TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan NextGen Foundation (Taiwan NextGen) and the Belgian Taipei Office held the Global Chiayi Dialogue (GCD) with the theme of "Multilingual Taiwan," on Saturday (Oct. 22) at the Evergreen Palace Hotel in Chiayi, Taiwan.
The event invited Belgian Office Deputy Director Geoffrey Eekhout; Alice Leeuwerck, mayor of Comines-Warneton; Jakub Janda, executive director of the European Values Center for Security Policy; Tung Chen-his (董晨晧), a teacher from the Timour Experimental Elementary School in Pingtung County; and Wan Tsung-lun (萬宗綸), a professor at National Cheng Kung University, to give speeches and discuss language policies, according to a NextGen Foundation press release.
Kuan-Ting Chen (陳冠廷), CEO of Taiwan Nextgen, said in his opening remarks that most international forums are held in Taipei and it is a pity that the degree of internationalization is unevenly distributed in Taiwan. Thus, the GCD was held in Chiayi this year so that local teachers, students, and experts could communicate with representatives from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, South Africa, and other countries, to learn more about language policy implementation in in different countries, Chen said.
Chen said that the common language in Chiayi is not limited to only Mandarin but includes Taiwanese and multiple Indigenous languages. Given this context, learning how to implement bilingual education without affecting the development of other cultures is an important issue and it was the focus of this forum, he added.
Taiwan is on a mission to become a bilingual English-Mandarin Chinese nation by 2030, with a focus on K-12 students and civil servants.
Eekhout introduced Belgium's geographical and cultural situation and explained how changes in the country’s language policy are directly tied to its past social and economic changes.
Belgium currently has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German, but in the early period of the country’s founding, French was the primary language. The reason why Belgium finally accepted Dutch, German, and other languages to become a multilingual country is closely linked to its democratization process, much like Taiwan’s situation, the deputy director said.
Leeuwerck said that her city, Comines-Warneton, experienced a period of tyrannical rule in the past. Although more than 90% of the local population are French speakers, a consensus amongst residents and leaders was reached to adopt a bilingual policy of using both French and Dutch, she said, which means official documents have a French and Dutch version.
In this way, the policy takes care of the rights and interests of local residents of different nationalities and races, while using language as a medium to achieve harmony and interaction among the city's residents.