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  • 2009-02-23

    [koe]: [Taipei Times] Li Khin-huann: Unkind cuts target the majority's language

    Taipei Times
    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2009/02/21/2003436654

    Unkind cuts target the majority's
    language

    By Li Khin-huann 李勤岸

    Saturday, Feb 21, 2009, Page 8

    'Taiwan has a proficiency certification
    system for every language,
    including Mandarin, Hakka and indigenous
    languages, but not Hoklo.'

    Since 2000, Feb. 21 has been observed as
    International Mother Language
    Day as proclaimed by the United Nations
    Educational, Scientific and
    Cultural Organization (UNESCO). On this
    day every year, UNESCO
    announces the current status of mother
    tongues worldwide and makes an
    urgent call to all countries to preserve
    language assets.

    The 2001 UNESCO report on mother
    languages around the world noted that
    languages in Taiwan, except for
    Mandarin, are dying. Although these
    languages, including Hoklo (commonly
    known as Taiwanese), Hakka and
    the many indigenous languages, continue
    to be widely spoken in some
    cases, they are all in need of
    preservation efforts.

    They are languages of Taiwan, but are
    also a common asset shared by
    all people. We do not have the right to
    harm or destroy them.

    It is a great shame that this year,
    Taiwan has witnessed the
    oppression of Hoklo on the eve of
    International Mother Language Day.

    We all thought that Taiwan had become a
    democratic state full of
    cultural diversity and multilingualism.
    The savage neglect of language
    and oppression of mother tongues should
    have passed into history.

    Who would have thought that several days
    before Lunar New Year,
    Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)
    Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) would
    propose scrapping the entire budget of
    NT$40 million (US$1.2 million)
    allotted to the Ministry of Education's
    National Languages Committee
    for developing a Hoklo language
    proficiency certification system.

    Did the NT$40 million make up a
    substantial part of the national
    budget of NT$1.8 trillion or the budget
    of NT$60 billion allocated to
    the ministry?

    The committee asked the legislature not
    to cancel its budget or at
    least not entirely because the
    proficiency test has been in
    preparation for a year, and said the
    government should leave some
    money for completing the project.

    But in the end, the entire budget was
    cut.

    What does this mean for the
    Hoklo-speaking population? It means that
    although they are the largest group in
    the country, they are now in a
    most disadvantageous situation and exert
    no influence.

    Taiwan has a proficiency certification
    system for every language,
    including Mandarin, Hakka and indigenous
    languages, but not Hoklo.
    What message does this send? That Taiwan
    has a barbarous government
    that is trying to eliminate Hoklo.

    The government has the obligation to
    protect humanity's linguistic
    assets. Previously, the KMT government
    failed to complete its mission
    of annihilating Taiwan's mother
    tongues. Now that it is back in power,
    it intends to finish the job.

    Hasn't the government bullied the
    public enough?

    We must take action on International
    Mother Language Day.


    Li Khin-huann is chair of the Graduate
    Institute of Taiwan Culture,
    Language and Literature at National
    Taiwan Normal University and chair
    of the World Coalition for Taiwan
    Languages.

    TRANSLATED BY TED YANG

    ------------------------------------

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