Teachers in Chiong1-hoa3 County (彰化; Zhānghuà) in central Taiwan are being offered inducements by local government to certify their Taiwanese ability, reports the Central News Agency. As part of the central government’s native language programme, all language teachers should be qualified to teach that language by 2011. Even in the traditional strongholds of the language – central and southern Taiwan – many children are growing up unable to speak the native language of their parents fluently.
Chiong-hoa County Education Department Curriculum Chief Ong Khang-gi said, “Many of today’s children are lost with Southern Min [Taiwanese] – can’t speak it, can’t understand it, can’t write it. To create enthusiasm for Southern Min amongst youngsters, language teachers just need to plan activities that involve the language; use it in music class, in drama, to give the children the chance to learn the sounds and tones of Southern Min during their studies.”
It’s worth bearing in mind that the mandated amount of time that native languages (Taiwanese, Hakka and the aboriginal languages) should be taught in class is in the order of a couple of hours per week. Despite claims to the contrary, this is not bilingual education – the system in this country remains “Mandarin, with a token nod to other tongues”.
For more on bilingual education in Taiwanese schools, see Johan Gijsen’s excellent blog, Talking Taiwanese.