Taiwan’s law on language show China what it means to be a modern, inclusive country

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF QUARTZ INDIA)

 

Taiwan’s laws on language are showing China what it means to be a modern, inclusive country

OBSESSION

Language

May 09, 2018

Taiwan was once considered an economic miracle. Now economic progress there has slowed to a halt as China, Taiwan’s imposing neighbor, grows bigger by the day.

But in terms of social progress, Taiwan is decades ahead—showing people in China that a modern, multicultural, and tolerant Chinese society is possible.

Consider the difference between Taiwan and China’s language policies. Legislators in Taiwan are preparing to redefine what constitutes a “national language.” If the new definition is enacted, which is likely, Taiwanese—the local variant of the Minnan language of southern China—will receive equal treatment with Mandarin. That would be unthinkable in China, where Mandarin’s status as the sole standard language is absolute.

The Taiwanese language is everywhere in Taiwan. It is spoken at home by over 80% of the population. Would-be politicians feel the need to campaign in Taiwanese in order to win elections. Yet it has not been given the status of a national language. That is in part because the language has endured long periods of inequity relative to Mandarin, even in Taiwan. When the Kuomintang party arrived on the island in the 1940s, fleeing its losing battle with the Chinese communists, it banned the use of Taiwanese in schools and in the media, declaring that Mandarin should be the language of the island.

The new rule would change that, expanding on a separate act passed last year that gave several indigenous languages “national” status. Areas with large populations that speak Taiwanese will be allowed to use them in official documents and legal affairs. And the government will have an obligation to teach Taiwanese and the indigenous languages as part of the standard, 12-year curriculum, as well as to develop writing systems and dictionaries in those languages.

That level of commitment to minority languages would be impressive even for a Western country. In the United States, for example, it is hard to find national efforts to support any language other than English. But more than anything, the new rule reveals the growing cultural distance between Taiwan and China, and how much Taiwan has developed socially.

China doesn’t like the Minnan that can be heard in shops and food stalls across Taiwan. It considers Minnan, or Taiwanese, the language of the Taiwan independence movement. The prospect of possible retaliation from Beijing has long delayed Taiwan from giving the language a more official status.

China’s policies on minority languages, meanwhile, are stuck in the 20th century. Linguistically, China is extremely diverse. It is home to at least 100 distinct languages. Yet the Chinese government’s policy is based on the Stalinist assertion that a nation must have a single shared language, and that everyone in the nation must speak it. “A national community is inconceivable without a common language,” Stalin wrotein 1913. In 2000, China enacted a law to that effect, establishing putonghua—or “common speech,” as Mandarin is called in China—as the sole national language for the “unification of the country.” That means that Mandarin should come before all other languages.

The official rules in China don’t ban minority languages. And the same law that established Mandarin as the national language states that citizens “shall have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages.”

But in many cases, the Communist Party perceives minority languages as being in conflict with higher-priority concerns, such as the nationwide promotion of Mandarin, national sovereignty, and cultural unification of the kind that Stalin advocated.

“If you promote the use of those [minority] languages in public domains, then the government might have a different view,” says Minglang Zhou, a professor at the University of Maryland who studies minority language policy in China. “They think that threatens the use of putonghua, and citizens’ identification with the Chinese nation.”

The Tibetan language is a good example of how these priorities shake out in practice.

“If you look at Tibetan, you can see this gradual shift from using Tibetan for instruction in classrooms to using Chinese,” Zhou adds. This is mostly the result of the 2000 language law. China might allow minority groups to develop their own languages, but the national effort is focused on getting 80% of citizens speaking Mandarin.

The two goals can be mutually exclusive. Mandarin-speaking teachers are sent to areas where Chinese is not spoken as well, and where they might not be able to speak the local language. The result is that in Tibet, the local language is, at best, relegated to a language class, and not used as the medium of instruction.

In addition to challenging the primacy of Mandarin, the party views the Tibetan language as a threat to Chinese sovereignty and identification with the nation of China. It doesn’t want citizens seeing themselves as Tibetans first. A strong Tibetan language movement might bring that about. China may claim that minorities have the right to develop their languages, but it also put on trial an activist who wanted more Tibetan in schools, accusing him of “inciting separatism.”

Essentially, China is not concerned with making minority languages more frequently spoken. It wants them to be preserved as interesting bits of Chinese history, like artifacts in a museum.

Therein lies the difference with Taiwan. Giving Taiwanese equal status will allow the language to thrive in everyday life, whether in schools, official documents, or popular media. It is not meant to be a historical artifact. If Mandarin is preferred in some setting, it will be because it is a common language, not because it has been deemed so from on high.

Taiwan has had enough time being governed independently from China to develop its own identity. The renewed emphasis on the Taiwanese language is one symptom of that. At the same time, its language policies show how Taiwan has developed into a pluralistic democracy, even as China moves in the opposite direction, toward greater unification. Taiwan’s renewed promotion of indigenous languages tries to reckon with historical injustices, even as China arrests Tibetan language activists. Last year, Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage as China shut down a popular lesbian dating app.

In addition to being an act of pluralism, Taiwan’s proposed language law probably has political motivations. It sends a message to China that Taiwan does not need, or want, to abide by Beijing’s rules. But it also shows people in China that top-down unification is not the only way to govern an ethnically and linguistically diverse country where Mandarin is the lingua franca.

(Biblical Educational Poem) Babylon And The Great Whore

BABYLON AND THE GREAT WHORE

 

Do we seek what is Truth, or do we seek flowers

Comfort of the flesh does not equal what is Truth

That which is Truth raises condemnation by the world

Lie to the world and they will praise all that you do

The wicked lay in wait to adorn the evil with gold

 

Babylon does not lay in ruin in western Iraq as some believe

You are told that which is true yet you do not see or understand

Some think the Power Cities of today is Revelation’s meaning

Understand, the residence of Saint Peter, this is the wicked city

The Language of the Mediterranean, Babylon shall cease to be

 

The Great Whore resides within the sphere of this ancient city

Babylon’s Great Whore has spread her evil upon the seven lands

Saint Peter was never the Rock upon which this Witch was built

She has billed Herself as the Bride of Christ, yet She will not be

People, understand, Rome is the City, the Vatican rides the Beast

 

 

(Theology) Everything Can Be A God

EVERYTHING CAN BE A GOD

 

In your mind, in your opinion, is Jesus Christ ‘a God’? Outside of Christianity the prevailing answer to that question, is no, He is not. For the first three to four hundred years after the death of Jesus even the Churches heavily debated that question. Within the other two Palestine major religions, Judaism and Islam, Jesus is usually referred to as a ‘misguided’ Prophet. Even though Jesus was born and raised as a Jew His own people, then and now, do not believe that He was/is the Christ, the Messiah, the Promised One. For the purpose of trying to make a point in this commentary today I am going to ask you a question that will seem quite odd to most of you, please bare with me as you will understand more clearly as the article continues. The question is, if I carve a piece of wood to make it look like a human and then I decide to call this piece of wood Jesus Christ, is it really Jesus Christ? Hopefully all of you would say, well of course not, wouldn’t you? If I see a beautiful waterfall or a beautiful rock formation and I say look, this is Jesus Christ, does it make either of them really be Jesus Christ? I sure hope you said no. If I decided to start-up a new Church and I tell everyone that I am Jesus Christ, even if I believed it my self, would that make it be so?

 

Throughout the Bible there are a few different names for God and when you get into not just the different English translations but into various language translations such as Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, German and so on, you will find many names for God the Father and for God the Son. For the English speakers who wish to get uppity you need to understand that in the original Hebrew and Greek there was no letter ‘J’. That means there is no such word as Jehovah or Jesus in the original Scriptures . In the Hebrew the name for ‘the Father’ is Yahweh and the name for ‘the Son’ is Yeshiva. Only after these names were ‘washed’ through several other languages did we come up with the English names of Jehovah and Jesus.

 

If you are a person who is a believer in Buddhism and you are holding a carving of ‘the Buddha’ in your hand and you say that this is Buddha my God, does it make it so? If you are a believer of Hinduism and you are holding one of the many different Hindu Gods in your hand and you say this is a Hindu God, does it make it so? If you are a Christian and you bow down to and worship some statue, is that statue really God? If not, then why are you bowing down to it? If you use a non-English name for Jesus, say Russian, it is Иисус. 

 

What I am getting at is we humans have many names for what we call God and in many religions they have many Deity’s (Gods). I know that many of my ancestors came from Norway so I am quite sure that in the early times of my ‘family tree’ I had relatives who bowed down to the Viking Gods. So with that in thought if Odin was their main God and they made a carving and said this is Odin and bowed down to it, was it really Odin? The Ancient Egyptians worshiped the ‘Gods of the underworld’, folks were they really Gods? We are told in Old Testament and New that mankind has bowed down to dumb rocks and pieces of wood and most of them were nothing but dumb rocks and pieces of wood that could do nothing, but some of them were Demons. If you are worshiping ‘Gods’ of the ‘underworld’ you need to get a grip on reality.

 

Within the Old Testament one of the earliest names for God is ‘Elohim’, by my understanding I have been told from a couple of trusted sources that in the ancient Arabic language for Elohim is the name Allah. So technically then the name Allah is one of the names for God, just not an English name. Now the climax of this article, just because you or I decide to use the name Allah for God, does that automatically mean that because we call something ‘God’ or ‘Allah’ does that make that object really be God? Even Jesus said that because Satan and His Angels used to be Angels of Light that they can portray themselves as Angels of Light to this day. Jesus told us that Satan and His Angels are such good liars/deceivers that they will be able to even deceive some of the Saints.

 

I know that I have many readers who are believers in the Islamic faith and I also know that many get very upset if anyone says that they are not worshiping the one true God, Allah. Folks, this is quite understandable, Christians don’t like to be told that we aren’t really worshiping God, just as folks who believe in other religions feel the same way. What I am saying to our Islamic brothers and sisters isn’t that the name Allah isn’t a name for God, what I am saying is that the Deity that they are worshiping isn’t really God (Allah), that they have been deceived. The believers of Islam do not believe that the ‘people of the Book’ (Jews and Christians) are worshiping the one true God but when those same table are turned and we or anyone else says the same to them you end up with the ‘Islamic Terrorism’ that the world sees today. In the name of God, Jehovah, Jesus, Yahweh, Elohim, Allah, Buddha or any Hindu God, no one spills the blood of anyone. To do so is simply murder, no one is allowed to be an aggressor toward another. If ‘our God’ and His Scriptures are telling its followers to commit violence, then that Deity is not God, that Deity is a Devil! The reason the title says ‘everything can be a God’ is simple, if you or I worship it, no matter what ‘it’ is, diamonds, gold, money, whatever, we have made this item our ‘God’.

 

Pakistan: Should ‘Urdu’ Be The National Language?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

Those who consider introducing Urdu as an official language as a matter of unifying our national identity are mistaken. —Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro/Dawn
Those who consider introducing Urdu as an official language as a matter of unifying our national identity are mistaken. —Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro/Dawn

“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.” —Ani DiFranco

Through a happy chance last year, I got to be part of a training program in which I was able to spend a few weeks in the company of people from all over Pakistan.

Many of us there were speaking in our mother tongues that others could not understand, but Urdu served as a common denominator. It was fun picking up words of other languages from each other and also learning about the culture and traditions from other parts of the country.

Apart from the things that made us different, there was a lot that connected us as well.

We, the Millenial generation have grown up with the internet. Many of our pop culture references are the same. Our universities follow similar teaching and grading patterns and we have faced similar problems of reconciling our externally influenced values with traditional ones.

Altogether, it was a valuable experience living in what was essentially a microcosm of our society and overall, things went along swimmingly.

As it turns out, we don’t all need to be exactly alike to get along. It’s important to remember this while talking about Pakistani languages, official, national, regional and the effects they have on our individual and common identities.

A decision by the Supreme Court directing the Federal and Provincial governments to adopt Urdu as the official language has once again sparked the debate on which is the most commonly used language in Pakistan and whether it makes sense to declare Urdu as the official language or not?

It does, when you consider the rationale behind it.

Urdu is indeed understood all over the country even though it may not be the language most Pakistanis learn first.

There isn’t anything wrong with trying to simplify our official correspondences and public notices by having them in Urdu. Neither is it a mistake to have our leaders give their speeches abroad in Urdu, plenty of others do.

The concern that English will somehow get supplanted is naïve on the part of those who don’t understand that people are eager to learn English not because they want to understand the Prime Minister’s speeches to the UN but because English is what connects us to international pop culture, news and entertainment. Without English, we are cut off from vast swaths of knowledge unavailable in our own languages so there is no chance of it being replaced anytime soon.

However, those who consider introducing Urdu as an official language as a matter of unifying our national identity are mistaken.

Also read: Language change

Pakistanis are a diverse bunch and the differences in dialect, dress, food and traditions that pop up every few hundred miles are there to be appreciated not suppressed. If the introduction of Urdu as a common medium of communication somehow hinders the presence and growth of regional languages then that is not a desirable outcome.

Pakistan already has enough problems accepting differences. We are not very good at providing equal rights and representation to women and to religious and ethnic minorities. Let’s not add forced cultural and lingual homogeneity to the list of social injustices being inflicted by one part of the population on the other.

If anything, these differences need to be spoken about more often and more positively to teach us all to live with the diversity that surrounds us.

Read on: National language

In ways both large and small, many of us have become adept at looking the other way when confronted with whatever is dissimilar to us.

Things like not responding when a non-Muslim says Salam, choosing only to wed people within our own caste, having stereotypical jokes about the intelligence level of one ethnicity or the other, ignoring news from parts of the country where no one we know lives.

All these things point to a deeper problem that we refuse to acknowledge.

We keep boxing ourselves into smaller and smaller groups and excluding everyone who doesn’t fit in. It’s natural for humans to seek the comfort of the familiar and to fear what is different. But we shouldn’t let these instincts get so out of hand that someone’s religious beliefs drive us to murderous rage or their way of speaking makes us question their intelligence.

Similarity and homogeneity do not necessarily mean superiority.

Once we rise over these baser instincts and decide to explore all that people with their peculiarities have to offer, that is when we discover that beneath the surface we are all not so different after all.

Skin colour, accents, beliefs and languages form parts of our identity but they are not the whole. And if we, Pakistanis, wish to move forward in the world, all together and proud of our national identity then we need to accept its uniqueness and its multiple histories.

One hopes that the acceptance of lingual diversity will be the first step.