Daighi teachers’ Daighi identity and their promotion of students’ identity through learning Daighi in primary school classrooms

Chia-Ying (Annie) Yang, Yvonne Foley, and Jill Northcott


Daighi, a key marker of Taiwanese identity (Zhong 2002; Chen 2008; Her 2009), is going through an intergenerational language shift (Huang 1988; Chan 1994; Hong 2002; Yeh et al. 2004; Census 2010; Chen 2010; Yang 2020). Daighi, meaning ‘Taiwanese language’, has many alternative appellations. It is variously known as Minnanyu (Yeh et al. 2004; Yang 2008), Tai-yu (Hsiau 1997), Taiwanese (Edwards 1985; Sandel 2003; Liu 2012), Southern Min (Huang 2007; Chen 2010), Taiwanese Min-Nan language (Liu 2012), Taiwanese Holo/Hoklo language, Taiwanese Hokkien, Hokkienese mentioned by Liu (2012) and Edwards (1985), and lastly, Tai-gi (Lim 1996, 1997, 1998; Li 1999; Sandel 2003; Kloter 2009). Daighi is the name used in this study because first, it draws on the phonetic transcription of ‘Taiwanese language’, which is how the language has been referred to among Taiwanese ever since the Japanese colonial era (Hsiau 2012). Second, this name is pronounced in Daighi rather than in Taiwanese Mandarin (Tai-yu), and spelled in the Daighi tongiong pingim (Taiwanese phonetic transcription system, DT) (see also Yang 2020).

Daighi, it is argued, first became a symbol of Taiwanese identity during Japanese colonisation (1895-1945) (Hsiau 2012), because Japan’s colonial language policy ‘gave Taiwanese people a common language, and helped to foster a feeling of “Taiwanese identity’” (Scott and Tiun 2007: 55), and since Daighi was the language of the majority, it became the ‘Taiwanese language’ (Gold 1986; Tsao 1999; Wei 2006; Wu 2009; Hubbs 2013).

Daighi is the mother tongue of the Minnan ethnic group in Taiwan, accounting for 73.3% of the Taiwanese population according to Chen (2010: 82) and Scott and Tiun (2007: 54); and 75% according to Liu (2012: 109) and Chen (2008). However, it is in the process of undergoing an intergenerational language shift. According to the Census (2010), the first language or mother tongue of those under 30 is Taiwanese Mandarin, whereas the mother tongues of those from 30 to 60 are both Taiwanese Mandarin and Daighi, and only those 60 and above are native in Daighi, with a certain percentage (around 37.86% according to Wu 1992: 353-359) bilingual in Japanese.

Perhaps with the increasing awareness of language endangerment or potential death due to this language shift, in 2001, the Taiwanese Ministry of Education (MOE) proposed the Local-Language-in-Education (LLE) Policy, introducing local languages - Daighi, Hakka, and Austronesian languages - into Taiwanese primary school education as optional subjects. On 15 July 2009, a revised LLE Policy was proposed, and implemented on 1 August 2011 as National Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2009), repositioning local language subjects from optional to compulsory in primaiy schools. As this LLE Policy (2009) was the implemented policy during the period of my data collection for this study, this policy is the version referred to throughout this chapter. The four aims of the LLE Policy are: (1) To cultivate students’ interest in Daighi and their active learning of the language; (2) to help them improve their listening, speaking, spelling, reading, and writing ability, thus enabling them to express their thoughts in their daily lives; (3) to develop their ability to think, communicate, discuss, appreciate, and solve problems in Daighi; (4) to enhance students’ ability to learn through Daighi, to broaden their living experiences, and to familiarise them with multiple cultures, in order to meet the needs of modern society (Ministry of Education, 2009). Based on the proposed aims, to develop the Daighi language identity in education, the LLE Policy focuses on the improvement of language proficiency and knowledge of Taiwanese culture.

With the National Curriculum (2009) aims setting out a guideline to focus on language proficiency and culture, this study explores teachers' perceptions of Daighi's association with identity, and how they promote such perceptions in their classroom practices. This chapter first explains theories on identity and teacher agency in the literature review, before examining the use of interviews and classroom observations as data collection tools, and the implementation of a thematic analysis as the main data analysis method. In the findings and discussion section, teachers’ perceptions and observed teaching practices are discussed and explained drawing on relevant theories. Lastly, the conclusion section summarises this chapter, and suggests directions for future studies.

Literature review

In the field of language maintenance and shift, education plays a crucial role in 1 maintain[ing] the minority language of the student, strengthening] the student's sense of cultural and linguistic identity, and affirming] their individual and collective ethnolinguistic rights’ (May 2008). Although similar functions are shared, different aspects of language identity are emphasised depending on the specific contexts. This is exemplified drawing on the cases of Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Luxembourgish, and Catalan.

In the Celtic-language context, ‘cultural and linguistic heritage - of family, community, region or nation’ (O’Hanlon 2015:245) are emphasised and Welsh-medium education is a case in point (Williams and Reynolds 2003: 363). Similarly, the findings of Grant’s (1983) and Roberts’ (1991) studies suggest that in Anglicised urban areas, the rationale behind pursuing Gaelic-medium primary education is the parental desire ‘to continue a tradition of Gaelic speaking in the family or a wish to preserve the Gaelic language and culture in Scotland’ (O’Hanlon 2015:245). In the case of Luxembourgish, one of the three official languages (Luxembourgish, French, and Gennan), their Language-in-Education Policy promotes identification with all thr ee languages (Homer and Weber 2008: 87). Horner and Weber (2008: 85) explain that this ‘trilingual language-identity’ is an ideology based on ‘instrumental criteria’, and that it is an ‘acultural instrument of social integration - as everybody’s language - rather than solely a cultural symbol of national identity in an endeavour to justify the ratification of language testing procedures within the framework of citizenship policy’ (Horner 2015: 364). Another case in point is Catalan, the preferred language in public domains - administration, media, and public education - as stated in the Statute of 1979 (Casesnoves et al. 2019: 527). According to Casesnoves et al. (2019), the factors favouring the use of Catalan is related to ideology and identity, as the language is critical in the process of Catalonia becoming an independent state. Such identity is addressed as ‘ethnic-national identity' by Faine (2017) (see also Woolard 1989; Berrera 1997; Llobera 2004). Education plays a crucial role in reinforcing the national Catalan identity, through the means of culture promotion and reviving the use of Catalan (Faine 2017: 47).

Although the link between language and identity is reinforced through education, the conceptualisation and emphasis on identity varies according to the nature of each case. In the case of Daighi, a number of research studies have focused on the Taiwanese population’s perception of Daighi and its link to Taiwanese identity (Chen 2008; Her 2009; Liu 2012); language policy and its impact on education (Hsiau 1997; Sandel 2003; Kloter 2004; Scott and Tiun 2007; Wu 2009; Liu 2012; Hubbs 2013); language use in Taiwan (Chen 1998, 2003; Hong 2002; Yeh et al. 2004), and attitudes to Daighi (Van den Berg 1988; Yeh et al. 2004; Yang 2020). However, none of this research has focused on exploring the frontline Daighi teachers’ perspective on Daighi and identity, and how this is emphasised in classroom contexts. As Daighi teachers constitute an important agent in Daighi education, this chapter sets out to fill in this gap.

To understand the case of Daighi, this section discusses first, the definition of identity, relevant perspectives on identity theories adopted for this study; and second, why this study employed Biesta et al.’s (2015: 627) ‘model for understanding the achievement of agency’.


Ball and Mclvor (2013) explain the strong link between language and identity, as ‘language is widely understood by Indigenous Peoples as the vehicle for the

TABLE 6.1 Individual/collective identity types (Block 2007: 43)


Based on

Ethnic identity

Shared history, descent, belief systems, practices, language and religion, all associated with a cultural group

Racial identity National identity

Biological/genetic make-up, i.e. racial phenotype

Shared history, descent, belief systems, practices, language and religion associated with a nation-state

Migrant identity

Ways of living in a new country, on a scale ranging from classic immigrant to transmigrant

Gender identity

Nature of conformity to socially constructed notions of femininities and masculinities, as well as orientations to sexuality and sexual activity

Social class identity Language identity

Income level, occupation, education, and symbolic behaviour Relationship between one’s sense of self and different means of communication, understood in terms of language, a dialect or sociolect, as well as multimodality

intergenerational transmission of knowledge, culture, spirituality and identity’ (Ball and Mclvor 2013: 20). This study takes a post-structuralist approach to identity, which is defined as ‘beyond the search for such “universal and invariant laws of humanity that are operative at all levels of human life” (Ekeh 1982: 128; cited in Ritzer 1992: 498), to more nuanced, multileveled and ultimately, complicated framings of the world around us’ (Block 2007: 13). That is, identity is viewed as a complex and multi-layered entity, which can be unpacked through various perspectives. Block (2007: 14) identified seven key perspectives, on identity - ‘ethnicity, race, nationality, migration, gender, social class and language’ - as shown in Table 6.1.

In the Daighi context, the relevant perspectives drawn on are ethnic identity, national identity, and language identity, and are discussed in more detail below.

Ethnic identity and national identity

Although ethnicity is not explicitly defined in most research (May 2001), and ‘“ethnic” identity is sometimes used as a synonym of “national” identity...and in some languages, of “racial” identity’ (Joseph 2004: 162), Block (2007) distinguishes ‘ethnicity’ from ‘nationality’. The former focuses on culture, whereas the latter focuses on the nation-state. This echoes the definitions proposed by Joseph (2004: 162-163), where 'ethnic identity is focused more on common descent and on a shared cultural heritage because of common descent, than on political aspirations for autonomy’ and 'national identity, which tend to focus on political borders and autonomy, and are often justified by arrangements centred on shared cultural heritage, but where the ethnic element is inevitably multiple’. Such conceptualisation of national identity is derived from B. Anderson’s (1983: 49) widely accepted view of nation - ‘imagined political community’. These understandings of ethnic and national identities are adopted to differentiate the mother tongue of the Min 'ethnic' group (Chen 2010; Scott and Tiun 2007; Liu 2012), from a language of Taiwan where multiple ethnic groups co-exist1 - that is, Daighi.

Language identity

Language identity, or ‘ethnolinguistic identity' (Blommaert 2005), is 'a complex notion covering both linguistic and “ethnic” features’ (Blommaert 2005: 214). That is, language identity is the link between one’s sense of self and a means of communication (Block 2007). Leung et al. (1997: 555) refer to the three types of relationship of such a means of communication as language expertise, language affiliation, and language inheritance (see also Rampton 1990). In their definition,

language expertise refers to how proficient people are in a language; language affiliation refers to the attachment or identification one feels for a language whether or not they nominally belong to the social group customarily associated with it; and language inheritance refers to the ways in which individuals can be born into a language tradition that is prominent within the family and community setting whether or not they claim expertise in or affiliation to that language.

These three identity perspectives - ethnic, national, and language identity - are the key perspectives applied in this chapter to unpack identity linked to Daighi.

Teacher agency

As discussed in the Introduction, agency forms the analytic framework this study employs to explore teachers’ understanding of Daighi and their own identity, and the importance of teaching this understanding to their students in Daighi classrooms. Instead of adopting the definition of ‘agency’ as discussed in the literature worldwide - that is, viewing agency as holistic and individualistic social action (Hollis 1994; Fullan 2003; Biesta et al. 2015; Pantic 2015) - this study uses the definition by Biesta and Tedder (2006), which recognises the role of ‘socioculture’ in agency (Biesta and Tedder 2006) to view agency as mediated action. According to the definition (Biesta et al. 2015: 626), agency is ‘not something that people can have - as a property, capacity or competence - but is something that people do. More specifically, agency denotes a quality of the engagement of actors with temporal-relational contexts-for-action, not a quality of the actor themselves’. This statement showcases agency as an act of interaction between the agent and its social context.

Biesta et al.’s (2015) agency model is adopted (see Figure 6.1) to unpack the values identified through interviews. Biesta et al. (2015) explained that this model is guided by two concepts. The first is the ‘ecological conception of

A model for understanding the achievement of agency (adapted from Biesta et al. 2015)

FIGURE 6.1 A model for understanding the achievement of agency (adapted from Biesta et al. 2015).

agency-as-achievement' (Biesta et al. 2015: 627), which views teachers’ actions as ‘the way in which actors critically shape their responses to problematic situations’ (Biesta and Tedder 2006: 11; Biesta et al. 2015). This concept emphasises both teachers as agents whose actions are responsive and shaped by their own beliefs, as well as their understanding of the sociocultural context. The second comprises the ideas in Emirbayer and Mische’s (1998) Chordal Triad of Agency, which presents agency as ‘a configuration of influences from the past (iterational), orientations towards the future (projective) and engagement with the present (practical-evaluative)’ (Biesta et al. 2015: 636, original emphasis).

The iterational dimension is defined as ‘the selective reactivation by actors of past patterns of thought and action, routinely incorporated in practical activity, thereby giving stability and order to social universes and helping to sustain identities, interactions, and institutions over time' (Emirbayer and Mische 1998: 971, original emphasis). In other words, the iterational dimension is a reflective process that looks at the impact of past events and professional development on the person's teaching practice. As the focus of this chapter is on the perception of Daighi identity, the discussion of iterational dimension focuses on teachers’ life histories, specifically on the transformation from external (interpsychologi-cal) to internal (intrapsychological), as emphasised in the literature (Johnson and Golombek 2016: 4). If put into a second language teacher education context, the focus is on the teachers’ internalising of ‘the informed habits of mind, productive instructional concepts and practices that support student language learning, and the particular view of L2 teaching’, and enactment of these in the L2 classroom (Johnson and Golombek 2016: 7). Unpacking teachers’ life histories enables us to understand their motivation in devoting themselves to this profession, and the motivation to engage in professional development support that prepared them to pursue the profession of a Daighi teacher.

Teachers’ professional development pursues the short-term and long-term goal of promoting positive attitudes to Daighi. In Emirbayer and Mische’s definition (1998: 971), this projective dimension encompasses 'the imaginative generation by actors ofpossible future trajectories of action, in which received structures of thought and action may be creatively reconfigured in relation to actors ’ hopes, fears, and desires for the future’ (original emphasis). That is, having the short-term and long-term goal in mind shapes and is shaped by both the professional development plan and the present dimension - the current practice in the classroom.

The practical-evaluative dimension, or the present dimension, is defined as entailing ‘the capacity of actors to make practical and normative judgments among alternative possible trajectories of action, in response to the emerging demands, dilemmas, and ambiguities of presently evolving situations’ (Emirbayer and Mische 1998: 971, original emphasis). That is, in a real-time classroom situation, teachers are equipped with knowledge and skills that enable them to make various decisions, which lead to different trajectories. These decisions are analysed according to three aspects - cultural, material, and structural.

Cultural aspects have to do with ways of speaking and thinking, of values, beliefs and aspirations, and encompass both inner and outer dialogue. This links to life stories in the iterational dimension, and the aspiration of teaching in the projective dimension. Material aspects have to do with the resources that promote or hinder agency and the wider physical environment in and through which agency is achieved. Structural aspects have to do with the social structures and relational resources that contribute to the achievement of agency.

(Biesta et al. 2015: 30)

When the cultural aspects lens is applied to analyse my data, teachers' perceptions of their identity and Daighi, and how important it is for their students to share such understanding are illuminated. The structural aspect lens - the relationship between the Daighi teacher and the MOE, schools, and colleagues, and material aspect - the resources and physical enviromnent are also important aspects to explore, as these aspects help the understanding of implicit mediation on teachers’ actions (see Yang 2020 for further discussion), but are not discussed in detail due to the specific focus of this chapter.

This chapter draws on three perspectives of identity - ethnic, national, and language - and Biesta et al.’s (2015) teacher agency model to explore teachers' perceptions of Daighi and identity, and Daighi education, as well as the promotion of this ideology through their classroom practices.


Twenty Daighi teachers were interviewed and observed: Eleven teachers in Taipei, with six teaching primary 6 and five teaching primary 4, and nine in Changhua, with four teaching primary 6, and five teaching primary 4. This study first drew on the semi-structured active interview2 as the primary data collection tool. The interviews lasted from 40 minutes to two and a half hours and were followed by two unobtrusive classroom observations,3 with each class lasting 40 minutes, finishing with a short post-observation interview, which lasted between two minutes and 40 minutes, for further confirmation or clarification purposes.

An inductive approach - the constant comparative method - proposed by Glaser and Strauss (1967) was employed to analyse both interview and classroom observation data. That is, I used sequential comparisons, which involved first developing a list of codes based on one interview, coding the next interview against the list, and adding those emerged codes to the existing list; and second, going through my data again and again to compare statements shared within the same interview, and with other interviews. These codes and extracts were then grouped into categories to develop themes, and related theories and studies were consulted to redefine the analytic framework that best describes this research. This indicates that at this stage, I also engaged with the deductive approach in addition to the inductive approach that I had used when coming up with the codes.

To improve the validity of the findings, peer checking (Dornyei 2007) was employed at the first cycle coding level. The codes overlapped substantially, which helped assure the validity of this qualitative research. In terms of ethics, the research procedure was approved by the Ethics Committee from the Moray House School of Education and Sport from the University of Edinburgh, UK. Each participant was informed of the focus of this study prior to giving their consent; they were also aware of their rights to withdraw at any stage, and that their identity was anonymised.

Findings and discussions

This section is structured according to relevant aspects of the teacher agency model which provided the theoretical framework for the study (Biesta et al. 2015). The themes identified are categorised according to the characteristics of each dimension identified in the Biesta et al. (2015) model - iterational (past), projective (future), and practical-evaluative (present).

Iterational dimension (past)

As discussed and explained in the literature review, the iterational dimension has to do with the past of the actor, which is critical for stabilising and informing present and future actions (Emirbayer and Mische 1998; Biesta et al. 2015: 626; Johnson and Golombek 2016), and the focused aspect discussed is life histories -personal attachment to Daighi and teachers’ identity.

Teachers' strong link to Daighi

The personal attachment to Daighi aspect helps us to understand how teachers perceive their identity in relation to Daighi, which is fundamental to understanding the motivation for their teaching. To many Daighi teachers (19 out of 20 in the study), Daighi is their mother tongue; thus, the sense of identity and responsibility to pass on Daighi emerged as the main reason for the attachment. Take Beth for example:

It was after I started going to kindergarten, going to school that I started to speak Taiwanese Mandarin. I came to Taipei for a university education, and no one spoke Daighi with me. Whenever I go back home, I especially miss this language. Yes, Daighi to me is the link to my own origin.

(Beth. TP4.additional discussion. 3)

Beth positioned Daighi as a language that was linked to her family of origin, and this association became more apparent when she left the Daighi-speaking environment to live in Taipei. Richard also stated that Daighi was his mother tongue -his language, and that he had a sense of responsibility and motivation to pass it on to his children and grandchildren. The majority of Daighi teachers perceived themselves as ‘inheritors’ of Daighi as they were ‘born into a language tradition that is prominent within the family and community setting’ (Leung et al. 1997: 555), and identify themselves with Daighi and have a sense an attachment to it (see ‘language affiliation', Leung et al. 1997). In terms of ‘language expertise', apart from obtaining the certificate as qualified Daighi teachers, they also needed to complete 36 to 72 hours of professional training prior to commencing their career as Daighi teachers. Additionally, for many of these Daighi teachers, Daighi is also their mother tongue and their main language for communication. Daighi thus meets the types of language identity for these teachers.

Projective dimension (future)

The projective dimension (both short-term and long-term) is informed by actors’ expectations of the future, or their vision of the future constructed on the basis of their own beliefs (Embirbayer and Mische 1998; Biesta et al. 2015). The emerged expectations are a projection of the discussion of themes in the iterational dimension. These are: (1) Students acquiring knowledge about Daighi (half of the teachers within the study), being able to speak their ethnic mother tongue (two out of 20 teachers), and linking their identity with Daighi (Richard and Sandra); and (2) to improve students’ Daighi skill in listening, speaking, reading, and writing (shared among all Daighi teachers), enabling them to communicate with parents and grandparents in Daighi (six out of 20 teachers), and to use Daighi in their daily lives (seven out of 20 teachers). The teachers’ expectations suggest that language expertise is one of their clear goals. Additionally, the emphasis on family and linguistic heritage is similar to Celtic-language cases, employed to develop an identity connecting to Daighi (‘/angwage affiliation'). Recognising students’ ‘language inheritance' is another important aspect that teachers work towards, as they aim for their students to use Daighi to speak to their parents and grandparents. The emphasis of identity aspect links to Daighi appeared to be prominent in these expectations and visions, together with teachers’ sense of identity and responsibility discussed in the iterational dimension.

Practical-evaluative dimension (present)

The focus of this dimension is on current actions, and cultural aspects are drawn on, which explore ideals, values, beliefs, discourses, and language (Emirbayer and Mische 1998; Biesta et al. 2015). Such aspects are crucial to explore as almost half of the teachers expressed the opinion that teachers’ beliefs and aspirations shape their teaching. To teachers, the shared view on the importance of Daighi and its link to identity are categorised into the following three themes: ( 1 ) Daighi is ‘your’ identity; (2) Daighi is a useful communication tool; and (3) Daighi preserves ancestors’ wisdom, Taiwanese tradition and culture (see also Yang 2020).

Daighi is 'your' identity

Three aspects are categorised under this rationale: Daighi names, students’ ethnic mother tongue, and ‘Taiwanese speak Daighi’, each of which are explained in the following.

Daighi names

Based on classroom observation notes, three of the Daighi teachers addressed students by pronouncing their names in Daighi, and one teacher addressed students by calling their numbers in Daighi. Ethan, for example, explained that:

Whenever I start teaching a new class, I always ask the home teacher for the students’ name list, and check their pronunciation in Daighi at home before coming to teach them...So, in my class, I asked students to check attendance calling on their peer’s Daighi names, as you observed.. .In a new academic year. I will spend two to three weeks checking attendance myself, teaching them how to pronounce their names in Daighi, and after that. I let them check attendance. After a while, they should not use the name list anymore, but should check attendance by looking at their peers.4


To Ethan, it was important that students know how to pronounce their names in Daighi, as students do not have many opportunities to learn this. Like Gloria and Henry who also insisted on addressing students using their Daighi names, no specific reasoning was provided, apart from that they expected their students to know their names in Daighi, and to pronounce them appropriately. Such motivation may link to what Joseph (2004: 1) considers to be one of the two basic aspects to a person’s identity: ‘their name, which serves first of all to single them out from other people’. Addressing students with Daighi names can also be the first step to develop ‘affection connection’, or ‘identify with and feel attached’ to Daighi (see 'language affiliation' above). Alternatively, these Daighi teachers may be emphasising to students their ethnolinguistic inheritance (see 'language inheritance' above). On the other hand, three other teachers mentioned calling students by their Daighi names, but they explained that it was challenging for the teachers.

Students' ethnic mother tongue

Daighi is identified by the Daighi teachers as a key to link to grandparents. As discussed in the Introduction, students’ grandparents are either bilingual in Daighi and Japanese or monolingual in Daighi, and have little or no Taiwanese Mandarin. This language barrier across generations became a serious issue since a strong family bond is highly valued in Taiwan (Olsen 1974). This was also reflected in the interviews, in which teachers emphasised the function of Daighi as the key to bridging the existing language gap across generations and building a strong bond (see Tosi 1999: 325 on the sense of us-ness). For example, Sandra shared how students using Daighi with their grandparents could strengthen the family bond (Sandra.TP6.4.b.5/6). Beth’s view is also a case in point:

Minnanyu5 is widely spoken among their grandpa and grandma’s generation. So, I hope that they can use Minnanyu to interact with them because Minnanyu is still a much friendlier language [to the grandparents]. It feels that, if you speak Minnanyu and I speak Minnanyu, the feeling of using Minnanyu to communicate to each other gives a sense of zero-distance compared to using the National Language.


Daighi is Beth’s mother tongue, and as she shared in an earlier part of the interview, speaking Daighi gives her a sense of being part of the family (see also discussion in iterational dimension above). Beth wanted to share this aspect of Daighi with her students, and hoped that the students would one day come to realise this and value Daighi themselves. This emphasis on family or the community linguistic setting that students are associated with is shared among the Daighi teachers, and they promoted the importance of it in their teaching practices given the critical role family plays in Taiwanese culture. This family heritage focused identity is similar to the Welsh and Scottish Gaelic cases discussed by O’Hanlon (2015), and matches with the language inheritance type of language identity discussed in the literature review.

Taiwanese speak Daighi

Another important theme which emerged is the link between Daighi and Taiwanese identity, which is illustrated clearly in Sandra’s extract:

We try our best to enable them [students] to [communicate] through that, through language to find something that they themselves can identify with. For example, we want them to use it a bit more when they go back to visit their grandparents. Then their grandparents find that...you will find this bond of ‘usness’ with your grandparents, and they also think that you are together with them. This language of our grandparents cannot be thrown away, because you are Taiwanese! Right? And I just encourage them, saying that you were born in Taiwan, no matter whether you are Hakkanese, Minnanren, new immigrants or what, you are all Taiwanese. We Taiwanese have many languages, and Daighi that you are learning now is just one of them, right?


Sandra considered herself responsible for helping students to develop an identity through Daighi. Sandra began with explaining the importance of Daighi and family bond, then extended Daighi’s importance to Taiwanese identity. A similar point was also made by Anita and Richard, where they emphasised that students are 21st century Taiwanese citizens, and speaking the Taiwanese language and knowing its culture is essential. Such a perception reflects the strong link between Daighi and Taiwanese identity since the Japanese colonisation era (see discussion in Introduction).

Although not specified, this identity could consist of national identity (Block 2007: 30), where ‘individuals are born, raised and educated in a particular locality of a particular nation state’, a perception which is similar to the case of Catalan (Casesnoves et al. 2019; Fainé 2017); and language use and identity (Giroux 1992; Wexler 1992; Rampton 1995; Gee 1996; Hall 1996; Schiffrin 1996; Lippi-Green 1997; van Dijk 1997; Miller 2000), whereby speakers ‘view their language as a symbol of their social identity’ (Kramsch 1998: 3), as a result of developing a language into a part of the students' linguistic repertoire (Norton 1995). On the other hand, it can also be viewed as close to the Luxembourg case, where language-identity is an ideology based on ‘instrumental criteria’ (Horner and Weber 2008: 85). This theme is closely linked to the next theme that emerged - Daighi is a useful communication tool.

Daighi is a useful communication tool

Another feature brought out by the teachers was that Daighi was a useful communication tool in daily life, even when it came to making a living:

Even if Daighi is not used during your study period of time, once you start working you will definitely use it, because we are all Taiwanese. This matters to your future, either you start your business or take on office job, right? If others use Daighi to talk to you, if you can’t understand it, then you are like a duck listening to the sound of lightning [a Daighi idiom to express the situation when someone cannot understand what is being said].

(Sandra. TP 6.4. b. 5/6)

One of the Daighi values reflected in this observation of Sandra’s is that, regardless of the students’ ethnicity, Daighi is the second lingua franca in Taiwan next to Taiwanese Mandarin (see Chen 2010: 82; Scott and Tiun 2007: 54; Liu 2012: 109). Therefore, in Sandra’s understanding, Daighi was also essential when it comes to making a living. This point was also stressed by Doris, as she explained that she does not expect her students to speak Daighi well, but since Daighi is one of the major languages in Taiwan, it is important that students should at least understand what others are saying (Doris.TP4.5.iii.3).

It is important to note that, linking back to the discussion under ‘Taiwanese speak Daighi', these Daighi teachers aimed for their students to learn Daighi not just for their ethnolinguistic background, but because their ‘national identity’ is Taiwanese, and Daighi is a prominent language.

Daighi preserves ancestors' wisdom, Taiwanese traditions and culture

Similar to Gaelic-medium education, ‘maintaining linguistic and cultural heritage - of family, community, region or nation’ (O’Hanlon 2015: 245) - is a common theme shared among the Daighi teachers. Ofelia stressed the cultural heritage preservation aspect of Daighi when discussing her teaching practices. She gave an example of how Taiwanese ancestors’ accurate observations were reflected in descriptions of the seasons in Daighi, and argued that this feature differed from those of Taiwanese Mandarin:

I want them to think that Daighi is beautiful, Daighi is beautiful; Daighi is knowledgeable. It is a beautiful and knowledgeable language; it is deep, and preserves treasures from our ancestors. They say one sentence, but why do they say it this wav? There are reasons behind it. In the past, with one sentence you can describe the whole season; it is completely different from the savings in our Taiwanese Mandarin. In ancient times there were no technologies like we have today; how did they manage to put it so well and accurately? For each solar term, there exists an idiom...I use these opportunities to tell them that Daighi is not for offensive expressions, absolutely not...Children need to hold this attitude of respect, then they can enjoy learning Daighi. If they think Daighi is something low-class, they won’t want to learn it.


One of the examples of a solar term idiom in Daighi is (a

rainy Winter Solstice Day precedes a sunny Lunar New Year). Sharing knowledge of Daighi’s intellectual resources with her students was Ofelia’s approach to improve students’ motivation to affiliate with Daighi: They might even start to like learning it as they learn to respect it. In a similar vein, Queenie shared that in her class, increasing the awareness of Daighi as a beautiful, elegant language that preserves ancestors’ wisdom was the approach to improve students' knowledge of Daighi, and learn the cultural aspect of the language. A Daighi idiom example could be (a broken bone comes back stronger), meaning

failure does not make us weaker; it strengthens us to face the next challenge. Such emphasis by Daighi teachers’ on the cultural aspect of identity is consistent with the definition of ethnic identity employed in this chapter, where the emphasis is on ‘a form of collective identity based on shared cultural beliefs and practices, such as language, history, descent, and religion’ (Puri 2004: 174).

The findings suggest that the majority of the Daighi teachers within this study perceived Daighi as an important link to their own identity (see iterational dimension). Based on this affiliation to Daighi, these teachers also set it as their teaching objective that students should develop an identity with Daighi and improve their proficiency (language expertise) (see projective dimension), either with an emphasis on students’ ethnolinguistic background (language inheritance), personal association with Daighi (language affiliation), shared cultural beliefs (ethnic identity), or that they are 21st century Taiwanese (national identity) (see practical-evaluative dimension). In other words, Daighi is perceived as an important aspect of identity for both teachers and students, and this link with identity is emphasised by the Daighi teachers as an important aspect of compulsory Daighi education in primary schools. The teaching practices observed were in line with the implicit identity emphasis of the National Curriculum (2009), focusing on improving Daighi proficiency, knowledge about Daighi and Taiwanese culture, with an additional focus on national identity, language affiliation, and inheritance. Such an emphasis of teachers is also found in other languages - Celtic languages, Luxembourgish, and Catalan - where education acts as a vehicle for reinforcing language identity, culture, and linguistic heritage.

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