tribe says its dialect needs official recognition for exam

Aborigines from Kangke (??) Village, who are a branch of northern Taiwan’s Atayal tribe, protested last week against the Council of Indigenous People’s tribal language examination policy, requesting that the Kangke dialect be included.

The Kangke dialect has long been different from other Atayal languages because it was influenced by the Japanese language during the period of Japanese occupation.

The council plans to begin tribal language examinations next year, yet the Kangke dialect is not listed as one of the official dialects of the Atayal tribe, said Fang Hsi-en (???), an indigenous rights activist. In the examination policy, the Kangke dialect is incorporated into the Squliq and the C’uli’ dialects.

Fang said that to pass the tribal language exams, students in Kangke Village must now study either the Squliq or the C’uli’ dialects using a romanized spelling system because the Kangke dialect is nothing like them.

The scores on the language exam (which has no writing, by the way) can have a real effect on people’s lives. Under an affirmative action program set up by the Ministry of Education, members of Taiwan’s tribes are entitled to have their high school and college entrance exam scores raised by 25 percent. Under a policy expected to be made effective next year, those who pass a tribal language exam would have an additional 10 percent added to their scores.

Fang said that the system was unfair for Kangke students because the council did not classify their dialect as an official one. He said the tribal language examination should not be linked with entrance exams scores in any way.

Lee Su-min (???), the head of the Parent-Teacher Association at Kangke Elementary School, said that such a classification also stunted the preservation of the dialect and the Kangke culture….

In response to the protests, Wang Chiui (???), the director of the Department of Education and Culture at the council, said that the tribal language examination policy is still being discussed with the education ministry.

But the goal of the language examination was to promote tribal language education, Wang said.

Wang reminded the protestors that the language exam was in fact oral and that he would request that the council include the Kangke dialect in the exam.

If included, a representative from the village will also be invited to be an oral examiner, he said.

I wish someone had asked some of the linguists at Academia Sinica about this. Just how different is Kangke from what is currently officially recognized as Atayal? What’s the extent of the influence of Japanese on the language? Is it just a matter of some loan words? How many?

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4 thoughts on “tribe says its dialect needs official recognition for exam

  1. If you find the answers to those questions, please let me know! A little web searching in Japanese didn’t turn much up. The closest thing I found was the statement on Wikipedia that during the occupation Japanese was often used as a lingua franca by speakers of different Atayal dialects… perhaps if the Kangke speakers were fewer or more isolated than the others, they would have had to resort to this more, and it would have affected their own language more significantly?

  2. (OT) Last I heard some of the elderly indigenous folks still use Japanese as lingua franca. And I recall visiting a hospital in Hualien where the emergency department physician resorted to simple Amis and Japanese phrases as part of his history-taking (he is Hoklo, incidentally). Come to think of it, my grandmother occasionally still speaks Japanese with her friends, both Hakka and (more surprisingly) Holo.

  3. I think that’s true even of many younger Aborigines. One of my first roommates in Taiwan was Ami. She spoke Japanese quite well, an ability that served her well in her work as a bar girl on Linsen North Road. (For those of you who might have the wrong idea: No, she was not a prostitute.) Although she didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak any Japanese and had only extremly limited Mandarin at the time, we managed to communicate through a mixture of Mandarin and Japanese (bless those many borrowings from English!), much aided by the powerful linguistic tools of gestures and lots of beer. Ah, those were the days.

    Now, what was I talking about again?

  4. Wow, that would mean there was transmission of Japanese across generations independently of the state apparatus. At least I assume she didn’t pick up her Japanese from, say, the nearby Global Village Language Center :)

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