The PCT Ministries Awarded for Saving Indigenous Mother Tongues


Taiwan Church News
3704 Edition
20 ~ 26 Feb, 2023
Headline News

The PCT Ministries Awarded for Saving Indigenous Mother Tongues

Report by Lin Yi-ying from Taipei

Each year, February 21 is the “International Mother Language Day”. In order to promote the revival of indigenous languages, the Council of Indigenous Peoples Committee of the Executive Yuan and the Indigenous Languages Research and Development Foundation (ILRDF) held the “Indigenous Languages Development Award” ceremony on February 16.

Vice President Lai Ching-de presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Rev Iyuq Ciyang, a retired Taroko pastor. Awards of Indigenous Languages Inheritance, Language Promotion and Special Award were presented by Premier Chen Chien-jen, President of the Executive Yuan. A total of 23 group-winners came to accept the awards. On the 17th, ILRDF held a meeting to explain the current situation and achievements of the promotion of indigenous languages.

(photo/by Lin Yi-ying)

Vice President Lai expressed his highest respect to all indigenous languages revival workers. He quoted Taiwanese writer Chong Chao-cheng’s sayings: “Without the Hakka language, there would be no Hakka people.” Similarly, without the indigenous languages, there would be no indigenous peoples, said Lai.

He also pointed out that among more than 6,000 languages in the world, 40% of them are on the brink of extinction. And the utilization of the Taiwanese (Hok-Loh) language has lost about 60% of usage across different generations, Hakka has lost about 70%, and the aboriginal languages have lost about 90%. The indigenous languages are under a glaring loss, said Lai.

(photo/by Lin Yi-ying)

Vice President Lai stressed that President Tsai Ing-wen has attached great importance to the revival projects of Taiwanese languages after taking her office. During his tenure as the Premier, he also actively promoted the “National Language Development Law”, which listed the languages of various indigenous groups and Taiwanese sign language as national languages, Lai said.

In his term of office, former Premier Su Zhen-chang launched the “National Language Comprehensive Development Plan”. It is estimated that more than 30 billion NT$ dollars would be invested from 2022 to 2026. Now the succeeding Premier Chen Chien-jen also pledges to carry on this very important task.

Premier Chen praised the extraordinary perseverance of Rev Iyuq Ciyang, winner of the “Lifetime Achievement Award”, who had preached as a pastor using mother tongues for more than 40 years in local churches, and had devoted himself to translating the Taroko Bible. These wonderful ministries of Rev Iyuq Ciyang enabled the indigenous mother tongues be more integrated into the lives of the indigenous peoples, said Premier Chen.

(photo/by Lin Yi-ying)

This year, 2023, the Council of Indigenous Peoples plans to start the program called as “The Development of Indigenous Languages via Indigenous Churches”, hoping to encourage about 900 indigenous churches across the island to promote the use and learning of aboriginal mother tongues. The Executive Yuan also pledges to pour in the relevant resources and manpower in her future projects, and work with all walks of life to create a friendly environment for indigenous groups.

Rev Iyuq Ciyang said it was a very special 80th birthday gift to receive this Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Indigenous Peoples. However, he expressed straightly that before the government promoted the revival of indigenous languages, the PCT church had already done a lot of hard works on the indigenous language preservation and education.

Especially, in 1953, the PCT church used the Romanization alphabet to spell the aboriginal languages, but banned by the Nationalist Government (KMT) in 1956. Due to the martial law was lifted in 1987, it became a big help to write the Romanization alphabet again. Otherwise, many indigenous mother tongues could not have been recorded and passed on up to date.

(photo/by Lin Yi-ying)

In the process of translating the Bible into aboriginal languages, Rev Iyuq Ciyang reflected how he traced the “root” of the tribal language from the elders via frequent conversations. He said those tribal sayings and short proverbs are always the treasure of the ancient wisdom of the tribe. He lamented that young pastors now mostly preach in the Chinese. He encouraged young people to use and communicate using the indigenous languages more, so that the aboriginal mother tongues can be passed on forever.

Rev Huhum Nahaisulan, a Bunun pastor who won the Indigenous Language Heritage Family Award, stressed that the preservation and education of the aboriginal language shall be carried out in a deliberate way. Parents must have a high consensus on speaking the indigenous languages in home, use mother tongues to communicate with their children in daily lives, and teach children to use Romanization Alphabet to write down their mother tongues.

She said straightly that the church is the last fortress of the survival fight for the aboriginal languages, and the aboriginal peoples and groups should be encouraged to come to the church frequently to strengthen their faith, language and culture.

Rev Fuyan Suda, secretary of the PCT General Assembly (Chang Pei-li) also attended the award ceremony, and took a photo with Rev Fadah Payu (Chang Ying-mei), the award-giving representative and moderator of the ‘Amis Presbytery, and other pastors.

Rev Omi Wilang, director of the Indigenous Mission Committee of the General Assembly Office, also accepted the Indigenous Language Promotion Organization Award for his service and leadership in the Atayal Aboriginal Sustainable Care Association in Taiwan.

On the 17th, Rev Mayaw Kumud, Rev Sakinu Tepiq (Dai Mingxiong), Ms Yuki (Ms Liu Sue-hsiang), a member of the Indigenous Education Affairs Committee of the Catholic Taipei Archdiocese, reported the current use of aboriginal languages by the church and the cooperation between aboriginal language teachers and churches.

Translated by Peter Wolfe