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Tsai outlines efforts in indigenous languages development

President Tsai Ing-wen said government is committed to promoting and preserving indigenous languages

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Indigenous children perform in Paiwan language at National Administrative Conference for Indigenous Peoples. (Courtesy of Office of the President)

Indigenous children perform in Paiwan language at National Administrative Conference for Indigenous Peoples. (Courtesy of Office of the President)

President Tsai Ing-wen said Aug. 1 that the government is committed to promoting and preserving indigenous languages as part of larger efforts to seek historical and transitional justice for Taiwan’s aboriginal peoples.

The president made the remarks during the annual National Administrative Conference for Indigenous Peoples, organized by the Cabinet-level Council of Indigenous Peoples to provide a platform for discussing issues relating to these ethnic groups in Taiwan. The focus of the conference, which took place on Indigenous People’s Day, was the development of aboriginal languages.

Citing the Indigenous Languages Development Act, which designates the tongues of the country’s 16 officially recognized indigenous tribes as national languages of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Tsai said that the government is determined to foster an environment that encourages speaking and learning indigenous languages.

Language is the manifestation of cultural identity, Tsai said, adding that when indigenous children can speak their mother tongues, they will be able to pass down their cultures and values to the next generation. According to the CIP, there are 42 dialects of Taiwan’s 16 officially recognized indigenous languages.

During the conference, Tsai noted that government subsidies and programs have been put in place with the goals of immersing children in an indigenous language-friendly environment as well as promoting aboriginal language classes in schools. These efforts have created up to 1,000 job opportunities for the indigenous community, she added.

According to CIP Minister Icyang Parod, who also attended the conference, since the Indigenous Languages Development Act took effect June 14, a total of 10 district offices have started providing official documents written in aboriginal languages.

Under the act, indigenous peoples can use their dialects in legislative and legal affairs. Local government agencies in aboriginal areas, which comprise 55 townships across Taiwan, can also compose official documents in indigenous languages as well as Mandarin.

Citing her official apology made in August last year on behalf of the ROC government to the nation’s indigenous peoples for past suffering and unfair treatment, Tsai said that although the government has taken its first steps in righting past wrongs, there is still a long way to go before historical and transitional justice can be achieved.

According to the CIP, indigenous Malayo-Polynesian peoples have lived in Taiwan for millennia, with archaeological evidence confirming their presence dating back 12,000 to 15,000 years. The latest CIP statistics revealed that the population of the country’s 16 officially recognized tribes stands at around 530,000, or 2.3 percent of the nation’s total.


Updated : 2021-07-26 00:15 GMT+08:00