Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Dear Grandpa… A Translator Needed

【comment / English】

A little boy was asked how’s the new local language class in school. He smiled like a blossoming morning glory. “You know what? I can talk with my grandpa now! “ He said cheerfully.

The linguistic gap derived from intermarriage, isn’t it? “Nope” is the answer. Millions of examples can you find to prove the prevailing circumstances in Taiwan. And what is more, most of the family members including the parents, kids and their grandparents share a same ethnic identity and mother tongue. What a bizarrerie!

The following conversation happened in a stem family. “你腹肚會iau--無? [Holo](Are you hungry?) Said a-kong (grandpa). The grandson looked so confused. The mother perceived the predicament and served as a translator."爺爺在問你肚子餓不餓呀?快回答![Madarin]"Grandpa is asking you’re hungry or not. Reply him.The grandson did reply, in a language confused his grandpa reciprocally, “喔!我想吃糖果![Madarin](Oh! I wanna some candy.) The mother had no choice but to save her father through translating again, “I beh 食糖 a--lah[Holo](He wanna eat some candy.)

What a ridiculous scene it is. They even live under the same roof. But the whole education system is molding children into aliens to their grandparents. Their parents suffered the same “redevelopment” but at least still have parents who talk with them in mother tongue. Now they become accomplices unconsciously because they were taught in schools, when they were young, their mother tongue is barbarous. As a result, they would love to help their kids to be linguistically “civilized”.

It’s a cultural tragedy in Taiwan. KMT (the Nationalists) who rulled this island after being defeated by the Communists and fled from China gripped the media and education system. The sino-government-in-exile reconstructed them to be propaganda machines that have been desperately sinicizing Taiwan for decades. Though the once tyrannic regime has lost its power. Its remaining schemes are still poisoning Taiwanese people.

No wonder it’s hard to find youngsters who know that Madarin, the official language in Taiwan nowaday, has been spoken among Taiwanese no more than 60 years. Not to blame more and more Taiwanese can’t tell their differences from Chinese culturally and linguistically.

It’s such a pain to be deprived one’s own culture and identity. Also from the view of the whole human being, the cultural and linguistic crisis undergone by an island which was once an Austronesian paradise with more than 20 languages and ethnic groups could be an unrecoverable damage, which is likened by Economist to dropping bombs on the museums. Cultural assets are not perennials. They withered once and forever.

The little boy is so happy to regain the ability to communicate with his grandpa. Pity is that so many boys’ parents might think mother tongue learning may or may not be needed so far. Needless to say we Taiwanese still have pro-China legislaturers who oppose the emergency measure to teach local languages in schools. I just cannot figure out the reason why, in their eyes, nothing is valuable if it goes against the annexing ambition of China.

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