例子不勝枚舉，小小的新加坡就是一個樣本。它的生存，基於它運用、管理多重語言資源的氣度和能力。若缺少了這種「語言國力」，新加坡不可能在如此複雜的地理環境下茁壯 – 北有馬來西亞，西南有印度尼西亞，西有印度，尤其遠遠的北方還有中國這樣一塊大陸。地緣對新加坡這個國家既是祝福也是詛咒，但其多語能量則是百分之百的祝福。若非掌握語言國力，新加坡或許還能成為區域的貿易中心，但沒有可能變成今日的世界金融中心之一。
Among all sustaining forces, what Taiwan lacks most is the force of language. When people talk about a country’s competitiveness, most likely the main benchmarks are the military force, wealth force, technology force or even cultural force. The concept of“Force of Language”rarely came into mind. But in fact, linguistic capability is one of the key factors that can make or break a country in the long run , if not in the short.
Examples are plenty. Take the tiny country of Singapore as a sample. Its existence and survival rests upon its capacity in applying and managing multi-lingual resources. Without that force of language, it can’t possibly thrive in a geographical setting as complex as this – with Malaysia on the north, Indonesia on the South-West, India to the West, and, particularly, the landmass of China up north. Geography is both a blessing and a curse to the country of Singapore, but its multi-linguistic capacity is a pure blessing. Without it, Singapore would still have been a trading center in that region and there is no way for it to have become one of the worldwide financial centers as today.
Hong Kong, in the past tense, also benefited tremendously from its bilingualism. By comparison, the mighty city of Shanghai in China will never replace the economic role Hong Kong used to play for China. I remember a sharp comment made by the past Premier of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. Many years ago when visiting Taiwan, he was asked this question by a reporter : “Can you foresee Shanghai replacing Hong Kong one day“? “Never!”was Lee’s reply. “Why?” Here comes the issue of the force of language, “Because I simply can’t see that the Shanghainese can speak better English than the Hong Kong people”. End of discussion.
Taiwan is good at technology as well as in many other aspects. It produces over 50% of the high-end semiconductor chips for the world’s high-end industrial and military uses, and it also designs at least 25% of the chips for world’s daily electronic devices. Which means, should Taiwan’s economic activities be disrupted by a hostile party , or even worse, should the island country fall under a hostile party’s control, as a consequence, the entire world would be affected severely, even to the point of functionally inoperative.
On top of that, Taiwan is ingenious in meeting unconventional demands for outlandish components. The most apparent case would be that of the birth of Tesla. When Elon Musk couldn’t get designers and factories from other parts of the world to risk making his non-heard-of components, he came to Taiwan and found willing and capable suppliers. Without the ingenuity of Taiwan’s able engineers, Tesla’s EV could have been delayed for many more years and might even have missed its first-to-market timing.
In the political arena, Taiwan has been firmly placed in the first tier among countries of democracy. To be fair, Taiwanese citizens still stand eager for eliminating the residual, inherited authoritarian elements in its political system; however, from a global standpoint, the mere presence of this remaining endeavor, by itself, proves that Taiwan has already passed the point of no return of an evolving democratic country.
In any aspect, Taiwan should have received a much higher level of acknowledgement from the international community than what it gets now. It makes people wonder why it didn’t.
Sure, one can blame the “Cut-Taiwan-off-the-World” program that the neighboring CCP (Chinese Communist Party) exercised. But blaming is not productive, not in everyday life nor in politics. We need self-assertive solutions much more than airing complaints.
Citizens in Taiwan need to be able to speak out for Taiwan, not waiting for others to speak for it. To speak out to the world, you need languages! Presently, over 90% of the citizens on this island write and speak in just one language : the written Mandarin Character and the spoken Mandarin plus dialects.
This causes consequences in two-folds. On the political side, when Taiwan citizens shout in Mandarin, only people who understand Mandarin in other parts of the world can know what Taiwan is shouting for. Sadly, 96% of those who understand are under the firewall enclosure in China. Furthermore, Taiwanese messages are being censored, twisted and manipulated by the CCP in order to prevent its subjects from hearing it.
On the economy side, although the top-layer of the academics, businessmen and technical elites are all quite proficient with a second language, mostly English or Japanese, the majority of the able engineers and middle managers in Taiwan cannot communicate efficiently enough to bring out their personal or organizational potentials.
It’s such an obvious yet ignored national issue : Taiwan needs bilingualism for its political sustainability and economic prosperity. A thriving bilingualism in Taiwan can be achieved by flipping its mentality towards education, or by changing its attitudes towards “outsiders” and installing a more open-minded immigration policy.
Either way, Taiwan must implement a bold and innovative approach to this “force of language” challenge. And that approach can start today. Are you ready? Yes, I meant YOU！