The Dhivehi Language Academy has called on taxis to change their boards to read ‘Taxi’ in the Dhivehi Thaana script instead of English – a move branded “ridiculous” by drivers.
“The problem is not that ‘taxi’ is an English word,” President of the Dhivehi Language Academy Ashraf Ali explained.
“It can be a word of any language, but the law says if a word does not have a Dhivehi equivalent it should simply be written in the Thaana script. The lettering, at least, should be in Dhivehi even if the word is not,” he said.
Taxi drivers have responded with exasperation to the academy’s suggestion.
“It is a waste of money,” said Malé taxi driver Ahmed Afra. “And in any case, what difference does it make? Should we also have someone sit atop the cabs to say whether we are vacant or occupied in sign language for those who can’t read?”
“All this is reaching the ridiculous now. Like the Transport Authority says, the board suffices as a symbol of occupancy and is an added convenience to the passenger. I don’t see why the academy feels the need to complicate things further,” continued Afra.
The new signs became mandatory from May 15, after repeated delays following resistance from drivers who claimed the new regulations – which included mandatory insurance, medical checks, and regulated fares – were too strict.
The Dhivehi Academy was created under the 2011 National Language (Priority) Act and is charged with continuing the preservation and development of the language.
Ashraf has said that precedence must be given to the local language according to the law, and that therefore any English words must be printed in smaller print beneath a larger Dhivehi word.
However, Transport Minister Ameen Ibrahim has told local media that the word ‘Taxi’ written on boards placed atop vehicles should not be seen as a phrase, but rather as a symbol identifying whether vehicle is vacant.
“We can use ‘Taxi’ in either manner. But in this case, we are not using ‘Taxi’ as a phrase, but rather as sign language – as a symbol. Technical persons say that it is a symbol. It is the same in almost all other countries of the world,” he is quoted as saying to local media.
Taxi drivers have said the discussion between the Transport Ministry and the Dhivehi Academy shows the state had implemented the new regulations before it was properly reviewed.
Hassan Shameel argued that the government should have to bear the cost of further changes to the signs, arguing that the transport authority should have resolved such issues before implementing the new regulations.
“Where has the Dhivehi Language Academy been all this time? It’s been an year since this was gazetted, and they snap awake after it was implemented on the 15th of this month and suddenly are concerned about the language. Why didn’t they act before?”
“In any case, if they love the language so much, why do they not notice that the schools, streets, hospitals have their names in English? Why be concerned about taxis alone?” he continued.
Academy president Ashraf stated that the intention was not to increase costs for the drivers, but to come to a reasonable solution through discussions with the Transport Authority.
“There can’t be an immediate solution, and we are aware of that. We are trying to do a sincere task here. All we want is for everyone to embrace and take pride in our individuality and national identity,” he said.