Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Photos of Historic Taiwan

Historic photographs along with a theme song from the I-Lan International Children's Folklore and Folkgame Festival. The KMT county magistrate discontinued the festival (inventing a lackluster "Rain" festival in 2009 when there was large objection to the loss of the international festival) but now that the new magistrate is from the DPP maybe they will start it back again.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas and Reminders to practice speaking Taiwanese.

It is great to see Taiwanese young professionals enjoying their Taiwanese language even though for their whole school life, they have been forced to use Mandarin and they are sometimes out of practice in expressing certain things in Taiwanese.

Here's a rough translation of their comments:

"Merry Christmas..." (speaker is originally from Chiayi)
"Merry Christmas, pastor... You must remember to practice Taiwanese language every day..." (speaker is originally from Pingtung)
"I'm sorry but I am too busy at the moment [to say anything on the video]..." (speaker is from Taipei)
"Merry Christmas, pastor. We all practice Taiwanese every day, how about you?" (speaker is Hakka)
"Do you remember how to speak Taiwanese? (This college student is from Kaohsiung and spoke too fast for me to catch two words...)"
"Merry Christmas, pastor. Thanks for letting us use your apartment to celebrate Christmas. ...(in Mandarin: "Goodbye.")...Sorry, I should not say [goodbye in Mandarin], I should say, "Goodbye." [in Taiwanese]... Come back soon." (speaker is from Pingtung)


If anyone has video links of other young folks in Taiwan using their non-Mandarin language mother tongue, please let me know. Use your digital camera to take video and you can upload your video clipping easily. Especially please take opportunities to video-tape young folks speaking Austronesian languages in Taiwan.

Here's another video of someone in Australia discussing mother-tongues in Hoklo Taiwanese. Notice how he still calls Mandarin "Kok-gí" [國語]-- the "national language." This propagandistic designation continued from the KMT authoritarian era creates a prestige-language environment that demeans other mother tongues in Taiwan.

The more appropriate designation of Mandarin would be "Hôa-gí" [華語] which is the international standard designation for Mandarin. Such usage would remove any problems in Taiwan, but still causes problems in China since it still propagates both a "prestige" title as well as misinformation. The Hôa 華 refers to ethnic "Chinese". That is like calling French "Latin" to the exclusion of other Latin-derived languages.

In Taiwan, there are three mutually unintelligible classical-Chinese derived languages: Taiwanese, Hakka, and Mandarin. There are many more mutually-unintelligible Chinese-derived languages in China including Cantonese, Shanghainese, etc. Mandarin is the furthest from classical Chinese because it was heavily influence by the non-Chinese Manchu conquerers who ruled China and other east and central Asian countries in an empire that lasted for four hundred years. It could be argued that because of the forced usage in authoritarian communist China, Mandarin is becoming the main "Chinese" language and so the designation is appropriate. At any rate, the designation "Hôa-gí" [華語] is the international standard and should be used in Taiwan instead of "Kok-gí" [國語] for clarity and neutrality. One could also call it Pak-kian-gí Beijing-Speach [北京語] -- but in most people's minds, this designation has come to refer to a northern dialect of Mandarin.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Overseas Taiwanese!" /// NOT "Overseas Chinese"

Cellist Felix Fan is an "Overseas Taiwanese." Mr. Fan is not an "Overseas Chinese."

It is good to speak up about Taiwanese identity at any and every opportunity -- whether academic events or music concerts. Take the time to set the record straight and to stand up for your nation and people.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Teach your children that Taiwan is a nation.

Teach your children that Taiwan is a nation. Don't buy maps or globes that show Taiwan as part of China. Of if you cannot find a correct map, make the correction yourself on the map.

Tim Maddog adds:

The Rand McNally M Series World Map, available at Caves Bookstore, is one which lists Taiwan properly.

I also saw this 5-inch purple globe (also available in gold) recently at Working House (生活工廠). It's a bit small, so the labels on small countries are difficult to read, but the reason I noticed it was that it lists Taiwan correctly and it's Made in Taiwan.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Benefit Concert for Taiwan's Typhoon Morakot victims (Pasadena, CA)

November 14, 2009 in Pasadena, California

Highlighted will be works by award-winning Taiwanese composer Dr. Tyzen Hsiao
For more information: Love Taiwan Society

Truly more people in Taiwan need to learn to love their own native land!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Submit Nominees for Awards of Hoklo Taiwanese (Minnan), Hakka or Indigenous Language Literature

Awards of Minnan, Hakka or Indigenous Language Literature to Accept Submissions Starting on September 2

August 20, 2009

The Ministry of Education is looking for literary masterpieces in Minnan, Hakka, or indigenous languages for the nomination of the annual literary award. Contestants will be divided into teachers, students, and general public. The top three of each group will receive monetary award of ten thousand to fifty thousand NT. Contestants must send in their works between September 2 and October 16. For more information please check out the official website.

Download: Mandarin text [.DOC format]

Ministry of Education
No.5, Zhongshan S. Rd., Zhongzheng Dist., Taipei City 10051, Taiwan

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Introduce your friends to Taiwan.

by Joel H. Linton • 蔡明憲 譯

Let us rebuild our mother tongue 讓我們重建我們的母語
And fill in the cracks 添補縫隙裂痕
And rediscover old paths 再發現那古老路徑
And trim the overgrown parts 修剪那無用的枝椏

Let us write our language 讓我們記述我們的言語
In this age of writing 在此寫作豐盛的時代
Holding people's respect 以得到人們的尊敬

Let us pave a new highway 讓我們開闢一條新大道
A road to self-determination 一條通往自決的路
Taking us out from 帶我們離開
The shadow of neighbor nations 鄰國的陰影

Out of oppression 離開壓制
Out from darkness 離開黑暗
That suffocates our life and breath 因為它窒息我們的生命
Into our free air 邁向自由的天空

Let us teach our children 讓我們教育我們的子女
So they do not forget 因此他們不會迷失
Lest our descendents become 以免我們的後裔
Another man's offspring 變成別人的子孫

Either give them schools 或是給他們學校
Where our languages are honored 可學習我們受遵重的語文
Or let us teach them at home 或是在家中親自教授
We will overcome 總之我們必定戰勝

The beauty of our culture 美麗的文化
Must not fade 不能凋謝消失
Or else this world 否則這個世界
Will lose all colors 將黯然失色

Following: A translation into French by Hsia Eiu-Long Cyril

A L’AIR LIBRE Into the Free Air - by Joel H. Linton

Laissez-nous reconstruire notre langue maternelle
reboucher les fissures
redécouvrir les anciens sentiers
Et débroussailler les parties envahies

Écrivons notre langue
En cet ère de lettres
Et gagnons d’autrui le respect

Pavons une route nouvelle
qui mène à l’auto-détermination
Pour nous sortir enfin
De l’ombre des nations voisines

Loin de toute oppression
Loin de l’obscurantisme
Ou l’on étouffe et suffoque
Jusqu’à l’air libre

Laissez nous éduquer nos enfants
Afin qu’ils n’ oublient point
Que nos descendants ne deviennent pas
La progéniture d’un inconnu

Qu’on leur donne leur des écoles
qui respectent leur langue
Ou on leur enseignera à la maison
On atteindra notre but

La beauté de notre culture
Ne doit pas disparaitre
Ou bien ce monde
Y laissera toutes ses couleurs

Friday, October 2, 2009

Taiwan's Majority Working Together

This just in from Jerome Keating who is the author of many books and articles including Taiwan: The Search for Identity published by SMC Books in 2008, as well as the very important June 8, 2009 article in the Taipei Times laying out the facts of the political history of Taiwan.


Taiwan’s Aborigines Suffer More Than Morakot
Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Typhoon Morakot did more than expose the incompetence and lack of leadership in the Ma administration; it highlighted another salient issue in Taiwan, the plight of its aboriginal people. Like many indigenous people suffering the fates of past colonialism, these people are pulled in opposite directions. Tugging on the one side is the wish to maintain their traditional life styles and identities; on the other side are the demands for survival and dignity in the modern, fast-paced, high-tech society surrounding them. As a result, they are being marginalized to the point of extinction. Even if they do fit in, at best, they often face the life of second class citizens teetering on the brink of welfare. If ever the aboriginal community needed vision and leadership, it is now.

Where to find it? The sight of aboriginal villages washed away and wiped out after Morakot has been horrendous; worse, however, is the realization that the causes were more than the typhoon. The devastation came as the result of lack of strong environmental policies and how mountainsides denuded of trees are unable to stop mudflow. Worse still is the fact that the decisions on deforestation and vulnerability were made by profiteers and forces outside the sphere of influence of the villagers.

Living in isolation on ancient ancestral lands, aborigines are often removed from the decision making processes around them. Further without pursuing pertinent related education and degrees that would help legitimize members and businesses in influencing the government’s decision making processes, they find their lives controlled by the outside.

The aborigines do live and participate in Taiwan’s democracy, but they have not yet learned to use their democratic vote to their advantage. Like any minority, they must fit in. But in fitting in while certain minority advantages are available in education and such, their leadership has no grand plan for their people. Instead, for example, they are satisfied with “vote buying handouts” and small gifts. The aboriginal vote has always favored the wealthy Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) like a dog begging for scraps. This in effect is selling their birthright for a mess of pottage.

As they pick up scraps, the aborigines have been unable to grasp the larger reality that the KMT is a Sino-centric party influenced by its hierarchical Confucian philosophy. In such, no matter how pleasant or inflated the talk, the aborigines will always rank as second class citizens and/or “Uncle Toms.” Further, they ignore how they have already been culturally denigrated and stereotyped as lazy, and drunkards with questionably loose morals by the same hand that gives them a dole.

One way to counter this cultural stereotyping is to elect new leaders, those who are able to relate to and stress a Taiwanese identity for them. For by DNA it has been demonstrated that 85 per cent of Taiwanese have aboriginal blood. This must be repeatedly emphasized. For with its admission and truth, aborigines are then not a minority but part and parcel of the majority. They share a common heritage with the most Taiwanese. Only one group, the waishengren are not one with them; yet it is those same waishengren who buy them off cheaply and look down on them.

In establishing a true vision of fitting in, the aborigines must realize that their best hope is in the building this Taiwanese identity. It is only within the framework of that Taiwanese identity that they will be able to find and maintain a true dignity and a competitive and cultural advantage. Because of this, the current president, Ma Ying-jeou, is actually their worst enemy. Ma repeatedly has tried to emphasize the fabrication of zhonghua minzu with all of its hierarchical implications and past baggage. Ma’s patronizing paternalism has already been demonstrated on numerous occasions by treating aborigines like children and second class citizens.

The answer to aboriginal problems will likewise not be found in legislators like Kao Chin (Gao Jin) Su-mei pandering to the money of Beijing for Beijing operates from the same paternalistic, hierarchical paradigm. A simple look at the plight of the Tibetans, and the Uyghurs demonstrates the results of that hierarchy. Both have become aliens and suffer in their own lands. If the aborigines think they will fare better because of temporary handouts from China, they are sadly mistaken. Morakot should be their wake up call. Where have 50 years of handouts from the KMT gotten them?

Instead, an additional alliance that aborigines of all tribes must forge is that with the environmentalists in Taiwan, both in politics and life. This is a natural alliance since all want to preserve and protect the ancestral lands of Taiwan. Included in this must be the commitment of some aborigines to long term education in these matters, just as some must make a commitment to areas like Austronesian studies. Such studies can also give them dignity. The fact that most recent research points to how the vast Austronesian Empire across the Pacific originated in Taiwan should spur them on to recapture their past dignity and rightful place. Pride in the past will never be found in an outmoded zhonghua minzu, but in an empire that they once did build and why it was lost.

Other writings can be found at http://zen.sandiego.edu:8080/Jerome


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Does she look "Chinese"?

Take a good look at this photo.

Many foreigners who come to Taiwan are often fixated on "the Chinese." They will describe Taiwanese people as "Chinese" this and "Chinese" that. They are the ones that find the name "China" Post much more attractive than a "Taipei" Times or a "Taiwan" News and so can be found almost exclusively reading it. With their China-colored spectacles, little do they know how politically charged, insensitive and ignorant they are.

The above photo is very typical of young beautiful women from Taiwan. Doubtless this type of foreigner will label her "Chinese" without a second glance. Just because someone has "Asian-looking" features in no way means that person is "Chinese." Koreans are not Chinese. Japanese are not Chinese. Taiwanese are not Chinese. This photo is of an up-and-coming recording artist from Taiwan named Naomi Yohani. Uh-oh, are you noticing her name is not "Chinese" at all? She is Austronesian -- half Sakizaya Austronesian, half Amis Austronesian from Hualien. She considers herself a native Taiwanese. So how can she look so similar to lots of other young Taiwanese girls out there if Taiwan is populated by "Chinese" as so many foreigners carelessly say?

She does look typical in many ways because the vast majority of Taiwan's people have Austronesian ancestry in addition to the Hoklo or Hakka ancestors that came from China several hundred years ago. Yes, Naomi speaks Mandarin, a "Chinese language," and perhaps does not speak as well the language of either of her parents, but that is because she along with everyone else in Taiwan has been forced to learn Mandarin and use it almost exclusively in the school system.

In the United States, we do not call Native Americans "English" -- or any American for that matter -- just because they speak English. We do not call Ugandans "English" just because they speak English.

Foreigners in the habit need to stop using the word "Chinese" to describe people from Taiwan. You should rather say of a recent Chinese immigrant who look like most people in Taiwan, "Oh, you look Austronesian, like the rest of the Taiwanese."

Incidently, her first name "Naomi" is not the Hebrew name, "Naomi" found in the Bible. It is Nao-mi, pronounced "now-me," and is a name handed down from her ancestors.

If you'd like to hear her music, please go to her website. She also has a Facebook fan page if you want to join.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Paiwan grass-roots help for those affected by Typhoon Morakot

The following was sent out from the email of a Golden Melody Award winner 2004 for best singer - non-pop category Rs Livlivang [see rs-legend.org]. She is from the Paiwan Austronesian people and has a cafe/studio in Hsindian. The Paiwan ancestral homeland is in the mountains of south Taiwan covering Taitung and Pingtung Counties - areas affected by some of the worst flooding/landslides, etc. It looks like you can be sure of direct and personal impact if you help them. I do not know any more details other than what is in the email, but from my interaction with them Rs and her husband seem very diligent in their labors on behalf of Taiwan's Austronesian peoples.

Their Cafe-Studio: 231 台北縣新店市大豐路 49 號 4 樓 4/f, 49 Da Fong Road, Shin Tien, Taipei, Taiwan

目前災區部落急需紙內褲、衣物、毛巾 等盥洗用品。煩請送來小劇場集中配送!台北縣新店市北新路二段16號3樓,如用網購或郵購可直接寄送到三地門鄉公所「歸麗卿」小姐收,屏東縣三地門鄉中正路二段100號,註明是穿裙子的獵人團隊的愛心。
Dear Friends:
The disaster areas urgently need the male and female disposal under wear, clothings, towels and other hygienic supplement. Please bring them to our office and we'll deliver the supplement directly to the village. Address: 3F, No.16, Bei Shin Road Section 2, Shin Tien City, Taipei County(台北縣新店市北新路二段16號3樓).
Best regards,
Allia Hu (胡健)

View Larger Map


The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan is also organizing relief efforts. See the following statement by PCT General Secretary Andrew T. C. Chang and Moderator of the General Assembly Leonard Tsung-jeng Lin.

If you are near National Taiwan University in Gongguan you can stop by their General Assembly Office and ask how you can contribute to help. Address: No. 3, Lane 269, Roosevelt Road, Sec.3, Taipei,106 TAIWAN
TEL: 02-2362-5282


The View from Taiwan blog also has an article with lots of pictures on taking aid down to Tainan's typhoon aid distribution center.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Taiwan: the roots of the Pacific and Indian Oceans' Austronesian culture tree

Music of Samingad is connected with that of Austronesian peoples from other places including Hawaii accompanying a video about Taiwan's connection with the peoples from Hawaii, Rapanui, New Zealand, Philippines, Malaysian, Indonesia all the way to Madagascar. I think this is a very good brief introduction to the languages, cultures, and history of the Austronesian peoples.

If you actually go to the youtube page, you'll see a lot of good comments from many places around the world that are quite helpful and informative.

Special thanks to Hōkūlani Kīna`ū (of Hawaii) for making this video.

Hawaiiki 臺灣 加油!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Save Taiwan's Creative Industries -- Keep China Out ; Keep China's Investment (enslavement) Money Out

In this video, you can see that Taiwan is capable of competing globally in music, videography, fashion and design. And you can see that the Taiwanese language also has an expressiveness not captured in Mandarin. Notice also the occasional splashes in the background of the main writing script for Taiwanese (apart from Han characters) -- a romanized alphabet, in which most of the books using the Taiwanese language over the past century have been written.

Now imagine what would happen if Ma Ying-jeou's ECFA and other schemes of causing Taiwan to be dependent on China were to be put into effect. This continued growth of creative expression cannot be sustained in an authoritarian environment such as China's. To allow Chinese music and film industries to invest in Taiwan's would be to allow China's government to control some of Taiwan's leading industries in Asia. What will keep China's government -- which makes decisions based on increasing its own power -- from taking steps to marginalize Taiwan's music and movie industry? Nothing would keep them once they leverage Chinese government controlled money in getting power over the direction of Taiwan's companies. And they will do it. So anyone in the industry who has visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads need also have those dollar signs linked by shackles of slavery. You will end up leaving your homeland and being forced to move to Shanghai or Beijing and also to self-sensor.

Over time, Taiwan would diminish. Anything "happening" would be "happening" across the strait. All the young folks would have to move their to make it big... Over time, the harsh-sounding Mandarin of the north would be imitated in the way the Chow Yun-fat has done in his interviews for the DVD's Pirates of the Caribbean -- At World's End. Though he could have spoken in English, or his mother tongue of Cantonese, he chose to use Beijing Mandarin, a language that was not in use at the era portrayed by the Pirates movies, but a language that already is infecting Hong Kong as the language of power and the language to toady to the dictators in Beijing. Maybe he's proud of the JUAN-SHR harsh curled sounds that he made. But it is sad that a native of Hong Kong would not use his own mother-tongue now that Hong Kong has been controlled by China for ten-plus years.

China would be even more harsh if it were to annex Taiwan some time down the road. It would attempt what the KMT started -- an eradication of any identification with Taiwan.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Taiwan - a cultural leader in styles of opera and dance

Ilan County is the home of the Koa-a-hi, a style of traditional opera that was started in 1910, and because of its robustness, it quickly spread, overtook, and replaced all previous styles of art song and theatre in Southeast Asia and China wherever there were communities of ethnic Han peoples who hosted and viewed these performances in conjunction with traditional religious practices and temple worship.

I-Lan is also the home of the Lan-Yang Dance Company, the most famous in Taiwan. Now one of its members has received international recognition. Lee Chen-wei (李貞葳), an I-Lan native, was recruited to perform with an internationally acclaimed dance company in Israel. We wish her well and hope that a successful career will bring Taiwan international respect and understanding as Tainan native Ông Kiàn-bîn 王建民 (usually transliterated into Mandarin as Chien-Ming Wang) has done through his career with the New York Yankees professional baseball team.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu 陳菊 -- the face of Taiwanese Identity

Here is the true face of Taiwanese Identity:

Chen Chu 陳菊, Kaohsiung's mayor, was born in I-Lan County, SanHsin Township. Like many of the SanHsin residents, she very probably has a mixture of Austronesian-Kavalan, Hoklo, and Hakka ancestry. The next time I meet her, I'll ask this question.
She helped form the magazine, Formosa, which was pushing for freedom and democracy in Taiwan. It was shut down within the year by the KMT authoritarian government who did not hold the democratic values of free speech. She was arrested and imprisoned by the KMT authoritarian dictatorship government of Chiang Ching-kuo after the international human rights day demonstration in Kaohsiung in 1979.

As mayor of Kaohsiung, she visited China and refused to use any protocol or wording that would compromise the truth that Taiwan is not part of China. Yet her visit was received and respected. She did not bow to the current emperor of China (Chinese Communist Party) in obeisance like the KMT leaders in Taiwan have done.

She showed respect to the PRC as a legitimate country. And she stood up for and demanded respect for Taiwan as a separate country.

Her hosting of the World Games in Kaohsiung has shown dignity and restraint as well as an unflinching stand for Taiwan, its people, and their human rights.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"I do not speak "Southern Min"; I am not from Fujian Province; I am Taiwanese

This from --- Hui-hông:









附件三:1996年《世界語言權宣言》(Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights)摘錄


Article 31第三十一條Tē Sann-tsa̍p-it Tiâu

All language communities have the right to preserve and use their own system of proper names in all spheres and on all occasions.


Sóo-ū ê gú-giân siā-kûn lóng ū khuân-lī tī sóo-ū ê huān-uî kap tiûnn-sóo tiong pó-tsûn pĪng-tshiánn sú-iōng in ha̍p-gî ê miâ-sènn hē-thóng. 

Article 32第三十二條Tē Saⁿ-tsa̍p-jī Tiâu

1. All language communities have the right to use place names in the language specific to the territory, both orally and in writing, in the private, public and official spheres. 

2. All language communities have the right to establish, preserve and revise autochthonous place names. Such place names cannot be arbitrarily abolished, distorted or adapted, nor can they be replaced if changes in the political situation, or changes of any other type, occur. 



Sóo-ū ê gú-giân siā-kûn lóng ū khuân-lī iōng in khu-hi̍k tsuan-sio̍k gí-giân sú-iōng tē-miâ, bô-lūn sī kháu-gí ia̍h-sī su-siá, tī su-té-hā, kong-khai ia̍h-sī kuann-hong ê tiûnn-sóo. 

Sóo-ū ê gú-giân siā-kûn lóng ū khuân-lī kiàn-li̍p, pó-tsûn, kap siu-kái in ka-tī ê guân-sú tē-miâ. Tsia ê tē-miâ bē-sái iōng bú-tuān ê hong-sik huì-tî, niú-khiok, sīm-tsì kái-siá, mā bē-sái in-uī tsÌng-tī ia̍h-sī kî-tha tsōng-hóng ê kái-piàn tso-siū tio̍h thè-uānn. 

Article 33第三十三條Tē Sann-tsa̍p-sann Tiâu

All language communities have the right to refer to themselves by the name used in their own language. Any translation into other languages must avoid ambiguous or pejorative denominations. 


Sóo-ū ê gí-giân siā-kûn lóng ū khuân-lī iōng in ka-tī ê gí-giân tshing-hoo ka-kī. Jīm-hô miâ-sènn ê huan-i̍k pit-su pī-bián huat-sing iōng-jī hâm-hôo ia̍h-sī khin-bia̍t ê tsōng-hóng.

Article 34第三十四條Tē Sann-tsa̍p-sì Tiâu

Everyone has the right to the use of his/her own name in his/her own language in all spheres, as well as the right, only when necessary, to the most accurate possible phonetic transcription of his/her name in another writing system. 


Lâng-lâng ū khuân-lī iōng in ka-kī ê gí-giân tī sóo-ū ê tiûnn-ha̍p sú-iōng ka-kī ê miâ-sènn. Kāng-khuán lâng lâng mā ū khuân-lī tī pit-iàu ê tsōng-hóng ê sî-tsūn, iōng tsuè tsiap-kīn in miâ-sènn huat-im ê hong-sik kā tsuán-tsò bûn-jī.



Friday, July 17, 2009

Finding that it is Better to Speak more than just Mandarin

Notice how Scotland is dealing with its indigenous language that has been overshadowed by the dominant English. The video is actually subtitled in Basque, a minority language in northern Spain. The video was being shown to encourage what was happening in Scotland to happen in the Basque region of Spain. There are some lessons to be learned for Taiwan.

Being Bi-lingual is Better.

There is Great Inherent Worth in Language Regeneration.

"You have people who support the language and people who feel that too much money is being spent by the Scottish government to preserve a language that is maybe dying."
"The parents here are very focused. They believe in the cognitive development associated with bilingualism."
"Here I am in my fifties and I realize what an enriching experience it has been in my life to actually have been an ... indigenous monoglot Gaelic speaker at age five."
"Gaelic is not something you should put in your pocket; Gaelic is a badge that you should be proud of."

Taiwan should follow Scotland's example by starting schools whether private or public for the native languages of Taiwan.

You can put signs on different stores -- e.g. "Taiwanese is spoken here." "Hakka is spoken here." "Tayal is spoken here." -- Write it in Mandarin, and also in the actual language.

The following phrase was taught to a foreigner recently by Zengrur Valjakas, a seminary student in the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan's Jade Mountain Seminary in Hualian. He learned his mother tongue -- not at school which only teaches Mandarin -- but in a Paiwan Presbyterian Church in Pingtung. He learned to read and write from the Paiwan Bible. He learned because his parents taught him to value the language.

"I ni machaku tiaken ta kai nua kachalishian."
Not -- able to -- I -- language -- of -- mother tongue.
"I am not able to speak my mother tongue." - Paiwan language -- kai na Paiwan

Many think of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan as an ethnic Hoklo Taiwanese church. Everyone always says, "The Presbyterian Church -- they speak Taiwanese, right?"

Actually the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan values every language and culture in Taiwan. And they are taking steps to act on those values. In the April 2009 General Assembly meeting, a motion was passed that requires every pastor before becoming ordained to be able to: 1. Understand, 2. Speak, 3. Read, 4. Write using their mother-tongue (one of Taiwan's non-Mandarin languages.)

There is also a plan to provide teachers of each mother-tongue so classes are available in the churches of each language community in Taiwan.

At a recent symposium this summer, where there was a gathering of over 150 Presbyterian church pastors from many different languages and peoples of Taiwan, you could see that the respect was more than just words: Some of the prayers were in Amis, Tayal, Paiwan -- not just Taiwanese and Mandarin. Presumably if there were more opportunities, you would have heard prayers in Hakka and other Austronesian languages of Taiwan.

It would be good to see other institutions and businesses making the same effort to preserve Taiwan's rich cultures. Let's get other civic and community organizations to join in.

And if you wish to learn your mother tongue, perhaps you should take a walk to your nearby Taiwanese Presbyterian Church and they will put you into contact with a pastor who can speak it and teach it to you.

P.S. On this issue, another Christian group must be mentioned. The Roman Catholic Maryknoll Language Institute is to be commended. Their main campus is in Taichung, but they have a center in Taipei as well as online courses. They currently have text books for Hakka and Hoklo Taiwanese -- with the instructions and explanations in a number of languages -- including English, Korean and Mandarin. Some of the Maryknoll Priests are also fluent in some of the Austronesian languages and could serve as good contacts for any community organizations who wish to renew their community's mother tongue and develop curriculum to teach it in their local schools.


Another endangered language: the Northern Europe arctic Saami language -- "There are approximately 300 words to describe different types of snow and ice." "The authorities have been telling people through many many years through education, the schools, military, administration ... that the Saami language is no good. This is from the thinking that some races and countries are superior to others. This has been so strong that the parents have begun to believe that it might be dangerous, it might be no good, for the children to learn the language. And this is why the parents decided to stop teaching the children. ... now more and more people realize the wrongs -- and they are taking up to teaching the Saami language again."

See how it is being revitalized:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Taiwan's first kingdom centered in Tainan,

Recommended reading: There is an excellent article from The View from Taiwan that we highly recommend -- it discusses research into the Hizen Porcelain trade and Taiwan's international trading kingdom of the 1600's.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Plains-tribes Austronesians make up the majority of Taiwan's population

This week I visited the Taiwan Shop in Taipei across from National Taiwan University and I found many books about the Austronesian plains tribes that were eventually forced to assimilate with the Han immigrants under the Manchu empire. They often are called the Pingpu.

If one actually stopped to consider, almost all of the Hoklo Taiwanese and Hakka Taiwanese have Pingpu ancestry. The majority of people in Taiwan today are descendants of the Austronesian whether Pingpu or East Coast and High Mountain peoples. Why are Austronesians in Taiwan only numbered at 2 percent of the population? Did they stop having children? No. But those who lived among the Han peoples on the west coast in the past 300 years and also those moved to the cities and began going to Mandarin language schools in the past century eventually were assimilated into the dominant culture.

Some of these descendants of Pingpu peoples are trying to regain their cultural distinctives. An article in the Taipei Times this week shows how the recognized Austronesian tribes would like to welcome them, but certain government officials are trying to drive a wedge between the plains tribe Austronesian descendants and the Central Mountain and East Coast recognized tribes.

Part of the motivation may be to try to discourage identification with a non-Chinese culture because that would expand the legitimacy of Taiwan's distinct status and make it clear to the world that China has no right to claim Taiwan. Imagine if Taiwan were classified at 60 percent Austronesian (genetic studies would put the number higher). That would leave the "pure-blood" Han Chinese as an ethnic minority and people would start thinking of Taiwan as they think of Malaysia or Indonesia that has a large ethnic Chinese minority. No one believes China has a right to claim these countries.

Also found at the Taiwan Shop was a new work in the plains-tribe Austronesian Siraya language published in 2002 by Edgar Macapili. Mr. Macapili writes his own version of the story of Noah's Ark in the Siraya language, called "Ta Avang ki Noe-an." The book also carries Mandarin and English translations. His story concludes with a hopeful tone of a new earth to live in. One can understand this hope in the hearts of the assimilated Pingpu plains Austronesian tribes: that one day they may walk this land with the names and languages of their ancestors instead of always being under a forced alien culture and language.

I quote the opening:

"Ka si-uru-uru tu naunamu ki way k'ata, nipey-ring-ey pa-ilpugh ta ti Alid ki vulu-vulum ka nay apa. Ni pakavantaw tin k'ana ta imεd ki kamamangka aku-kawagh-εn: ki irang, usi-using apa, ni-maran, ni-munonang ka ni-saw-abigh-apa. Ni murila ka pa-kaw'h-'mha-ato k'ana tu purugh tumang ka na vavare ki mariang-amighki vare, ka ududo ki matikanagh ku ralum."

The name for God is: "Meirang Alid"

English: "In the beginning God made heaven and earth. He filled it with life that jump, walk, hop and fly; green, red, short, long, circle and all kinds of colors and shape. They all dwelt and grew in the land where blew fresh cool breezes and flowed clean ocean water. Blossom and fragrance of grasses filled the air. There were sweet as well as sour fruits, also all kinds of vegetables grew in different seasons. All things were good and beautiful."

... [full text; this story was turned into a musical to be performed at schools; see the song lyrics; blog of the struggle of the Siraya people]

Both at the Taiwan Shop and at the nearby SMC Publishing there are dictionaries of some of the plains tribe languages now almost lost -- including Siraya (Sinkang dialect), Pazeh, etc. Also there are many language resources for the Austronesian languages in Taiwan -- all of them are endangered because of the government of Taiwan's insistence on using Mandarin as the only language of instruction in the public schools.

Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's current president, has moved recently to downgrade even the one-hour per week "local" language class. Now these classes have been classified as extra-curricular languages -- like foreign languages and have been put into competition with English. Faced with the decision of whether to have one's child learn English or some rapidly disappearing language, what would most parents in Taiwan choose? Without actually abolishing the classes, Ma's government has taken steps to destroy them. Without a consistent steady class offering, those language teachers who teach these local languages will not be able to earn enough to make a living and so basically there will be fewer teachers able to teach the languages in future years as we begin to see losses from the current group of language teachers.

What needs to happen is what happens in Ireland and Wales: Elementary schools for each township with its local language should be offering at least half of all academic instruction in the local language. Signs in the communities should be bi-lingual -- the local language and also Mandarin. These non-Mandarin languages and cultures need to be shown respect.


The following video shows Edgar Macapili's performance of a Siraya song, "Spring forth Siraya":

Pictures from the 2008 Siraya conference: (You'll notice how the Siraya from this township had already taken on many of the dominant Han culture -- Hoklo's -- cultural elements including architecture and way of life:

News report on the Siraya dictionary compilation. The language had been basically extinct with the Siraya people using Hoklo Taiwanese. TITV reports that the only extant remnant of the language was that a few old folks remembered a few expressions in Siraya.

Children's Choir singing in Siraya:

On their fight for recognition. (Notice that many in their discussion are speaking Taiwanese and Mandarin.)

One Siraya interviewee said that the government's "Council for Indigenous People" under the current Ma administration has a function to "eliminate" indigenous people. Some Seediq peoples and other recognized Austronesian groups joined the protest. One of the Pazeh Pingpu people also was interviewed:

Monday, May 18, 2009

International Media convention on describing the China-Taiwan historical relations causes confusion

If you read here an update on James Van Der Beek, the star of the upcoming movie Formosa Betrayed, you can begin to understand why so many around the world are still confused about Taiwan's situation.

Undoubtedly, the reason the reporter stated "30,000 Taiwanese were killed in a revolt against their Communist Chinese rulers" is because the international media repeat ad nauseum the false statement that Taiwan and China split amidst a civil war in 1949. So someone who keeps reading that in every single news story about China-Taiwan relations will hear about a 228 massacre and assume that it occurred during the "Chinese Civil War" and assume that the Communists killed the Taiwanese then and that the Taiwanese were revolting against their rule, thereby created a civil war.

You see, to state "Taiwan and China split amidst a civil war in 1949" is to cause people to think about a situation like Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tiger rebels. But this whole perspective is completely incorrect.

A better analogy would be the Nazis versus the Soviets and the innocent bystanders who got caught in the cross-fire. The fascists in China fought against the communists in China in a civil war. Taiwan had no part in it. The fascists lost the war, probably because they were more corrupt in their governance of the territory in China they controlled. These fascists are the "Chinese Nationalist Party" regime of Chiang Kai-shek. They were evacuated by the American navy to Taiwan, a Japanese colonial territory left over from World War II, and there these fascist Chinese exiles then proceeded to seize power, murdering any potential Taiwanese opposition. In the 228 Massacre they killed tens of thousands of Taiwanese. They set themselves up as a very oppressive (think Stalin-Hitler-Mao-Pinochet type) elitist authoritarian regime ruling Taiwan with violence while effectively presenting a face of a supposedly democratic "Free China" to the rest of the world.

Instead of lazily continuing to repeat the fictional propaganda out of China (that the two sides supposedly "split amidst a civil war"), the international media must come up with a new convention to actually accurately reflect the historical reality.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Clarity of Taiwan's Identity

* Permission is given for the use of these original photos in media and blogs.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Speak your Mother Tongue on Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day!

Today is the day to speak your mother tongue, or the mother tongue of your parents' generation if it has become a second language to you.

Let's make this an annual event with lots of press and promotion!

The next step is to have ongoing activities and extra emphasis in the schools and at community activities and in the workplace to start on International Mother Tongue Day (February 21) and to end on Mother's Day (the second Sunday of May).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

KMT "Greater China" government ideology opposing revival of plains-tribe Austronesian culture

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) of the KMT-controlled Taiwan national government has been active in opposing the rediscovery of Austronesian plains-tribe ancestry and revival of their Austronesian Siraya culture. Whereas Ma Ying-jeou pretended to a Taiwan-centric consciousness during the presidential campaign, upon his election and inauguration, he has pursued the ruthless Greater China ideology of the authoritarian one-party KMT dictatorship of his father's generation.

In the past two centuries, many of the lowland Austronesian peoples were forced to take on Han surnames of the larger Hoklo or Hakka ethnic groups and additionally the non-Chinese Manchu cue to symbolize submission to the Manchurian empire which had conquered and ruled several nations including China for several hundred years. The Pazeh and Siraya peoples were absorbed, their cultural distinctives almost completely destroyed. The Kavalan people of the I-Lan plain escaped this fate by moving to Hualien and living among the still culturally-strong Austronesian Amis people. Fortunately for the Siraya people, they had registered their ethnicity in the Japanese colonial era, and some had taken very unique Han surnames. So their descendants have been able to ascertain their ancestry and now seek to reclaim their cultural heritage while throwing off the Han culture that was forced on their ancestors.

But with the colonialist "Greater China" ideology of the Chinese Nationalist Party now currently in power in Taiwan, any attempts to revive non-Chinese Austronesian culture are either treated with neglect and indifference or even suppressed if neglect and indifferent do not do the trick to put out the fire of the cause. This arrogant dismissal of the legitimacy of these people's rights to reclaim their ancestors' culture that was taken from them illustrates the brutal elitist attitude of both the Chinese Nationalist Party in power and two thousand years of Chinese culture that consider all outside their domain as barbarians and almost less than human.

Please see the following news report. Taiwan needs representatives of every ethnicly distinct cultural group in Taiwan -- whether Hoklo, Hakka, Ami, Atayal, Bunun, Kavalan, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiyat, Sakizaya, Seediq, Thao, Taroko, Tsou, or Yami -- to speak up. If you do not stand up to the Mandarin Chinese colonialist attitude now, your cultures will also one day die, through a slow death of neglect and even suppression by the government you yourselves helped elect.


Following is a link to taiwanschoolnet.org about the revival and restoration work for the Siraya language.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ethnic equality can only come through Language equality

Taiwan is a diverse nation. The homeland of the Austronesian peoples, it still can claim the greatest diversity of Austronesian languages around the world. But native speakers are dwindling fast with the relentless onslaught of a China-focussed Chinese Nationalist Party that has always ruled the legislature since it seized power in Taiwan in 1945. It organized the educations system to promote a "Greater China" ideology that sought to erase any loyalty to local cultures in Taiwan -- basically any non-Mandarin cultures -- whether Hakka, Hoklo, or any of the 13 14 government-recognized Austronesian people groups in Taiwan. The school systems around the nation are still functionally restricted to Mandarin-only instruction through both momentum of the education culture of the "prestige" Mandarin environment, and also through the culpable neglect or even suppression of any attempts to expand a non-Mandarin learning environment.

A recent example in the legislature where the ruling party was confronted for its elitist dismissive attitude towards Taiwan's non-Mandarin languages

Under the Tân Chúi-píⁿ (Chen Shui-bian) administration (2000-2008), a one-hour per week mother-tongue class was added in the elementary school. But that is not enough. Information and knowledge must be taught in other languages. Works must be written and read in other languages for the languages to be preserved in this era.

"What are the most important factors in the survival and spread of a language? The crucial point is to sustain and grow the speaker community. This may be done by natural growth in a fertile environment -- which may be quite an exploitative and objectively ruthless process, if the environment has been obtained through conquest and dispossession. But it may also be achieved through taking over another advanced community, as French spread in the 18-19th-century Russian high society; there, competence in a new language, symbolic of interest in new developments, was no threat to the substrate language, Russian. Provided that their speaker populations stay physically robust, the only threat to a language comes from a decline in speaker attitudes toward it: speakers must associate it with a least some of their daily needs or higher aspirations..." (emphasis added) - Nicholas Ostler in an interview with the California Literary Review, 6/1/2005

Ethnic equality will only come through language equality. Until that happens, there will be an inexorable degradation and exponentially decreasing population of any cultures other than the current prestige language and culture in Taiwan.

Chi Chun-chieh, Associate Professor at the Institute of Ethnic Relations at National Dong Hwa University write on the issue in a recent opinion editorial.

What can be done since the KMT-controlled legislature is intransigent on this issue?

* Use non-government organizations to give respect, honor and prestige to the non-Mandarin language teachers in Taiwan.

* Encourage each non-Mandarin language-community to develop their own wikipedia language encyclopedia. There is already one for Hoklo Taiwanese.

* Organize students in mother-tongue classes and societies in upper elementary, middle, and high school to regularly add entries to both wikipedias and wiktionaries. (As these students see a result and a value, they will continue to pursues studies in their mother-tongues.)

* Develop video production student organizations to produce Youtube reports and video pieces in their non-Mandarin mother tongues. (N.G.O's could award prizes such as computers and video cameras and editing software to poor communities specifically for student-produced video material in the non-Mandarin mother-tongues of Taiwan.)

* Set-up publishing funds and prizes for non-Mandarin literature in Taiwan.

* Create non-Mandarin bloggers associations to cross link and encourage weekly blogging articles in the non-Mandarin languages of Taiwan.

* Set up joint non-profit mother-tongue language and cultural promotion offices around Taiwan. Have these offices to be provide libraries and also the available purchase of non-Mandarin mother-tongue language material -- video, audio, and printed matter. However large or small these offices are, special attention should be paid to the interior design to instill a high class, high culture, prestige to these languages that they will be valued.

* Create a nation-wide catalogue and online ordering center for non-Mandarin mother-tongue works.

* Christian churches need to also take responsibility, because they are one element of community-level organization. For the Christian population in Taiwan, translate the children's catechism (question & answer) from Mandarin and English into the non-Mandarin languages, In non-Mandarin churches around the nation, have part of the curriculum for the children to be catechism drills. They will learn both language and Bible teachings. For the youth, help them learn and encourage singing and Bible reading in the mother-tongue.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Continuing Degradation of Austronesian Culture

"“[Government policies] have forced Aborigines into mainstream society, where they are forced to live the Han Chinese way of life,” Liu Chien-chia (劉千嘉), a doctoral candidate in sociology at National Chengchi University, told a conference on changes in the Aboriginal population.

“But different ethnic groups have different lifestyles and different ways of thinking,” she said.

Starting in the 1970s, the pursuit of better living standards drove a large migration from rural, Aboriginal towns and villages into major cities such as Taipei and Kaohsiung, as well as into Taoyuan County, where a large number of factories are located, Liu said."

article Taipei Times 2009/4/12

Friday, April 10, 2009

Trend of Cultural Annihilation -- from the KMT

"... The Ma administration is gradually redefining Taiwanese culture as more "Chinese" than Taiwanese."

"... Mr. Ma is not the first Kuomintang leader to do this. The KMT embraced "Chinese-ness" for an entirely different reason: From the 1950s to the 1970s the dictatorial KMT-led regime legitimated its rule over the island by declaring that Taiwan was "Chinese," brutally suppressing local identities. Acceptance of local identities grew after Taiwan's transition to democracy in the 1990s.

Given this history, the claim that the people on both sides of the Strait belong to the zhonghua minzu is clearly colonialist: To say that someone belongs to the zhonghua minzu is to assert that they and their territory are part of the Chinese nation. It is thus common to hear Chinese nationalists define such disparate peoples as Manchus, Tibetans, Mongolians, Uighurs and Taiwanese indigenous peoples as "Chinese" and therefore, inevitably, part of China. To the Chinese, who constantly refer to their "brothers and sisters" across the Strait, this language legitimates China's drive to swallow Taiwan."

excerpt from "The Culture of Taiwan: President Ma Ying-jeou's symbolic gestures matter." - By MICHAEL TURTON | From today's Wall Street Journal Asia.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Some Taiwanese youth have found their identity.

These artists have no ambiguity about their identity.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Colonialist Attitude still rampant in Elite KMT circles

Here is an opinions editorial about the remaining colonialist attitude that many elites in Taiwan have towards the Taiwanese people.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Remedying Ignorance and Disinterest in Taiwan's Ecological Treasures

Video of an Asiatic Black Bear --- so cute. I have yet to find out whether it is the Formosan black bear subspecies or not. (I hear background English and Japanese audio so the zoo could be in Japan.)

Taiwan has a lot of indigenous wildlife -- endangered species and subspecies. Recent hype and focus on pandas in the Taipei Zoo as well as 50 years of focus on China's history, geography and culture in the school systems leaves Taiwanese ignorant or distracted from the rich, diverse and unique wildlife that needs to be preserved in Taiwan. Imagine what could be done with the money now being spent to keep the pandas at the Taipei Zoo!

At all the elementary schools and kindergartens, you see motifs of pandas and tigers and other animals that carry no special significance or relation to Taiwan's natural wonders, wildlife and resources.

It would be far better to emphasize Taiwan's native species: replace the Panda motifs with Formosan Black Bears (臺灣黑熊). Replace the tigers with Formosan Clouded Leopards (臺灣雲豹). What about the Sika Deer? The Swinhoe's Pheasant (藍腹鷴)? (I've seen a label in one picture that called it a Chinese Blue Phoenix! But it is found in Taiwan, not China.) And yes, one could think of it as representing a mythical phoenix. Why not replace the phoenix motifs in schools with the Swinhoe's pheasant or the Mikado Pheasant (黑長尾雉)? How about replacing dragon motifs with armor-plated Formosan Pangolins (臺灣鯪鯉)? Then you have the Formosa Blue Magpie (臺灣藍鵲), the Flying Squirrels and the different eagles (e.g. the Crested Serpent Eagle 大冠鷲) and hawks which also should be highlighted.

As these animals become emphasized elements and valued wildlife representing Taiwan (in the same way that panda's represent China), there will be a driving force in the culture that seeks to preserve habitats, environments and wild-spaces.

Taiwan needs this cultural value because the fifty years of KMT authoritarian dictatorship saw only the value of making as much money as you can or preparing to "fight back" to China. The KMT regime saw Taiwan as a resource to exploit and a temporary home of exile, but not something as to be valued, cherished and nourished in itself.

Those under the authoritarian rule were subject to the brainwashing and China-focused ideology that again ignored or almost deliberately suppressed knowledge of Taiwan's ecological resources or anything else that would contribute to the people being loyal to their homeland instead of an ultimate allegiance to the regime or China. Taiwan was not to be valued for itself. The KMT wanted to create a loyalty to China.

With both the uncertainty for the future and the focus away from Taiwan, people trampled on the environment, poached bears and clouded leopards for Chinese medicine, and haphazardly destroyed habitat.

We need to save the ecological treasures that remain in Taiwan and seek a way to bring them back to a sustainable flourishing level. More than just saving them, we need to nurture them. We need to not just think of green spaces in Taipei's cities to give its citizens a peace of mind, but also wild spaces where there is intentional husbanding of all the beautiful, unique and irreplaceable ecological resources of Taiwan.

Here is a list of some of Taiwan's vunerable species

Here is an article on Hwang Mei-hsiu (黃美秀), a Pingtung University of Science and Technology professor's work to protect the Formosan Black Bear.

Here is one organization Wild at Heart which works to improve wild-life and nature conservation in Taiwan.

The View from Taiwan write on reintroducing the clouded leopard.

See also the Taiwan Review article In Search of the Clouded Leopard

Monday, March 9, 2009

Memorial in the Mountains for Victims of 2-28, 1980 Assassination

浴火歷史的民主價值 --- 撰文/吳乃德 Wu Naiteh


「一個由獨裁政治過渡到民主的國家,有兩個必須履行的義務。第一個責任是對它的受難者。第二個責任是對國家的未來:確保獨裁永遠不再回來。這個國家必須創造一個新的、民主的政治文化。」一個民族如何面對它的過去,決定了它將如何建立未來。 ...continued...

[PDF text of the Full Speech]

Friday, February 27, 2009


二二八和平紀念日行文 印主烈牧師 二○○五年二月廿八日










Learning more about February 28, 1947 Massacre

If you wish to understand Taiwan's identity, one defining moment in history was the February 28, 1947 Massacre. A reminder of that event happened in 1980 after the Kaohsiung Incident. On February 28, 1980, the family of Lin I-hsiung was assassinated in their home in broad daylight. As the home was under 24-hour secret police surveillance, there is no doubt that the murders of Lin I-Hsiung's family were ordered by the KMT Chinese Nationalist Party dictatorship under Chiang Ching-kuo. Several other prominent assassinations of those critical of the regime happened in following years: in 1982, the murder of a professor on the grounds of National Taiwan University (claimed a suicide by the government) and in 1984, the assassination of a Taiwanese professor in California after he wrote a biography critical of the KMT dictator at the time, Chiang Ching-kuo.

For the events leading up to February 28, 1947 Massacre, you can read an online book, Formosa Calling by a New Zealander Alan Shackleton who wrote an eyewitness account of the events. Also you can read Formosa Betrayed by George Kerr, an America defense attaché who was stationed in Taiwan at the time, was fluent in Hoklo Taiwanese and observed and reported events as they happened.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taiwan Austronesian Dictionary

The Taiwan Shop has for sale a set of Amis-Mandarin and Mandarin-Amis dictionaries. This dictionary was completed in 2007. Such a dictionary is important for the preservation of the language. The next step would be to create a dictionary where the Amis word definitions were also written in the Amis language. Right now there also is an Amis-language Bible. Someone familiar with this Austronesian language should use the dictionary to set up a Wikipedia Amis language site as well as a Wiki Dictionary. Would that not be an excellent graduate linguistics project? A wikipedia site would be a place of connection for all the language speakers and an encouragement for the younger generation to get involved.

Hahawikideng A Cudad No 'Amis (Amis-Mandarin Dictionary)
ISBN: 978-986-83786-1-2
Publ. Kaohsiung, TAIWAN, September 2007

O Pitiri 'An To Sawal No 'Amis (Mandarin-Amis Dictionary)
ISBN: 978-986-83786-2-9
Publ. Kaohsiung, TAIWAN, September 2007

Author's contact information:
sasimiwasapi @ yahoo.com.tw
tel: 07-841-633

Monday, February 23, 2009

International Mother-Tongue Day

Saturday, February 21 was United Nations designated International Mother-Tongue Day. The Ministry of Education held an event to give out awards for those who worked to advance the cause of Local Languages -- Hoklo Taiwanese, Hakfa and the Austronesian languages of Taiwan. It felt a little bit strange that an event was held in a building on Heping East Road in Taipei where formerly much energy devoted to the suppression or even eradication of languages other than Mandarin.

13 Hoklo Taiwanese language award recipients included Tīⁿ Ji-gio̍k 鄭兒玉 author of many poems and songs. Among the most famous are (1) Taiwan's as of yet unofficial national anthem: "Tâi-ôan Chhùi-chhiⁿ" or "Verdant Taiwan" set to music by the most famous Taiwanese composer of his generation -- Siau, Thài-jiân 蕭泰然 . [This national anthem has versions in Hoklo Taiwanese, Hakka, Amis and Mandarin] and also (2) "Lán sī Tâi-oân Chú-lâng" or "We the People are the Sovereigns of Taiwan" now with versions in Hoklo Taiwanese, Hakka, Paiwan, Tayal, Amis and Mandarin

10 Hakka received awards -- the majority, elementary school teachers.

Only 3 Austronesian teachers received awards -- all of them from the Tayal Austronesian people. A Tayal teacher and pastor from the mountain villages of I-Lan as well as a Tayal teacher from the mountains in Taoyuan both told me how they were very disappointed that there were not others from other Austronesian language groups present. They each told me -- there should be thirteen people up there from every single Austronesian people group in Taiwan.

Every award recipient with whom I spoke -- Hoklo, Hakka and Tayal alike -- told me that the Ministry of Education's policy of having a mother-tongue language class once per week for one hour at each elementary school was insufficient. They agreed that the next generation of children need to learn to read and write the mother-tongue and that different school subjects and classes should be taught using the mother-tongue for it to not disappear as an extant language within a few generations.

Several quite excellent music and culture groups performed in between award presentations. I was particularly happy to see young children very expertly performing with puppets, voice and instrumentation classical Hoklo Taiwanese puppet theater. Additionally a Rukai female vocal artist accompanied by a guitarist sang one Rukai song and one of her own Mandarin-language composition. The Rukai song was a traditional one. It does not seem many new songs are being composed in the language. An entire team of young men and women Tayal dancers and percussionists performed some traditional Tayal chants. One cutesy bubble-gum pop-princess-type young Hakka woman sang a Hakka song for children, but she kept using a lot of Mandarin to explain things and lead the singing. It says a lot about the failure of the current system if in order to get Hakka children to sing a Hakka song properly, they must be instructed in Mandarin.

There is very little incentive in society for young people to learn any languages other than Mandarin so long as the government continues to elevate Mandarin as the prestige and "national" language and does not accord these other languages respect and equal treatment. How to do so? • Declare all Taiwan's languages "national" languages. • Increase the pay of "local-language" teachers • Implement a policy that at least half the instruction in elementary schools be done in the local language instead of Mandarin. • Rename roads and parks. Encourage the posting of street signs and naming of roads in the local language. Get rid of all those Chung-Shan roads or San-Min roads or Chung-Cheng road-names and let them be replaced in each township with a word or name of a person from their own mother-tongue -- or even the name of the mother-tongue itself. As Taipei has a Ketagalan Boulevard, we should see Kavalan and Tayal Boulevards in I-Lan, etc. What is more, we should be commemorated the names of all of the plains-Austronesian people groups who took on Han surnames and Manchu dress customs and were absorbed -- like the Siraya, Babuza, Pazeh, etc. And in Austronesian areas, roads and parks should be named after historical or famous Austronesian people. • Established endowed professorships at universities for research, study, preservation, and renewal of Austronesian language and culture. • Encourage the writing and publishing of these languages.

The blog, sia-taiwan.blogspot.com was founded precisely to encourage writing in Taiwan's languages other than Mandarin. Here is an article on written Hoklo Taiwanese literature. I myself have begun tackling the great philosophical work of scholar and patriot Chhòa Pôe-hóe 蔡培火 from 1925 Cha'p-hāng Koán-kiàn, "An Opinion on Ten Matters." It was recently republished by the Taiwan Church Press in November of 2008. The entire work is in romanized Taiwanese. Not a single Han Character can be found in its 150 pages.

If you would like to devote resources and time to supporting these non-Mandarin languages in Taiwan, one place you could start would be to contact the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church's General Assembly Headquarters in Taipei. [article on some of its language-promotion work.] Some of the primary work especially among the Austronesian languages is done by Austronesian Presbyterian pastors. Though you might not see them for sale on the first floor bookstore, entire Bibles translated into Austronesian languages can be purchased if asked. I am aware of an Amis Bible and a Tayal Bible, but there is probably access to others. Also, on the 7th floor library, you can get access to the longest running Hoklo Taiwanese newspaper called the Taiwan Church News which until the 1970's was published in the POJ Taiwanese Romanization.

And of course, you can learn to speak one of these local non-"national" languages. With a friendly manner, greet other people and use the local language that you have learned first in conversation. Then if the other person cannot understand, switch to Mandarin. That will show a priority and a prestige and make others feel a lack of knowledge and maybe develop a desire themselves to go learn. (If the world-over all recognize the word "Aloha" from Hawaii, we in Taiwan (Hawaiiki) should at least learn how to give a word of greeting in each and every non-Mandarin language of Taiwan.)

The Maryknoll Language Institute provides one-on-one instruction and publishes Hakka and Hoklo Taiwanese language learning textbooks as well as Taiwanese-English and English Taiwanese dictionaries. The Taipei Language Institute publishes a Taiwanese-English dictionary. These can be found at the Taiwan Shop in Taipei as well as SMC Publishing. Both stores within a short block of each other carry a large selection of works in non-Mandarin languages. You can even find works and dictionaries there of extinct languages of the assimilated Austronesian plains-tribes.

As I compile more links or resources, I'll put them up here.

On the whole we can no longer trust or rely on the government to remedy the situation. We must push them as much as possible, but we need to set up completely separate and distinct non-government bodies to carry the load of promoting the language. We must organize local organizations and especially local communities to make changes themselves in their own schools and daily lives. And in our individual lives, we can take steps each day that might create ripples that grow exponentially in this society to effect change.

- Joel Linton

Here is an example that the current KMT government is really only concerned with promoting Mandarin and will do only as much as is politically necessary with regard to other languages. "Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) yesterday ... his remark that children should learn mother tongues other than Mandarin at home “instead of taking up too many hours at school.”

Monday, February 9, 2009

Latest on a Hollywood movie about Taiwan -- Formosa Betrayed

It is rumored that the producers had to hire a lot of Thai actors because the Taiwanese actors were afraid of how starring in this movie would affect their careers since they might be banned from audiences in China. This political thriller exposes the dark side of imprisonment and political killings of the era of martial law and one-party Leninist dictatorship in Taiwan presided over by Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo. The people facing oppression were also the ones pushing not only for democracy but also for Taiwan's international status as a free and independent nation.

It is also interesting to note that much of the movie could not be filmed in Taiwan.

We look forward to the day when there will be an atmosphere of free speech where creative endeavors, even if they are critical of a government or political party's past, will be allowed to proceed. We look forward to the day when people in power are secure in their elected legitimacy that they do not feel the need to use their power to suppress artistic endeavors that are critical of them.

Even this teaser trailer itself is good for Taiwan's identity -- it specifically uses the word "nation" to describe Taiwan. In this age of entertainment and general ignorance of history and world affairs, we think this movie will be of great benefit in increasing global awareness and understanding of the current reality in Taiwan, its history, its international status, and the struggle of its people. It should also create a greater interest that will translate in to more tourism and international focus on Taiwan.