Legislature passes bill to preserve indigenous languages

Legislature passes bill to preserve indigenous languages (Image from President Tsai Ing-wen Facebook Page)

Legislature passes bill to preserve indigenous languages (Image from President Tsai Ing-wen Facebook Page)

Taiwan's Legislature on Friday passed a bill to preserve and revive endangered languages of the country's aboriginal peoples.

The bill designates Taiwan's indigenous languages as among the country's official languages and requests that government funding be set aside each year to promote indigenous languages, giving priority to languages listed as critically endangered.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) welcomed passage of the bill on her Facebook page Friday and vowed to build a friendly environment for the learning and speaking of indigenous languages.

"Language diversity will further enrich our culture," she wrote.

Under the bill, local governments in 55 aboriginal townships, cities and districts will be allowed to publish official documents in indigenous languages, not just in the country's official language of Mandarin Chinese.

Full-time employees are to be hired to promote indigenous languages around Taiwan, and the government should consult with each aboriginal tribe to compile indigenous language dictionaries, coin new indigenous terms to bring the language up to date with modern society and build language databases, according to the bill.

The bill also says schools should offer indigenous language courses and provide full-time employment to indigenous-language teachers who are currently employed as part-time teachers.

The Council of Indigenous Peoples said this will help improve the wages of the 825 indigenous-language teachers in Taiwan at present.

Three years after the implementation of the bill, those who take special civil service exams restricted to indigenous citizens or sign up for spots reserved for indigenous citizens in exams to study abroad on government scholarships are required to obtain indigenous language certifications.

According to the bill, indigenous people will be permitted to give statements in indigenous languages in judicial proceedings or administrative matters.

Also, public service transportation announcements in indigenous areas shall be made in indigenous languages in addition to the other languages normally used.

The Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, published by UNESCO, lists five aboriginal languages in Taiwan -- Kavalan, Nataoran, Thao, Saaroa, Kanakanabu -- as "critically endangered," Saisiyat as "severely endangered," Bunun as "definitely endangered," and another eight as "vulnerable."