Maintaining Spanish Heritage Language in Hong Kong

By Yuritzi Hernandez R.

Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Heritage and Minority Languages

2.1. Definitions

2.2. Challenges Facing Heritage Language Speakers

2.3. Benefits of Maintaining Heritage Language

3. Methods to Maintain Heritage Language

4. Sábados en Español –an Example of Heritage Language Program in Hong Kong

5. Concluding Remarks

6. References

7. Key Terms and Definitions

8. About the author

1. Introduction

Dramatic changes in our socio-cultural environment due to globalization and migration have had a negative impact on language diversity (TED, 2013). Dominant society assigns greater value to mainstream or majority languages than to peripheral or minority languages (Potowski, 2012, p.183). As Hart-Gonzalez and Feingold (1990, p. 15) point out, this is more likely to be the case where one language is associated with power-related activities, such as education, money-making, and governance. This often results in the diminishing use of the heritage language children grew up speaking at home.

In 2015 the United Nations (UN) set its new agenda for Sustainable Development that consists of 17 goals (commonly known as SDGs). Goal 4 is dedicated to building inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities (UN, 2015). Although the Goal does not mention language, creating awareness of the need to preserve heritage languages falls within its scope, as language and education are intertwined with each other.  In addition, UNESCO has a strong commitment to support mother tongue instruction to promote cultural and linguistic diversity (UNESCO, 2005). Each year on February 21, UNESCO (1999) observes the International Mother Language Day in order ‘to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by people of the world’ (p. v).

This entry aims to raise awareness and understanding of the urgent need to introduce and maintain Heritage Language (HL) Education. Heritage Language (HL) Education will serve not only to encourage local knowledge transmission, linguistic diversity, and multilingual education, but also to develop a fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world, thereby inspiring solidarity based on understanding, tolerance, and dialogue.

2. Heritage and Minority Languages

2.1. Definitions

As defined by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (Council of Europe, 1998), “regional or minority languages” are languages traditionally used within a given territory of a state by nationals of that state who form a group numerically smaller than the rest of the state’s population. They are also different from the official language(s) of that state, and they include neither dialects of the official language(s) of the state nor the languages of migrants (e.g. Western Náhuatl in Mexico, Dungan in Kyrgyzstan, and Northern Khanty in Russia).

The term “heritage language” (HL) is used to identify languages other than the dominant language (or languages) in a given social context. Most of the academics in the field tend to adopt Guadalupe Valdés’ (2000, p. 1) definition of HL in the USA: ‘a student who is raised in a home where a non-English language is spoken, who speaks or merely understands the heritage language, and who is to some degree bilingual in English and the heritage language’ (e.g. Spanish in the USA, Polish in Great Britain, and Turkish in the Netherlands).

The levels of proficiency within a group of HL speakers can vary enormously, depending on the family, cultural connections, community, or country of origin. Some speakers only understand the HL, others are receptive bilinguals who are able to understand the language but do not speak it, while at the other end of the spectrum there are the native-like speakers of the HL.

2.2. Challenges Facing Heritage Language Speakers

Although HL speakers are surrounded by their native tongue since birth, most children only receive formal education in the dominant language. Due to the reduced exposure to their mother tongue and the strong influence of the dominant language, such children use their mother language less frequently. With fewer mother tongue speakers surrounding them and a restricted—mainly informal—social context for HL use, their fluency is poor, language skills are weak, and their vocabulary is limited. The combination of these factors can result in language loss.

Val and Vinogradova (2010) (as cited in Potowski, 2012, p. 188) noted that the loss of the HL can result in a breakdown of communication among family members or negative experiences e.g., misunderstandings, embarrassments, or humiliation. It also can lead to decreased identification with the HL and heritage culture (Potowski, 2012, p. 188). Language is an important factor affecting the achievement of a good balance between social and emotional growth.

2.3. Benefits of Maintaining Heritage Language

Potowksi (2012, p. 179) points out that we rely on language to identify each other’s gender, age, socioeconomic status, and other factors. Language, thus, is not only a communication tool, it defines our identity, helps us develop our social interaction with family and peers, and endorses our cultural background, particularly when one moves across geographical and sociocultural borders (Potowski, 2012, p. 181).

Additionally, as Charles B. Chang (TED, 2014) mentions, language is the instrument we use to communicate, think, and analyze. Moreover, bilingual children develop stronger connections in the brain’s language area. Bialystok (1991) (as cited in Lightbown & Spada, 1993, p. 25) and other developmental psychologists have found convincing evidence that bilingualism can have positive effects on abilities that are related to academic success, such as metalinguistic awareness.    

As promoted by UNESCO (2016), the more instruction children get in their own HL, the better they perform in other areas such as mathematics, and the better academic results they achieve in second language school environments. It is also easier for children to learn a third language. Literacy programs in mother languages bring the self-confidence that children need to participate in their communities.

Furthermore, such children are the future, and should they go back to their country of origin, it will be easier for them to continue education in their HL. Finally, the acquisition and maintenance of more than one language can open doors to many personal, social, and economic opportunities (Lightbown, & Spada, 1993, p. 25). Bilingual children grow up with the possibility of having greater cross-cultural understanding, which may in turn foster better and more peaceful international relationships in future.

3. Methods to Maintain Heritage Language

The first and crucial step is to create awareness among parents, as they will transmit the HL and provide the tools for language development and proficiency. Previous generations had the misconception that children got confused by being spoken to in two languages. Genesee, Cargo, and Paradis (2004) (as cited in Lightbown, & Spada, 1993, p. 25), however, remark that ‘there is little support for the myth that learning more than one language in early childhood is a problem for children’. It is in the parents’ hands, at least for the first years in a child’s life, to maintain their HL. Bills (2010) (as cited in Rivera-Mills, 2012, p. 23) stresses that ‘to be maintained, a language must be transmitted from one generation to the next. If there is no transmission from parents to children and grandchildren, the product is language loss’.

The Stichting Nederlandse Onderwijs in het Buitenland (NOB) (The Foundation for Dutch Education Worldwide) recommends that parents have a fixed period each day or an activity that will only be conducted in the HL, and it is important that the child understands the connection between an activity and ‘its’ language. Children very easily recognize, for example, that school is an English-only ‘zone’, but if parents can recreate the same idea with a Spanish-only ‘zone’, then the children can easily make the switch.

Reading, if possible, should be fostered from an early age and can then become a lifelong activity for readers. Reading can teach children the difference between informal verbal language and academic written language (Minor, 2014, p. 213) and it will boost their vocabulary. Parents may also encourage children to write letters, emails, or messages to extended family and friends. Again, like reading, this can become a family activity.

Education in their HL is necessary as children need to continue developing academically. Being enrolled in a formal HL program will create a space for them to interact with other children who speak their same language and share their culture, and will help them develop their own identity by giving them, at the same time, a feeling of belonging.

Another suggestion for the development and maintenance of HL would be for mainstream schools to implement a HL class after school. As education policy makers should perhaps consider, the learning abilities of children taking such programs will not only improve, as but bilingual or multilingual children may also have a better starting position in the labor market.

As Ayala (2015) notes, the Singapore Mother Tongue Language Policy provides a great example of a language preservation strategy. This policy makes the study of mother tongues compulsory throughout primary and secondary school and is an integral part of student examinations (Ministry of Education, Singapore, 2011).

4. Sábados en Español - an Example of Heritage Language Program in Hong Kong

Sábados en Español is a program for Spanish HL speakers in Hong Kong. The program started four years ago in response to the story of a boy who did not want to go to Spain during the summer holidays. The reason for his reluctance was that he could not communicate with his family and on the few occasions he dared to say something in Spanish, his family and friends would burst into laughter.

At the time of writing there are four levels being taught in the program: beginners, receptive bilinguals, transitional receptive bilinguals, and productive bilinguals. The program is facing many challenges, but particularly problematic is that fact that none of the teachers are specialists in HL teaching. The teachers also struggled with the lack of materials available for their HL learners. Lastly, the HL ability levels of the students vary with each school year, so the curriculum also has to be revised every year.

As Minor (2014) notes, the reality is that teachers are also not prepared for students of this kind. There are very few programs available to prepare teachers to teach HL speakers. The aforementioned lack of material tailored to suit HL learners, also forces teachers to improvise by adapting materials designed for First Language (L1) education or Second Language (L2) students, which involves much additional preparatory work.  

Minor (2014) recommends having specific goals for students and promoting self-esteem in relation to the use of Spanish. Also the use of ‘corrective feedback’ and ‘auto correction’ during class is suggested. This tool prevents students from feeling that they are being corrected all the time. Teachers should allow HL speakers to participate in the class, role play, create leadership activities, and prepare fun activities (Minor, 2014, p. 206). Teachers can help overcome the different language ability levels in class by allowing stronger students to help weaker ones with class assessments, and learners will feel empowered by this experience. Fostering pride (Minor, 2014, p. 219) will be more beneficial to the students than teaching them vocabulary lists.

As it is mentioned above, a significant challenge for educators is the variability in proficiency levels of the students enrolling in classes. Proficiency may relate to the students’ attitudes towards the language, their motivation, and finally their level in the acquisition process (Minor, 2014, p. 206). Motivation and attitude play important roles in learning any language, and children as well as adults are sensitive to social dynamics and power relationships (Lightbown & Spada, 1993, p. 65)

5. Concluding Remarks

After recognizing the importance of maintaining HLs, actions should be taken to address the world's plurilingual reality and thus benefit from the linguistic hybridity of the 21st century (Garcia, 2005, p. 605). Although UNESCO has taken steps towards promoting HL education, its actual implementation varies greatly. In some countries HL education is made compulsory throughout primary and secondary school (e.g., Singapore), but in most countries it has relied upon individual schools and private institutions to introduce HL education.

Making the community aware of the value of HL education is a first step. Then, perhaps, we should start with small projects such as meetings with parent volunteers at local libraries. Next, HL education could be expanded into community programs like Sábados en Español.  Following that, mainstream schools could implement HL education as an extracurricular activity. Ideally, education policy makers can take note of examples such as Singapore and try to implement them in their own countries.

6. References

Ayala, A. (2015). Indigenous Language Policy in Taiwan. In Jackson, L. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Education for Sustainable Development. Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong/Master of Education Programme.

Council of Europe. (1998). European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.

García, O. (2005). Positioning Heritage Languages in the United States. The Modern Language Journal, 89(4), 601-605.

Hart-Gonzalez, L. & Feingold, M. (1990). Retention of Spanish in the Home. International Journal of the Sociology of Language84, 5-34.

Lightbown, P. M. & Spada, N. (1993). How Languages are Learned. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Minor, D. (2014). Heritage Language Learners. In López-Burton, N. & Minor, D. (Eds.), On Being a Language Teacher: A Personal and Practical Guide to Success (pp. 202-221). New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

NOB - Stichting Nederlands Onderwijs in het Buitenland. (n.d.).  NOB – Dutch Education Worldwide. Retrieved November 20, 2016, from http://www.stichtingnob.nl/

Potowski, K. (2012). Identity and Heritage Learners: Moving Beyond Essentializations. In Beaudrie, S. & Fairclough, M. (Eds.), Spanish as a Heritage Language in the United States: The State of the Field (pp. 179-200). Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Rivera-Mills, S. (2012). Spanish Heritage Language Maintenance: Its Legacy and its Future. In Beaudrie, S. & Fairclough, M. (Eds.), Spanish as a Heritage Language in the United States: The State of the Field (pp. 21-42). Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

TED (2014, May 30). Charles Chang: Three Reasons to Preserve (and Develop) a Heritage Language [Video file]. Retrieved from ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBSA2G0083k   

TED (2013, May 3). Kim Potowski: No Child Left /monolingual [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSs1uCnLbaQ

United Nations (UN). (n/d). Sustainable Development Goals: 17 Goals to Transform Our World. Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/education/

UNESCO (n/d). International Mother Language Day 21 February. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/events/motherlanguageday/

UNESCO (2016). If you don’t Understand, How can You Learn? Presentation delivered by Aaron Benavot at UNESCO's celebration of Mother Language Day 2016. Retrieved from https://en.unesco.org/gem-report/if-you-don%E2%80%99t-understand-how-can-you-learn#sthash.Akd0JJd9.MyKdeIEy.dpbs

UNESCO (2005) First Language First: Community-based Literacy Programmes for Minority Language Contexts in Asia. Retrieved from http://www.unescobkk.org/resources/e-library/publications/article/first-language-first-community-based-literacy-programmes-for-minority-language-contexts-in-asia/

Valdés, G. (2000). Introduction. In Spanish for Native Speakers. AATSP Professional Development Series Handbook for Teachers K–16, Volume I. (pp.1-20). New York: Harcourt College.

7. Key Terms and Definitions

Auto-correction: is a practice in which the teacher engages with the student to help them get to the correct answer; this technique fosters pride and allows the student to assume a leadership role.

Corrective Feedback: is a practice in the classroom in which the teacher highlights a mistake made by the students and they in turn repeat the utterance correctly.

Heritage Language is used to identify languages other than the dominant language (or languages) in a given social context.

Mainstream:  the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are shared by most people and regarded as normal or conventional.

About the Author

Yuritzi Hernandez R.

MEd, The University of Hong Kong

Email: yuritzi.hernandez@gmail.com

Language Policy and Preservation Challenges: Taiwan’s Indigenous Languages

By Angel Ayala 

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Background

3. Language Policy from Japanese Rule to Present

4. Current Challenges to Preservation

5. Strategies for Future Preservation Efforts

6. Conclusion

7. References

8. About the Author

1. Introduction

Preserving linguistic diversity is a major challenge for sustainable development (UNESCO, n.d., par. 2). Languages convey “knowledge and local know-how” representing “an entire cultural and intellectual heritage” vital to the prosperity of future generations (UNESCO, n.d., par. 2-3). However, despite this need for linguistic diversity, out of approximately 7,000 languages existing today, at least half may disappear in just a few generations (Austin & Sallabank, 2011, p.1). Among those most vulnerable are Taiwan’s endangered indigenous languages, some which have less than ten competent speakers (Li, 2008, p. 1-2).

This entry takes Taiwan’s indigenous languages as a case study through which to explore the issue of language preservation. It begins with a brief introduction to Taiwan’s indigenous peoples and indigenous language endangerment. This is followed by an analysis of different language policies leading to the current state of indigenous languages. Finally, specific challenges to preservation efforts are addressed, before concluding with a summary of future actions needed for successful preservation.

2. Background

The indigenous peoples of Taiwan are the descendants of Taiwan’s earliest Austronesian inhabitants and comprise approximately 2% of the total population (Pawan, 2004, p. 26; Wu, 2011, p. 100-101). The Taiwanese government recognizes 16 different tribesAmis, Atayal, Bunun, Kavalan, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiyat, Sakizaya, Seediq (or Sediq), Thao, Truku, Tsou, Yami (or Dawu), Hlaalua, and Kanakanavu—with the Amis, the Paiwan, and the Atayal accounting for roughly 70% of the indigenous population (Executive Yuan, 2014). Tribes have their own distinctive language varieties, referred to in this entry as indigenous languages, which are not necessarily mutually intelligible (Pawan, 2014, p. 26).  

Research has found fluency in indigenous languages has rapidly declined (Lee, 2004; Pawan, 2004; Tsao, 1996). Out of originally 20 indigenous languages, only half remain and are considered endangered (Li, 1994 as cited in Pawan, 2004, p. 27). One telephone survey by the United Daily Newspaper (1999) found the percentage of indigenous children fluent in indigenous languages to be as low as 9% (as cited in Pawan, 2004, p. 27).  This trend is rooted in Taiwan’s history of language oppression, and only recently has the Taiwanese government taken measures to counter this problem.  

3. Language Policy from Japanese Rule to Present

Decades of assimilationist language policies in Taiwan had a devastating effect on indigenous languages. When Japan colonized Taiwan in 1895, after defeating the Qing Dynasty in the Sino-Japanese War, it used the Japanese language to enforce cultural integration into its empire, suppressing all local vernaculars (Hubbs, 2013, p. 81-82; Wu, 2011, p. 103-104). Indigenous people were specifically considered “barbarians,” and centers were created to teach them Japanese (Chen, 2011 as cited in Hubbs, 2013, p. 81).  In 1945, following their defeat in World War II, Japan returned Taiwan to the Republic of China, ruled then by the Kuomintang (Hubbs, 2013, p. 82). When the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan after being defeated by the Chinese Communists in 1949, it enforced Mandarin Chinese as the national language to erase Japanese influence and create a sense of Chinese national unity (Hubbs, 2013, p. 82). Use of non-Mandarin languages in the public sphere became illegal, and their use in schools was punished severely (Hubbs, 2013, p. 82). Given these policies, use of indigenous languages drastically declined. 

Only after the end of the Kuomintang’s absolute rule were non-Mandarin languages finally given necessary attention. In 1987, Taiwan began transitioning into a democratic government, giving rise to its first opposition party, the Democratic Progress Party (DPP), and culminating in popular elections for president in 1996 (Wu, 2011, p. 106, 108). Although Mandarin remained the national language, there was a new push to create a distinct Taiwanese identity, and more attention was paid to local languages in the educational and political domains (Wu, 2011, p. 106). For example, politicians began making speeches in Southern Min/Taiwanese and Hakka, and children were no longer punished for speaking non-Mandarin languages in school (Hubbs, 2013, p. 84). Most importantly, in 2001, Taiwan enacted a language policy requiring all elementary school students to take one weekly session of mother tongue, offering them as electives for junior high school students (Pawan, 2014, p. 28, 30; Hung, 2013, p.16). This represented a reversal in language policy and the recognition by the government of the historical oppression of non-Mandarin languages.

For indigenous languages, this translated into several language preservation policies. Following the enactment of the Education Act for Indigenous People, schools with an indigenous student population exceeding one-third can apply for extra grants for implementing indigenous programs (Hung, 2013, p. 16). Teachers who wish to teach indigenous languages are required to obtain indigenous language proficiency certificates, and teaching materials began to be developed by indigenous taskforces in conjunction with National Chengchi University (Hung, 2013, p. 17-18). In addition, indigenous students are able to obtain a preferential score in secondary school and university entrance examinations if they successfully pass a Culture and Language Proficiency Test (Jacob, Liu, & Lee, 2015, p. 51). Through these efforts, the current government aims to support the basic framework for indigenous language education, as well as incentivize indigenous students to maintain fluency in their native languages.         

4. Current Challenges to Preservation

Despite these policies, indigenous languages face threats from Mandarin and English, which are more prioritized in schools. As the national language, Mandarin is perceived to provide access to highly-valued work fields and constitutes “economic, social and cultural capitals” in Taiwan and abroad (Hung, 2013, p.14). Similarly, English is seen as more “useful” than local languages, allowing entry to better schools and providing opportunities for better jobs and salaries (Hung, 2013, p. 14). As a result, studies such as Chen (2011) revealed Mandarin and English were consistently given more teaching hours and resources than local languages (as cited in Hubbs, 2013, p. 87-88). In turn, indigenous language classes are often canceled if they conflict with public events or examinations (Pawan, 2014, p. 30). As for resources, Mandarin and English classes demonstrate heavy use of PowerPoint, songs, and textbooks that local language classes lack (Hubbs, 2013, p. 88). Therefore, in practice, indigenous language classes are severely constrained.

In addition, the lack of effective teaching materials and a standard curriculum hinders the efforts of even the most enthusiastic teachers. Textbooks for indigenous languages are not always at the appropriate level for students, while many focus on language phrases and grammar devoid of any cultural context (Hung, 2013, p. 17-18). As Chen (2011) states, in the worst-case scenarios, some local language classes do not have any resources at all and simply become a 40-minute cultural session (as cited in Hubbs, 2013, p. 87-88). The lack of support from schools, combined with factors such as time pressure and difficulty for teachers to discuss curriculum design, leads to a lack of a coherent and holistic local language curriculum (Hung, 2013, p. 19). As a result, indigenous language classes cannot make the best use of their limited time, greatly minimizing the effects on children’s fluency levels.

Shortages of qualified indigenous language teachers have also had a negative impact on preservation efforts. Although teachers interested in teaching indigenous languages are required to have teaching certificates, when schools have shortages of certified teachers, they must resort to hiring missionaries, elders, parents, or other local people (Pawan, 2014, p. 28). There are also not enough teachers for every specific indigenous language, forcing some schools to combine age groups or place students into classes teaching a language different from their own (Hung, 2013, p. 19). Younger teachers often have limited knowledge about tribal culture and history, as they themselves were not allowed to learn about indigenous cultures during their education (Hung, 2013, p. 18). As Pawan (2014) explains, this lack of qualified teachers not only makes teaching and learning ineffective, but also causes students to lose interest due to inconsistencies in the teaching methods (p. 30).

Indigenous parents often fail to fill this gap in their children’s education due their own declining fluency levels and negative perceptions of indigenous languages (Hung, 2013, p. 19-20). Lee (2004) found indigenous parents mainly speak to their children in Mandarin, leaving children to speak indigenous languages only with grandparents (p. 109-110). Due to interethnic marriage and a push towards living in big cities, indigenous families also have fewer chances to speak their mother tongues, contributing to the decline in fluency levels (Hung, 2013, p. 19-20). Even more alarmingly, many indigenous parents see teaching their languages to children not only as “useless,” but also as a “burden” which will negatively impact their children’s academic achievement (Hung, 2013, p. 19). With little support in schools and at home, indigenous children are left with few options to learn their mother tongues.

Due to this lack of support, as well as the socioeconomic realities in Taiwan, indigenous children fail to see incentives to learning their native languages. Jacob et al. (2015) explained significant social pressure exists for indigenous people to find professional and educational opportunities in urban centers, causing young indigenous people to emphasize Chinese learning over tribal languages (p. 52). In one study, pupils of a local Pangcah language class even demonstrated more interest in practicing Southern Min, a more widely spoken Chinese language, compared to their own native language (Chang, 2014, p. 190). Although young indigenous people may still consider indigenous languages psychologically close (Lee, 2014, p. 110), it is clear the pressure to succeed professionally and academically causes them to prioritize other languages. Current indigenous language education is not enough to incentivize students to learn more about their native languages and cultures.

5. Strategies for Future Preservation Efforts

Although the Taiwanese government has taken steps towards protecting indigenous languages, it must expand on its current policies if it is to ensure these languages survive. First, the government must enact policies to increase instructional time of indigenous languages, as the current weekly sessions are clearly not having the desired effect. As one possibility, scholars such as Tsao (1996) have advocated using vernacular languages as the medium of instruction starting in kindergarten, until student command of Mandarin reaches a level where it can be used as the medium of instruction. A perhaps less “radical” approach could be to emulate the model of Singapore’s Mother Tongue Language Policy, which makes study of mother tongues compulsory throughout primary and secondary school and an integral part of student examinations (Ministry of Education, Singapore, 2011). At the same time, the government should continue to expand support for teachers of indigenous languages by offering more scholarships and grants to indigenous people interested in teaching, along with incentives to stay in traditional indigenous areas outside of urban centers (Liu & Kuo, 2007, p. 284). These changes would address some of the current challenges and send the message that indigenous languages are also a priority.

School leaders must also provide better support to teachers through development opportunities, standardized curricula, and effective teaching materials. Schools should cooperate with indigenous teachers to create an integrated language curriculum that empowers teachers with more opportunities to disseminate knowledge and adjust curricula as needed (Hung, 2013, p. 20-21). Educators must also continue improving on the current textbooks available, as well as make use of technology to create new learning platforms, such as the e-learning system for the Yami language proposed by Yang & Rau (2005). No new language policy will be successful if schools do not have teachers, curricula, and materials that can effectively increase the language abilities of their indigenous students.

Finally, an environment must be created where indigenous peoples become invested in preserving their native languages. Hung (2013) argues schools are not the key factor to preserving indigenous languages, as language classes only serve communicative functions, instead of developing indigenous languages as a cultural symbol and sign of identity (p. 21). This can only be achieved within the indigenous populations themselves. However, the current sociolinguistic environment is not conducive to indigenous peoples valuing their languages. For example, Mandarin’s dominance in most media leads to indigenous children feeling oppressed if their languages are not heard in public (Liu & Kuo, 2007, p.284). Schools and the government must therefore work together to not only develop multilingual learning opportunities for children and families, but also promote general awareness of indigenous cultures (Liu & Kuo, 2007, p. 284). If indigenous languages and cultures play a more visible role in Taiwanese society, indigenous peoples will have more incentives to learn and identify with their mother tongues.

6. Conclusion

Languages are not simply communication tools. As stated in the introduction, each language preserves “knowledge and local know-how” (UNESCO, n.d., par. 2), which may not be present elsewhere. As the descendants of Taiwan’s original inhabitants, Taiwan’s indigenous people have in-depth knowledge of the land, which is in part preserved in their languages. This knowledge has a direct effect on Taiwan’s sustainability, as it potentially holds key information for issues facing Taiwan in the future. Therefore, preserving these languages not only benefits indigenous peoples, but also Taiwanese society as a whole. The current language policies are not effective in halting the declining fluency levels among the young indigenous population. If further actions are not taken promptly, the rich cultural and linguistic traditions of these indigenous peoples so important to Taiwan will completely vanish.

References

Austin, P. & Sallabank, J. (2011). “Introduction”. In Austin, P. & Sallabank, J.  Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages. Cambridge University Press, 1-24

Chang, Y. L. (2014). The Construction of Language Value and Legitimacy in Aboriginal Primary School Classrooms in Taiwan. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning9(2), 183-192.

Chen, C. K. (2011). Multi-language Education for Indigenous Children in Taiwan. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado.

Executive Yuan, Republic of China. (2014). The Republic of China Yearbook 2014. Retrieved October 27, 2015 from http://yearbook.multimedia.ey.gov.tw/enebook/2014yearbook/index.html

Hubbs, E. (2013). Taiwan Language-in-education Policy: Social, Cultural, and Practical Implications. Arizona Working Papers in SLA & Teaching20, 76-95.

Hung, W. J. (2013). A Macro and Micro Contexts, Forces and Challenges for Indigenous Language Education at Elementary Schools in Taiwan. Asia Pacific Journal of Educational Development (APJED)2(2), 13-22.

Jacob, W. J., Liu, J., & Lee, C. W. (2015). Policy Debates and Indigenous Education: The Trialectic of Language, Culture, and Identity. In Indigenous Education (pp. 39-61). Springer Netherlands.

Lee, H. C. L. (2004). A Survey of Language Ability, Language Use and Language Attitudes of Young Aborigines in Taiwan. Trilingualism in Family, School, and Community, 101-117.

Li, P. (2008). The Endangered Languages in Taiwan. Retrieved October 27, 2015 from https://www.soas.ac.uk/taiwanstudies/eats/eats2008/file43252.pdf

Liu, K., & Kuo, L.T.W. (2007). Cultivating Aboriginal Cultures and Educating Aboriginal Children in Taiwan. Childhood education83(5), 282-287.

Ministry of Education, Singapore. (2011). Mother Tongue Language Policy. Singapore Government. Retrieved October 27, 2015 from http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/admissions/returning-singaporeans/mother-            tongue-policy/

Pawan, C. (2004). Indigenous Language Education in Taiwan. In W. Y. Leonard & S. E. B. Gardner (Eds.), Language is Life: Proceedings of the 11th Annual   Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Conference, 26-33.

Tsao, F.F. (1996). Preserving Taiwan's Indigenous Languages and Cultures: A Discussion in Sociolinguistic Perspective. In Inoue, N. (ed.) Globalization and Indigenous Culture. Tokyo:  Kokugakuin University. Retrieved October   27, 2015 from    http://www2.kokugakuin.ac.jp/ijcc/wp/global/07tsao.html  

UNESCO. (n.d.) Education for Sustainable Development – Preserving Linguistic and Cultural Diversity. Retrieved November 26, 2015, from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/strengthening-education-systems/languages-in-education/single-view/news/education_for_sustainable_development_preserving_linguistic_and_cultural_diversity/

United Daily Newspaper. (1999, December 30) Only 9% of Indigenous Children can SpeakFluent Native Languages. Taipei.

Wu, M. H. (2011). Language Planning and Policy in Taiwan: Past, Present, and Future. Language Problems & Language Planning35(1), 15-34.

Yang, M. C., & Rau, D. V. (2005). An Integrated Framework for Archiving, Processing and Developing Learning Materials for an Endangered Aboriginal Language in Taiwan. ALR-   2005, October14.

About the Author

Angel Ayala 

MEd Student, The University of Hong Kong

Email: aayala@connect.hku.hk