Yes, this narrative.ly piece by Rosalie Chan is another “saving an endangered language” story, but Hakka is really interesting:
It’s 6:30 p.m. at a radio studio in Miaoli, a small city in Western Taiwan. Yin Chang is plugged in. Her headphones are on, and the microphone is adjusted close to her mouth. The lights are dim; a blue banner declaring “Voice of Hakka Radio 97.1 FM” hangs behind her.
Chang, 36, fixes her headphones and pushes a strand of her bobbed hair behind her ear. With a bright voice, she enthusiastically greets the audience: “Hello, tegaho gaihei DJ Yin!” – “Hello everyone, this is DJ Yin!”
Chang hosts a program called Heinai, or “It’s me” in a variety of Chinese known as Hakka, the language of a Han Chinese ethnic group scattered throughout the continent. Heinai is aimed at Hakka youth; it’s part of Chang’s efforts to reinvigorate the dying language.
Chang grew up in Miaoli and, like 62.2 percent of the local population, is Hakka. In Taiwan, the Hakka are frequently referred to as ke jia ren or “guest family people” because throughout their history, Hakkas have been a migrant group, fleeing settlements to avoid one catastrophe after another. The Hakkas arrived in Taiwan during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when they escaped the Manchurian Armies that were taking control of China. The Hoklo people had already settled the fertile land of Taiwan, so the Hakkas were left to make do with the remaining infertile foothills, and, thus are known for their history of hardship and frugality. […]
Every year the Hakka Affairs Council — an organization established in 2001 and dedicated to preserving Hakka culture and promoting Hakka media — surveys Hakka people in Taiwan about the presence of language in their lives. According to a 2013 survey, 47.3 percent can speak Hakka fluently; however, most of those are elderly. Only 22.8 percent of people aged 19 to 29 speak Hakka, and that figure is even lower for children 18 and under.
Chang hopes that by presenting Hakka music to young people in her country, it will spark their interest in learning the language and spur more engagement in the culture, the same way it did for her about ten years ago.
The link is from Victor Mair’s Log post, which contains an introduction to the remarkable history of the Hakka:
Although the Hakka amount to approximately only 4% of the total population of China, their influence on politics, the military, culture, and other spheres of life in the past two centuries has been disproportionately large
The Hakka have assumed positions of leadership not only in China, but in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the New World. To name only a few of the important Hakka statesmen, revolutionaries, and cultural leaders of the last century and a half, we may list the following:
The list includes everybody from Sun Yat-sen to Lee Teng-hui, Lee Kuan Yew, and Ne Win. I had no idea!