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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Nvidia CEO sparks new interest in Taiwanese

Nvidia CEO sparks new interest in Taiwanese

Since Nvidia Corp chief executive officer Jensen Huang’s (黃仁勳) arrival in Taiwan on May 26, he has dominated headlines across multiple local news outlets. Rather than speaking English, he has been seen several times conversing with locals in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), a local language no longer commonly used by the public.

Due to his growing popularity and use of Hoklo, issues surrounding the preservation of native languages have resurfaced. Contrary to the stigmatizing belief that Hoklo is merely a language spoken by the uneducated, Huang’s actions have inspired many of his fans to revive their respective mother tongues.

Unfortunately, even if that momentum continues, there is still a long way to go to thoroughly protect endangered native languages.

A survey conducted in March showed that 68.4 percent of respondents agreed that all local languages, including Hoklo, Hakka and other indigenous languages, are at risk of disappearing. Only 45 percent of respondents aged 20 to 34 said that they speak their native languages in daily life. These results clearly indicate that more effort is needed to revitalize native languages.

The government has laid out a new series of policies to respond to these concerns. On International Mother Language Day this year, then-incoming President William Lai (賴清德) announced his policy framework for the revival of native languages, which included establishing the National Language Research and Development Center, enhancing language-learning materials and generating a mother-tongue friendly environment.

In a Facebook post at the time, Lai wrote that the center would be responsible for formulating systematic plans to enable the development and inheritance of all national languages to future generations. He also highlighted the importance of ensuring the accessibility of local language resources, emphasizing that the diversification of educational tools and employment of more professional teachers are necessary to make learning more convenient.

Last, he proposed making services in public institutions available in all national languages, so that everyone can access them in their mother tongues.

Some lawmakers are also advocating for native language reforms.

During a question-and-answer session in the legislature with Minister of Culture Li Yuan (李遠), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Ariel Chang (張雅琳) asked that the ministry invest more in producing films featuring endangered languages so that people can better acquire the languages through immersion and entertainment.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) also said that the government was producing overly complex Hoklo textbooks for students, urging officials to use its budget more efficiently to simplify the learning process.

As a young Taiwanese who is anxious about the possible disappearance of our local languages, I am grateful that the central government and politicians across political parties have put their differences aside and are seeking solutions to minimize the risk of losing languages.

With the Hoklo-speaking trend initiated by Huang, now is the opportune moment for the government to actualize its policy framework for native language revitalization, thereby effectively eliminating the negative stereotypes of mother tongues held by society.

Local languages form a significant part of our cultural assets. We should work together to preserve our mother tongues to maintain the uniqueness and vibrancy of Taiwanese culture.

Tshua Siu-ui is a Taiwanese student studying international relations and politics in Norwich, England.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2024/06/13

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