Each year, Yale students may choose from a wide selection of language classes, ranging from the popular to the unusual.
Now, members of the Yale College Taiwanese American Society, or TAS, hope to convince faculty and administrators that the University ought to offer Taiwanese language classes as well.
TAS leaders said they have spoken with faculty members of the East Asian Language and Literatures Department about the possibility of introducing Taiwanese instruction. But professors said they have hesitated to introduce the language because of the University’s procedures for beginning instruction in a language.
“I think that there is enough interest to warrant offering Taiwanese,” said Christian Schaub ’05, the education chair of last year’s TAS council. “Taiwan stands out as a country that does not have a language offered.”
Schaub is a member of the Yale Daily News business staff.
East Asian Languages and Literatures Chairman Chris Hill said Taiwanese supporters have yet to fulfill the typical University procedures for creating a new language curriculum. In particular, Hill said the University had not seen significant student interest in the language.
“We are open to any new proposal of this sort, provided that the student audience is there to support the course,” Hill said.
Currently, the department offers Chinese — both Mandarin and Cantonese — Japanese, and Korean.
Students can demonstrate sufficient and lasting interest in the language by studying it through Directed Independent Language Study, or DILS, a program offered by Yale’s Center for Language Study, Hill said. DILS is intended to give students the opportunity to study languages not currently offered at Yale, Hill said.
Hill said that no TAS members are currently taking Taiwanese through DILS, something he said indicated a lack of serious student interest.
Kevin Lin ’04, TAS’s current education chair, said there is no DILS Taiwanese program, but that TAS hopes to help establish one next year.
“There is definitely student interest,” he said. “The opportunity to take a Taiwanese DILS or class has just not yet arisen.”
Schaub and East Asian languages and literatures professor Charles Laughlin discussed the issue last year but disagreed about what to title the new language course, should it be offered. Schaub wanted to call it “Taiwanese,” while Laughlin preferred “Southern Min,” the Chinese name for the dialect.
“I felt it was important for it to be called something not ambiguous,” Schaub said.
“The term Taiwanese has a certain lack of scholarly precision,” he said.
TAS became interested in promoting Taiwanese language classes after attending the Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association East Coast Conference in February, Lin said. At the conference, TAS members met Chin-An Li, who teaches Taiwanese at Harvard and encouraged TAS to promote Taiwanese study at Yale.
Li began teaching Taiwanese at Harvard last year when the University introduced the language and said universities should teach Taiwanese because of the growing number of Taiwanese American students.
“Second generation [Taiwanese] need to have their mother tongue, to know their culture,” Li said.
The University of Pennsylvania also offers Taiwanese language classes.