• 族群 / 太魯閣族
  • 學歷 / 國立清華大學語言學研究所 博士
  • 專長 / 語言與文化、太魯閣語研究、語法化研究、田野調查、族語復振。

This draft represents author’s preliminary thoughts. Please do not quote or cite without author’s permission.

Before I start, let me share a story. About couple years back, I went to the TITV, my kid was around 2-3 years old, I told him that I am going on TV, he was so happy. When I returned home, he asked that why did I not respond when he said hi to me on TV? So I told him today that I might be on TV, then I promise him that I would say hi. Why do I specifically mention my kid? In fact, during my schooling years, I spent 8 years, and two of them were taking care of children. From the process of me taking care my kids, I realized deeply that language revitalization is truly not easy.

Especially the indigenous people in urban areas, the current population of kids from age zero to six of the cities surpass the tribes’. This gives us, the Indigenous Languages Research and Development Foundation (the foundation), a great challenge, and it is also a very important work. It is a problem we have to face, this reality of both indigenous tribes and urban areas are both very different in terms of language applications. It is our upmost focus, so we have plans for year 109 and 110, which is to think from the families’ perspectives and how we influence the parents to make them value our language culture education as well as passing down. This is not an easy part, but we must do it, because if we don’t, the situation will get a lot worse.

We would like to do something such as indigenous language hand guides, family learning hand guides, mainly to notify the parents why the languages are so important. What benefit would bring to the kids when speaking indigenous languages? There are many simple reasons, like many experiments tell us that exposure to multiple or singular languages can have different effects in cognitive and learning abilities, and it is better to learn multiple. This fact has been proven by many other experiments as well.

These hand guides are to persuade our parents and elders who are able to speak indigenous languages, in fact the most crucial are the elder speakers. For a language to disappear, there are in fact two major causes, one is called committing suicide, the other is called being murdered. This so called committing suicide, or a slow death, is the elder speakers are reluctant to speak their mother languages to the young due to many social and personal reasons. In long term, the language can not be passed down, thus becoming a slow death. Being murdered is not an issue in Taiwan, basically it is usually done by the policies, the government to achieve, such as the national language policy of the past which everyone had experiences with, is a force from the outside world.

We have been revitalizing for twenty years, today we have supports from the law, the government, and established the foundation. Our responsibility is great, and to do this job better, we do not only focus on the 0-6-year-old age group, it is certainly a base, but we most also value other generations to promote indigenous languages with different strategies. What we focus on for our organizations and personnel, are collecting materials, which are significant when our elders slowly aging, we could never be able to keep our step with, so we must utilize our best equipment and technologies to record their voices and imageries.

It is not only for preservation purposes to record, but most importantly is to promote, then it enables us elders’ languages to effect our next generation to pass down to the next. In fact, family is a foundation, and this foundation is parents as well as the communities, also the school, they are all interconnected.

I would like to share that from the languistic perspective, when I was at my first year of PHD, I also have taught some theories of grammars and word formation. At the very beginning, I just go by the books with almost no previous experiences. I did what we have learned to teach the elders with many challenges and voices. Our elders questioned that as young as I was in my twenties, what could I possibly teach them? I was not good at my own language, but I just know something about the language hey do not.

Those voices always exist, that was a period of many challenges. I feel fortunate, although there are negative sides, but there are also postivities. They were able to see young people from this generatuon in their twenties were willing to devote in this field and also taught us the elders something we do not know.It is helpful with the education and a contribute for inheriting a language. However, due to lack of experiences in the beginning, so I could only have taught like that, which I think is a skill honing.

Later on, I continuously getting in tough with language teachers, pastors, and even pre-school caregivers. I discovered that I have to think from the connection in between lingustics and our own people, or in another perstive, from the pesrpective from our people to consider what they need, and how do they apply the knowledge in lingustic. We can only truly execute in lecturing when we know how to apply the knowledge, so we have made a significant change from the experiences from the past many years. If I were speaking technical terms of linguistic, I would not name it directly, but explain the terms by the definition. When they speak the terms themselves, it will be their own analysis and categorization, and later they would find some rules, so I would tell them again from the linguistic perspective, which is the other way around.

The benefits of this, we found that firstly, people who took the lessons would know it is exactly what they have been teaching, just with no knowledge of the terms, but I think that is not the most important issue. The most important is being able to help them to improve their lecturing abilities, and essentially, passing down our languages and culture to the children very clearly. The other point that I would like to address is differences in subject audiences are important when it is the same language culture lessons or the same word formation lessons. For example, I might be lecturing professional indigenous language teachers today, but I might be lecturing pre school caregivers the next, so we have to realize what pre school care givers need? Their target audiences are pre schools, which would be impossible for the application of technical terms. I asked them to make teaching plans, or use their own materials to let them discover that what they use are mentioned in linguistic studies already.

Different targets, different needs requires certain adjustments, and it is necessary in different fields of both lingustic and indigenous language education. We often assume that elders and tribes man reject lingustic due to the fact that in the past, indigenous people were viewed as subjects by these experts and scholars rather than professionals in the field. Sometimes it distances away thus create a huge gap in between, and what we need to do is to combine these two together. Studies in linguistic has one very important principle of gratitude., which is we as a lingustic community need and obligate to offer feedbacks. In fact, in the recent one to two decades, many local and international researchers have already discovered the importance, and we might slowly find that many linguistic scholars and our people are working together for making textbooks, dictionaries, and even publish books and develop together. Utilize their own expertise, along with tribal elders’ knowledge in languages and cultures, this combination of feedback and collaboration mechanism has been the greatest change in the past few decades.

The study of language is to see tribal people as a main body with application. What our people need us to do, what they need us for, so we aim toward that direction to assist them to make plans and produce. What we have done in the past two years, first is lecture, all the participants today, every specific organization for language promotion, care givers, we will develop textbooks and hand guides, language translation guides, official document guides, or what we previously mentioned, the language collection guides.

When we produce a research, we can use it directly, which is beneficial for all the language promotion staffs, and this is one of the crucial objectives for our foundation. Although we are a semi-research organization, both researches and developments are relevant to us. However, we are focusing on the later development, language promotion, and execution, so before the new regulation passed, we have to be more active on creating an indigenous language friendly environment. Like here today, we began with indigenous language, although many cannot understand fully, but it is a significant process. We need the children, parents, and elders know that the importance and necessity of mother languages.

Like I previously mentioned, in between logisticians and indigenous people, they all have their own stances and compromisation. I think it is for the best to respect and tolerance towards each other. There are a few examples, like last year Truku people set up a meeting regarding written rules and regulations, which more than ten tribesmen, pastors, and elders participated. Of course we also invited logisticians, which they offered their ideas and analysis. Our pastors and elders have issues with emptions and habits of usage, so both sides had entanglements of different statements. Even after the meeting, this kind of debates were considered as disrespectful.

This was definitely embarassing, we should respct and tolerate each other with more communication. We started explaining and communicate from morning untill afternoon to find some applicable scenarioes in order to break in. At last, everyone respects each other, and understand, tolerate each other’s ideas.

This happens in every languge, this linguicist and indigenous people, including I myself who major in lingustics, to be honest I don’t feel embarrassed. My character is very clear cut, I want to help my own people, to make them feel no longer estranged, not feeling rejected, and these are all corralated, and helpful for language promotion when adding them all togather.

The second example took place just recently. Not long ago I was invited to a consensus conference of an ethnic group, regarding the writing of the gliding Y’s debate. They have been arguing about if for almost a decade, but I did not really say anything when we were there. In fact, I was just there to hear everybody’s voices.

Very quickly at that instance, the people find that what is more important past this after we argued so many years for a syllable? If your children cannot speak the language, what use of this argument we have for?

Th consensus of that instant was, we need to pass this language down, the issues with the syllables are not that difficult, we can have them listed together, or categorize them to let everyone accept it. Afterall, this argument they have for so many years finally settled that day. Sometimes respects and tolernce can solve many issues. A resolution for the entanglements bewteen the indigenous people and acaedemia is not easy, but because of my experiences with examples like these, so I can share to you all.

Maybe everyone heard of it before, sometimes if it cannot be delt with properly, it could even generate insults, and this is not what we are willing to encounter. Let me give you another example, regarding an non-indigenous field experience, which the person shared in an workshop. He thinks it is a hard work researching indigenous languages, because many time they are not punctual, the people might be next door, or having drinks together, or even in the fields farming, which they cannot find the sibject even with an appointment. When I heard it I felt surprised and sarcastic, when we are doing our research in the trinbes, it is in fact us affecting their lives, we should be respctful and go where they do, do what they do isn’t it? It is us affecting them, and not reminding them to cooperate with our researches. I myself had encoubter this as well, I have questions of the language so I have to ask a pastor, but I feel that the wait is worthwhile and very important. Today I have an appointment with the pastor at ten, but when I arrived, he is only available at eleven thirty. Even if he has only half an hour available for me,I learned a lot everytime we chat, and great rewards every visit. We can only record it with the fastest paces.

In the recent few decades I slowly discovered that we cannot develop cognitive linguistic, ideas, or even anthropological linguistic simply from researching languages and hope it become inter-discipline combination. Truku Gaya as an example, everyone has a different Chinese translation version. Some translate into taboos, customs, or regulations, so on and so forth, but at the bottom if it is education. These are the things we teach our little kids what are allowed, what are not allowed, what we should do, and what we should not, the root of it is education, to let kids become the real Truku.

This essentially means, why we as non indigenous lingucists are having hard time intercepting into this? It is because our fundamental culture and the whole cultural knowledge systems. This is also more and more lingucists and tribal people are reasearching together regarding the meaning of vocabularies. To behonest, lingustic is a secientific method. What we research today will generate certain conclusions and results. However, it has nothing to do with the culture, no living experiences, and no physical experiences to show. Optimistically, we hope the future linguistic can research with our people, not just inter-disciplinary, but a combination cross-cultures and cross-languages.

To make the whole environment firnedly and raise the vsibility, it is truly uneasy. My Wife is an Amis, our family did the one person one language ideal. Our children are able to speak individual mother languages before one and half year old. It all changed when entering pre-school, because we live in the metropolitan area, they cannot speak it, it is all environmental. Many time the teacher told us, our kids like to talk to themselves, like they cannot understand what others are saying. He says it is a cup, the kids say it is Kowpu(Truku word for a cup), then he said no, this is called “a cup”. This is the exact beginning of one’s trauma, so one do not dare to speak their own indigenous language, one will say, the teacher does not understand, the classmates do not understand, so I dare not to speak it.

To create the environment, no matter indigenous or not, tribes or non-tibes, we all need a much more friendlier one. There is one more important thing, is to start form yourself, it is unavoidable. If you do not start from yourself, you cannot possibly wish more more resources. It would be impossible to have even more non-indigenous people to help us if you do not set yourself up as an example.

Our goal is truly very clear, except of preservation of the languages, the most important is to pass them on, hoping everyone can support us more no matter good or bad, I think it is all positive. Our goal is to make small children to be able to speak their own indigenous languages in the next ten, twenty, even thirty years, and pass down our languages down from one generation to another.