National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) on Friday urged the government to promote fluency in Hoklo, commonly known as Taiwanese, while also pushing for English fluency.
About 43.8 percent of people aged 30 to 40 grew up mainly speaking Chinese at home, NTNU Department of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature director Hsu Hui-ju (許慧如) said, citing an Academia Sinica survey.
The prevalence of Chinese over other languages — Taiwanese, Hakka and Aboriginal languages — along with parents of the younger generation not using languages other than Chinese poses the possibility that Taiwan is on an irreversible path toward becoming a monolingual country, Hsu said.
Less than 50 percent of people aged 25 or younger can fluently speak Taiwanese, she added.
“If the government does not take action and promote endangered languages, Taiwan will slide inevitably toward becoming a monolingual society,” Hsu said.
Domestic and international pop culture has shown a marked interest in using other languages, especially Taiwanese and particularly among young people, Hsu said, citing as evidence the number of times that songs in Taiwanese are viewed on YouTube.
Interest in Taiwanese could help to export Taiwanese popular culture abroad, creating a distinctive genre of “T-pop,” she said, citing other benefits of promoting the language, such as stronger social networks for Taiwanese as they age.
How to delay the mental effects of aging is an important issue, she said, adding that the promotion of languages other than Chinese might help.
Hsu said that Taiwan is likely to have as many as 900,000 people with dementia by 2065, compared with 290,000 last year.
Research has indicated that bilingual people with dementia are on average diagnosed 4.3 years later than those fluent in one language, and exhibit dementia symptoms 5.1 years later, she said.
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