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Reverend recognized for helping preserve aboriginal language

2012/02/20 22:34:39

Taipei, Feb. 20 (CNA) A reverend from Taiwan's Truku tribe received an award from the Ministry of Education Monday for his efforts to preserve the tribe's aboriginal language by creating a dictionary.

Yudaw Dangaw, 79, was among eight people and two groups recognized for promoting local languages by the ministry at a ceremony held ahead of the International Mother Language Day on Feb. 21.

Speaking at the ceremony, the reverend said he first spent 20 years with an American missionary translating the Bible into the Truku language, using the Roman alphabet, because many people around his age in the tribe could not read Chinese.

After that project, the reverend said that he worked with several people to create a Truku language dictionary, which was commissioned by Sioulin Township in Hualien County. The dictionary is available online at the township's website.

"The most difficult part was beginning with nothing," said the reverend, adding that recovering lost words and phrases was also most challenging.

Although the two projects were time-consuming, Yudaw Dangaw said he felt joyous that he was able to preserve the language of his tribe.

However, the reverend said that many young people were learning the tribal language only for school exams or proficiency tests.

Thus, he suggested the government set up schools that mainly used tribal languages instead of Mandarin if it truly hoped to help pass on these languages.

The Truku tribe was officially recognized by the government in 2004 and has around 24,000 people, who mainly live in eastern Taiwan, according to the Council of Indigenous Peoples.

(By Hsu Chih-wei and Kay Liu)