Event — Webinar

What’s the value of an endangered language? Indigenous language and identity in rural Taiwan

An online interactive lecture by Professor P. Kerim Friedman from National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan, Professor Friedman currently holds the Chair of Taiwan Studies at Leiden University and IIAS. 

The Lecture

In this talk, Prof. Friedman explores the efforts of a community-based Indigenous language revitalization program in eastern Taiwan.

'Language in the Village' was designed to teach the endangered Pancah (Amis) language by having local youth engage in community activities alongside older native speakers from the same village. This student-centered approach to language learning took students out of the classroom and focused on communicative competence rather than spelling and grammar. As such, it stood in stark contrast to the test-centered approach favored by Taiwan’s elementary and middle schools. Inspired by Maori language pedagogy in New Zealand, the linguistic skills valorized by the program are very different from those emphasized by official school tests and language competitions. This meant that the schools, government agencies, and parents involved in the program often shared very different 'language ideologies' from the program coordinators, and they were forced to carefully negotiate between their own goals for the program and the expectations of the other stakeholders.

Drawing on a year-long ethnographic research project, Friedman focuses on the struggles of the program’s coordinator as she attempted to adapt Maori-inspired pedagogy to fit the needs of Taiwan’s test-driven educational system. He finds that, while the program may have fallen short from the perspective of language education, it nonetheless succeeded in valorizing the Pangcah language as an integral part of village life and culture. He also identifies the key institutional changes necessary for such programs to have any hope of truly revitalizing Taiwan’s endangered Austronesian languages.

The Speaker

P. Kerim Friedman is a professor in the Department of Ethnic Relations and Cultures at National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan. His research explores language revitalization efforts among indigenous Taiwanese, looking at the relationship between language ideology, indigeneity, and political economy. An ethnographic filmmaker, he co-produced the Jean Rouch award-winning documentary, 'Please Don't Beat Me, Sir!' about a street theater troupe from one of India's Denotified and Nomadic Tribes (DNTs). Kerim is also a co-founder of the anthropology blog anthro{dendum} (formerly Savage Minds). He currently serves as the 2021 “Chair of Taiwan Studies” at Leiden University.

The Webinar

There will be time for questions after the talk.


You can join this live webinar by sending us your contact information via the registration form on this page. Two days before the start of the webinar, we will get in touch with you and provide you with access information and other necessary details. 

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