TAIPEI, Taiwan — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Saturday that the government will require schoolchildren in Hakka-dominated areas of Taiwan to learn the Hakka language, as part of efforts to help the ethnic group preserve its mother tongue.
In a Facebook post, Tsai said the launch of a Hakka radio station on Friday represented a big step forward in the nation’s work to promote and pass down the Hakka language and culture.
The government will next push for an amendment to the Hakka Basic Act to list Hakka as a national language, she said. It would represent an official “upgrade” from its current designation as a folk language following the same treatment given to no fewer than 50 other languages spoken in Taiwan.
In “Priority Development Areas for Hakka Culture,” Hakka services will be provided gradually at government offices, and the Hakka language will become a required course in elementary and junior high schools, she added.
The president pledged that the government will render firm support to promoting the Hakka language, which she stressed is “the roots of the Hakka people and the Hakka culture.”
According to a Hakka Affairs Council-commissioned survey conducted in 2014, there were an estimated 4.2 million Hakka people in Taiwan, accounting for 18 percent of its total population and forming the second-largest ethnic group in the country after the Hoklo people.
The council has designated 70 townships and districts in 11 counties and cities, where the Hakka population consists of more than one-third of the total local population, as “Priority Development Areas for Hakka Culture,” as stipulated in the Hakka Basic Act.
Of these 70 townships and districts, 18 are in Miaoli County, 11 in Hsinchu County, and eight each in Taoyuan City and Pingtung and Hualien counties.
In addition, there are five such townships and districts in Taichung City, four in Kaohsiung City, three in Taitung County, two each in Hsinchu City and Nantou County, and one in Yunlin County.