Tsai Ing-wen gave a speech yesterday (February 18th) ahead of International Mother Language Day (February 21st) to promote the learning of local languages in Taiwan.

Tsai remarked that mother languages are disappearing in Taiwan, this is the reason that the country needs to create an environment that allows for immersion. This might be one of the only ways to ensure that these languages can be passed on to future generations.

Languages such as Min Dong (or Eastern Min/閩東語), Hakka, Taiwanese, and Taiwanese Sign Language became part of the compulsory education for elementary and junior high school students. Languages of the native people in Taiwan are also being protected by supplying teachers for all that seek to study. This policy is certainly a step towards protecting local languages, however it may not be enough. 

Creating an environment that actually gets young people to speak these local languages enough to continue to use them enough to speak them at native levels may require families to speak them at home, or at least to use them often within peer groups. One or two classes a week will not be enough to ensure true fluency and thus a retention of the cultures that these languages represent.

With so many local languages in Taiwan it will unquestionably be a difficult task, however if there is sustained encouragement to speak these languages, jobs created to teach and use them, and increased government resources to use these languages in areas such as the arts and education, it could be possible to truly protect and promote these languages. It seems that it all rides on if the Tsai administration and Taiwanese society is committed to actually pushing for a genuine protection of these languages, or if they are simply paying lip service to seem inclusive.