In July, the YouTube channel of the Democratic Progressive Party’s presidential candidate, Vice President William Lai (賴清德), featured the sixth episode of its series “Where is Lai Going?”
In the video, Lai chats with a family and listens to their concerns about Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese). The parents tell him that they want their children to study in a Taiwanese-medium school, but are frustrated that there are none that teach entirely in their mother language. Lai then writes “environmental resources for mother tongue education” in his notes.
As a Taiwanese who is anxious about the potential extinction of the nation’s local languages, I am grateful that Lai’s campaign team has highlighted the issue.
However, even though mother-tongue education is already mandatory in the K-12 curriculum, the government has still not done enough to accelerate the pace of preserving these languages.
While adding compulsory courses might be helpful, there are other, more effective methods that the government can adopt to keep people immersed in their mother tongue.
The most essential step the government should take is to provide translations in public facilities. Just a month ago, Japanese and Korean translations were added to the signage at numerous MRT stations in Taipei. While Taiwan has managed to become more welcoming to foreign tourists, it has neglected the importance of keeping local languages visible in public places.
Introducing endangered languages for public services can yield positive outcomes. Many Taiwanese are unaware that local languages, including Taiwanese and Hakka, have their own writing systems, and many tourists do not know that these languages exist. By featuring them in facilities such as train stations and on road signs, not only would more locals gain a deeper insight into their mother tongues, but international visitors might also find Taiwan’s diverse linguistic culture fascinating.
Besides making local languages ubiquitous, another way to ensure that future generations continue to use them is to open schools that teach in them. As suggested by the parents in the video, this would allow students to regularly speak and listen in the languages, enabling them to become proficient.
In the UK, Welsh schools have done exactly that. In 1939, apprehensive about the growing dominance of English, Welsh academic Ifan ab Owen Edwards founded Ysgol Gymraeg yr Urdd (now known as Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth), the first Welsh-medium primary school. It attracted many students, expanding from merely seven pupils in the first few years to about 400, the school’s Web site says.
Countless English-medium schools have been established in Taiwan in the past few years, but no Taiwanese or Hakka-medium schools have been founded. The Ministry of Education should put this idea into action, and with the cooperation of the government and the public, revival efforts would pay off.
When it comes to preserving endangered languages, the environment is undoubtedly the most crucial component. Although solutions such as providing scholarships to students speaking the languages might also seem feasible, they would still not work for those who are uninterested in learning them due to a lack of constant exposure. Without an environment in which people can be passively immersed in Taiwan’s precious languages, their death will only come in a matter of time.
Most importantly, regardless of who becomes president next year, the work of language revival should never be stopped.
Tshua Siu-ui is a Taiwanese student living in the UK.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has a good reason to avoid a split vote against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in next month’s presidential election. It has been here before and last time things did not go well. Taiwan had its second direct presidential election in 2000 and the nation’s first ever transition of political power, with the KMT in opposition for the first time. Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was ushered in with less than 40 percent of the vote, only marginally ahead of James Soong (宋楚瑜), the candidate of the then-newly formed People First Party (PFP), who got almost 37
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) has called on his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) counterpart, William Lai (賴清德), to abandon his party’s Taiwanese independence platform. Hou’s remarks follow an article published in the Nov. 30 issue of Foreign Affairs by three US-China relations academics: Bonnie Glaser, Jessica Chen Weiss and Thomas Christensen. They suggested that the US emphasize opposition to any unilateral changes in the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, and that if Lai wins the election, he should consider freezing the Taiwanese independence clause. The concept of de jure independence was first
Many news reports about the Israel-Hamas war highlight casualties, deaths, and destruction. Journalists rarely delve into how either society has responded and mobilized to deal with the war. This article provides a brief view of how Israel and Israelis have reacted to the war as individuals, groups, and as a nation. A useful template for Taiwan to prepare for a potential future conflict with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is how Israelis self-organized to deal with this crisis. Prior to the Hamas terrorist attack on Oct. 7, Israelis were even more polarized about public policy than the US or Taiwan.
Following the failure of the proposed “blue-white alliance,” New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi named Broadcasting Corp of China (BCC) chairman Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) as his running mate on the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential ticket, while the other prospective half of the alliance, Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), named TPP Legislator Cynthia Wu (吳欣盈). The result is a three-horse race, which is getting tighter. Hou and Ko are likely to put all their focus on being seen as the top challenger to Vice President William Lai (賴清德), the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate, to