Draft act promoting Taiwan’s national languages likely to pass soon

The draft act outlines the government’s obligation to preserve and promote national languages, which are defined as spoken or sign languages long practiced by ethnic groups in Taiwan

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Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun participates in the review of the draft Development Act of National Languages at the Legislative Yuan (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A draft act promoting Taiwan’s national languages passed a review at the Legislative Yuan Monday, setting a timeline for schools to include compulsory courses on national languages.

The draft Development Act of National Languages was reviewed and passed by the Education and Culture Committee of the Legislative Yuan on Monday morning, a process undertaken in-between the first and second reading. 

To complete the legislative process, the draft act still needs to pass the second and third reading. Nevertheless, the draft act might soon pass the two readings as it has gained bipartisan support at the Legislative Yuan.

According to the draft act, a national language refers to a spoken or sign language practiced by any ethnic group long existing in Taiwan.

Even though Taiwanese-speaking people constitute the largest ethnic group in Taiwan, only the indigenous languages of Taiwan and the Hakka language have been recognized by the government as national languages as of now.

The draft act outlines the government’s obligation to preserve and promote national languages. It also requires the educational authorities to set up compulsory courses on national languages three years after the implementation of the 12-year compulsory education curriculum in elementary, junior and senior high schools starting 2019. 

In addition, the legislation of the act will mean that Taiwanese (or Taiwanese Hokkien) will be recognized as a national language and that a council and a television channel dedicated to the language could be established, in a way similar to the councils and TV channels for the Hakka ethnic group and indigenous peoples in Taiwan. 

Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) said on Monday, “the entire draft act is based on the idea that languages are not merely a tool for communication. Languages are also a medium for culture and history,” reported Central News Agency.

Cheng said Monday’s result was a landmark in the legislation of the Development Act on National Languages, as it was first proposed more than 10 years ago and had faced several challenges over the years, reported United Daily News.

Cheng also said the ministry would prepare for the imposition of the act as it awaited the two readings, such as establishing databases or development centers for national languages.