By Liu Uie-liang 劉威良
One of the reasons European culture is so vibrant is that many local languages are well preserved and continue to thrive. Some small European countries actually have more official languages than larger ones.
Switzerland, for example, has four, despite a population that is a third of that of Taiwan. The territory is divided into German, French, Italian and Romansh areas, in which the central government respects all languages equally without discrimination.
If one wrote to the central government in one of these languages, a reply would come in the same language. However, in-person services are offered in the dominant language of a region.
Belgium has almost the same land mass as Taiwan, but its population is only half of that. Surrounded by the Netherlands, France and Germany, it has adopted several official languages. In Brussels, its capital, French and Dutch are the official languages.
To promote globalization in Taiwan, the government has introduced new policies to make English the second official language after Mandarin. This is quite absurd considering that Taiwan was never colonized by English-speaking nations, especially since learning native languages in Taiwan such as Hoklo (commonly called Taiwanese) or Hakka benefits people more.
These languages have more tones than Mandarin, which provides a solid foundation for Taiwanese to learn and speak foreign languages upon proficiency. Without these mother tongues and mother tongues, not only do you lose an advantage in language learning, but you also lose something more essential – a sense of belonging.
With the prospect of an information war on our doorstep, if every time the government broadcast its messages in Hoklo, Hakka and indigenous languages alongside Mandarin, it would reduce the amount of fake news in our community.
Why do we put English above our own mother tongues when globalization is at hand?
According to the Ukrainian census, Russian is the mother tongue of 29.6% of its population, and more than that can speak a decent level of Russian.
Despite this, in the midst of the war, more and more Ukrainian families actively reject the use of Russian. For them, language is no longer just a means of communication, it has a meaning beyond that – speaking Russian is considered a betrayal.
The feeling of being Ukrainian is deeply rooted in its language. Ukrainians are tired of the hegemony between them which constantly tries to convince them that they have a common heritage, going back to the same empire, and that their land must be reclaimed.
To me and to my fellow Taiwanese, it sounds familiar. If Taiwan gives up its native languages, it’s no different from kneeling before our enemies before a fight.
Ukraine does not have nuclear weapons to defeat the Russians, but they have the most powerful weapon that hegemony cannot take away from them: their sense of Ukrainianness and their language to distinguish them from their enemy.
Now is the time for the Taiwanese to face the war that has already started secretly, the enemies hidden in an untouchable disguise have already penetrated our nation.
We should start preserving our mother tongues today, so that we can defend our beautiful nation.
Liou Uie-liang is a medical worker based in Germany.
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