Archive for April, 2008

More anti-Taiwanese Media…

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

A-gu has the latest on anti-Taiwanese editorials in the local media. He makes the excellent point that “people are allowing Holo Taiwanese to die”. There is no longer the deliberate oppression of the language from the martial law era, but it’s no longer necessary – the ambivalence of the general population towards native-language education will ensure the eventual demise of the language, unless something is done to reverse this trend.

If the aboriginal languages, Hakka, and Taiwanese do die (and it will likely be in that order) I believe it will inevitably and irrevocably impoverish the cultural landscape of this country.

China Post: The Evils of Tai-lo and Teaching Taiwanese

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

Taiwan has three English language newspapers; The China Post, The Taipei Times and the Taiwan News. The first, as you can probably tell from its name, is very pro-China, considers Taiwan to be an inalienable part of China, and despises the DPP (the outgoing ruling party). The other two are ideologically opposite to the China Post, and have their own numerous failings, but it’s an article in the China Post which caught my eye this week.

The article concerns a plan to “enforce” learning of Tâi-lô up to ninth grade in Taiwanese schools. It is so riddled with inaccuracy and ideologically motivated clap-trap that it’s hard to see any merit in it at all. Worse, rubbish like this just spreads misinformation about the language.

TAIPEI, Taiwan — All students in Taiwan, from ninth graders on down, may be required to learn what the Ministry of Education (MOE) defines as the “Taiwan Minnan language,” a Hoklo dialect popularly spoken on the island.

It is mandatory now that schoolchildren have to learn how to write Hoklo in Chinese logograms. Hoklo is a Min dialect of Chinese which used to be called Amoy.

Hmm, children have to do a couple of hours a week of native language education (which might be Hoklo (Taiwanese), Hakka or one of the aboriginal languages). There is no requirement to learn to write in Chinese “logograms” (characters).

Chinese nationalists often refer to Chinese as one language and the constituent parts like Mandarin, Wu, Hakka, Cantonese, Min and so on as “dialects”. From a linguistic point of view, however, it makes more sense to look on these parts as languages in their own right.

One dialect (here using the term in a linguistically more acceptable way) of Southern Min is Taiwanese. Taiwanese can be further split in to different regional variations. Amoy is related to Taiwanese, but is not the same thing. Both Amoy and Taiwanese are derived from a mix of Zhangzhou and Quanzhou dialects, but this happened at different periods in time and independently from one another.

All first through ninth graders would be compelled to learn how to Romanize the Taiwan Minnan language, if a new MOE program were implemented as from 2011.

The education ministry called a meeting to finalize the program yesterday.

Min is a nationally accepted moniker for Fujian, a province in southern China. Nan means “south.” The new term the education ministry has coined means literally the South Fujian language in use in Taiwan.

This is strange, because Minnan is the name used both by nationalists in Taiwan, usually in the form of Mǐnnányǔ 閩南語, and the government and media of China, who usually render it as Mǐnnánhuà 闽南话. It’s not a new coinage, nor is it something one would expect the China Post to be opposed to.

Amoy, the old name of Xiamen today, used to be the name given the Hoklo dialect.

Half right, it was referred to by some westerners as “The Amoy Dialect” as spoken in Taiwan. Even they made note of the difficulties in going between the two, with differences in pronunciation and meaning.

But the new syllabus for the teaching of the Taiwan Minnan language requires the use of a romanization invented in Taiwan, which differs from the Church Romanization in use around the world for more than a century.

True. I believe the ministry should probably have stuck with the “Church Romanization” (POJ, which incidentally the China Post has criticised in the past). Tâi-lô is a variation (some would say “improvement”) of POJ, with some small adjustments and the replacement of the tricky letter (an “o” with a dot above right, pronounced something like the “aw” in “thaw”) with oo.

As a matter of fact, the Tai-Lo pinyin or Taiwan’s Romanization spelling the education ministry mandates is more complicated than the Church Romanization and a little more difficult to learn.

Pure nonsense. There is no appreciable difference in difficulty between the two systems.

According to the syllabus, a third grader will be able to write e-mail with the new spelling method. Fifth graders have to be able to converse via MSN (Microsoft Network). Junior high students should acquire ability to blog by romanizing Hoklo words.

Sounds pretty good to me. It would be fantastic if this level was achieved, but I doubt it will be due to many factors, including political opposition and lack of adequately trained teachers. Hold on, here comes the generalising editor…

All this is highly unlikely to come true, however.

For one thing, parents are up in arms against the new method of writing.

Professors of linguistics taking part in yesterday’s meeting opposed the new teaching on grounds that students would be “much overburdened.”

No specifics – parents are up in arms, professors rebelling. I’m quite sure there are some professors and parents who think learning any of the languages of Taiwan except Mandarin is a waste of time. I’m also certain that many support native language teaching.

No parents want their offspring to suffer, if required to learn the difficult Taiwan-Romanization spelling.

The difficult Tâi-lô? Would that be difficult when contrasted with Chinese characters, which require years of study to Tâi-lô’s few weeks? Are these offspring not suffering through the degradation and decline of the native tongue of their parents?

People on Quemoy or Kinmen consider the MOE decision a demonstration of Taiwan’s Hoklo chauvinism. They speak the Zhangzhou version of Hoklo, sometimes quite different from the Zhuanzhou version which is popular in Taiwan.

Again, this is half right. “Zhuanzhou” here should read “Quanzhou”. Many people in Taiwan speak the Zhangzhou flavour of Taiwanese, not just those in Jinmen. However, the Jinmen version is closer to “pure” Zhangzhou than the Zhangzhou versions spoken on Taiwan island.

In fact, the Taiwan Minnan language is a mixture of the two versions.

Hurray! No faulting this sentence. Note how the editor has used the same term “Taiwan Minnan” which was obliquely criticised above.

Moreover, the new government, which will be installed on May 20, is unlikely to enforce the controversial eleventh hour program MOE Tu Cheng-sheng approved.

Tu has to resign before the Kuomintang takes over the government.

He has made another much ado about nothing to demonstrate his now incorrect political correctness.

I hate the way that language is such a politicised issue in Taiwan. I hate the way that due to ideological slants the media has to spout such rubbish about a topic I care about. I hate being identified with one political party because I choose to learn a particular language. I support the implementation of Hanyu Pinyin as the nationwide standard for Mandarin, which is a KMT policy. I support the teaching of native languages (not just Taiwanese) in schools, which is a DPP policy.

Apologies for the long-ish rant – articles like this are guaranteed to get my back up.

Free Films for Fans of Taiwanese Cinema

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

From the Taipei Times:

Free screenings of 18 classic Taiwanese movies in Hoklo will be held at 9:30am on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Tuesday until May 29 at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, the memorial hall said in a press release yesterday. The free screenings are part of an art movie appreciation activity organized by the memorial hall, which started five years ago, memorial hall director Cheng Nai-wen (鄭乃文) said. Film director and playwright Huang Ying-hsiung (黃英雄) will host a brief discussion session after each showing.

The list of films contains such classics as 春雨 “Spring Rain”, directed by Tseng Ching-wen, and 二十五張郵票 “25 Stamps” (English names are my translations) by the director Huang Ying-hsiung mentioned above. Some of the pictures have not been publicly screened in decades.