‘recognizing’ Taiwan’s languages

Law recognizing all languages urged

The government must take steps to legally preserve the diversity of Taiwan’s multicultural society while simultaneously working toward ethnic reconciliation, said academics and experts at the Ethnic and Cultural Development Conference yesterday.

Future policies should legalize the use and establish the importance of local languages, seek to accurately reflect a multicultural Taiwanese identity and avoid the assimilation-focused policies of the past, they said.

Over 200 participants gathered to talk with academics and political figures in the National Central Library on the first day of the three-day conference sponsored by the Council for Cultural Affairs, Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP), Council for Hakka Affairs, the Ministry of Education and the Veterans Affairs Commission.

In his opening remarks to the conference, President Chen Shui-bian (???) urged people to forget the mistakes of the past and focus on the future….

A focus of the conference yesterday was a draft law making all the languages used by ethnic groups in Taiwan national languages.

The proposed national languages development law would guarantee equal respect for all Taiwan-ese tongues, such as Hakka, Hoklo and all Aboriginal languages, Chen said.

The law, emphasized Chen, would not demand that everyone learn all national languages and would establish Mandarin as the official language to be used in government and administrative proceedings, said Chen.

Legal recognition of each dia-lect’s status is important, Chen said, because without such recognition “there would still be a long way to go towards ethnic reconciliation….”

“Although 77 percent of the ethnic Hoklo speak Hoklo at home, about 20 percent speak Mandarin in the home. For the Hakka, the percentage of people speaking Mandarin at home [41] exceeds that of those speaking Hakka [31], and we don’t even need to talk about the huge number of Aboriginals that do not speak their native tongue in the home,” said Peter Tuin (???), a professor at National Taitung University….

conference website