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UCLA students learn about Taiwanese Hokkien in MOE-supported course

Course examines Taiwan’s widely-spoken dialect ‘in different forms of cultural production’

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(Insagram, UCLA photo)

(Insagram, UCLA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Under the Ministry of Education (MOE) supported Taiwan Studies Lectureship (TSL), the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) began offering its first Taiwanese Hokkien course in January 2020.

The description of the course entitled “Taiwanese Language and Culture” reads, “Taiyu, or Taiwanese (also known as Minnan, Hoklo, or Hokkien, depending on context or region), is the language that most Taiwanese people use in daily lives, including everyday interaction and communication, entertainment, social and cultural events, etc.” The four-unit course offered to upper-division students requires students to have taken at least a year of Chinese courses or a Chinese placement test showing equivalent knowledge.

The course examines “various manifestations of Taiyu in different forms of cultural production, including cinema, television series, pop music, animation, Gezai opera, glove puppetry, and other media” as well as discusses “how these media have represented Taiwan's society and shaped its cultural landscape.” UCLA Asian Languages and Cultures Professor Tao Hong-yin (陶紅印) was quoted by the MOE as saying that the department tries to introduce students to languages and cultures “in an integrated way” so students may be inspired to explore the relationship between the two.

First offered in January 2020, “Taiwanese Language and Culture” is taught with a focus on student participation and interaction, such as by having students make themed presentations and introduce Taiwanese pop songs to their classmates, per the MOE. Students are also asked to prepare short reports on assigned materials or movies before class in order to join relevant discussions during class sessions.

According to UCLA, the TSL is a “joint effort of the Asia Pacific Center (APC) and the Division of Humanities supported by the Taiwan Ministry of Education.” The program promotes and broadens understanding of Taiwan’s politics, history, society, languages, and culture, facilitates academic exchanges between UCLA and Taiwan, as well as funds courses, public events, library acquisitions, and research grants for faculty and graduate students.

Now in its third stage, the TSL focuses on Taiwan’s relationship with “emerging global issues of critical importance” under themes including cultural change in Taiwan in the context of globalization; social transformation in Taiwan, from border-crossing, emigration, immigration, to diasporic formation; and shifting identities in terms of Taiwanese indigeneity, trans-indigenous encounters across the Pacific, and nation-building.

During the initial and second stages of the program’s development during the 2010s, the TSL had focused on connections between contemporary Taiwan and the classical tradition in which it is rooted before moving on to examine the country’s culture and identity in historical, global, and transnational contexts, wrote the APC.

UCLA students learn about Taiwanese Hokkien in MOE-supported course
Course material from "Taiwanese Language and Culture." (Ministry of Education image)