington saw the relationship as one of strong competition that required a position of strength. It is clear that US President Joe Biden’s administration is not simply reversing former US Donald Trump’s policies. Citing Thucydides’ attribution of the Peloponnesian War to Sparta’s fear of a rising Athens, some analysts believe the US-China relationship is entering a period of conflict pitting an established hegemon against an increasingly powerful challenger. I am not that pessimistic. In my view, economic
If the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was looking for some respite after the battering former US president Donald Trump gave it, it has been swiftly refused that hope. US President Joe Biden and his administration are making it clear that there is little chance of a return to the “strategic patience” of former US president Barack Obama’s era. In terms of the US’ approach to Beijing’s relations with Taipei, there has been a continuation of the selective strategic clarity the Trump administration favored over the “strategic ambiguity” of previous US administrations. One indication of this occurred during a virtual event on