"I won’t speak local dialect"
Those words were on a sign hung around the necks of students who spoke their native Austronesian dialects at school in Taiwan 50 years ago, according to this BBC article (h/t Eye on East Asia). Something like this:
Sadly, there’s nothing singular about Taiwan here: this sort of language crime has been perpetrated by all sorts of groups across all sorts of civilizations. Even though the obliteration of Austronesian in Taiwan sounds pretty complete in the article, the article discusses efforts at revival and SIL shows that at least some do not have the dreaded “nearly extinct” label.
Without trivializing the topic but as an aside: I sure wish we had the original quote that got translated into “I won’t speak local dialect.” Based on the pic above, though, it appears the phrase was “我不说方言”. In that, the key word would be 方言 fāngyán, which we spend a lot of time discussing here at Sinoglot and which often gets translated as “dialect” even when it doesn’t really have the same meaning as “dialect” in English. (That we don’t have the original quote is just another argument for eliminating dubbing in print.)
This use of fangyan would be a good example of something a bit sinister in the word. To be specific, it seems that, sometimes, the term “fangyan” can be used to marginalize a local language by designating it just a bastardization of real speech.
In the case in question, Taiwan in the ’50s and ’60s, the presumably Sinitic-speaking educators who referred to an Austronesian language as a “fangyan” could not possibly have been bothered by the fact that it had no resemblance to Mandarin or Minnan. Their point wasn’t linguistic relationships at all, it was to stamp out a backwards form of speech.
A few years ago I might not have believed in the existence of this usage of fangyan. After all, DeFrancis extolled the virtues of the word, saying it clearly referred to the major Sinitic languages: Mandarin, Cantonese, etc. And that may well be the formal usage. But informally I’ve heard people use fangyan in other non-Sinitic situations, and it sometimes seems to have that unsavory “oh, listen to the barbarian yapping” kind of connotation.
But don’t worry: I’m not coining yet another dialofangyanolect word to try to render the complexity of Chinese in English.