The enthusiasm of a highlands' child about her mother tongue

The enthusiasm of a highlands' child about her mother tongue

  - “Can you speak your mother tongue? - No, I just speak Vietnamese”
  This was a conversation between myself and a woman colleague – daughter of a Sédang (an ethnic minority of central Vietnam).

  - “I can speak my mother tongue well, but I can’t write it” (an answer from one of my students).
  I heard this from people not only of my village but also from other villages. According to me, the current trend of national integration and development has for consequence the fading of the languages of ethnic minorities. Now, the young generation, including me, mixes our mother tongues with Vietnamese. Moreover, a majority of young “montagnards” cannot write their own language. It is a heartbreaking truth.

  As far as I know, many young people think it is often convenient to use Vietnamese language to communicate and work. I realize that is a widespread thoughtlessness of today's youth. One distressing example which I can personally testify: two persons can very well communicate with each other in their native language, but they do not dare to do so because if they do, they are afraid to be despised as ethnic minorities. Beside, it is a mistake that in schools like the one where I used to be a teacher, the school system forces attending students to speak Vietnamese all the time. School authorities claim that students need to improve their Vietnamese abilities. But this has more than one negative impact besides forgetting their native language. I did not agree but there was little I could do at the time.

texte de remplacement quand la photo est introuvable
Drinking party celebrated for building foundations and frames of a new house. It is happy time when people are together talking, singing and dancing

  As I am a child of the central highlands – and now that I started this blog with Bahnar language, I am so happy. And I want to share my happiness with you. Thanks to this work, thanks to the people who always supported me, I see the problems that my native language and my culture are facing. When I do this, I realize myself: I try to speak without inappropriately using Vietnamese; I learn the old words unknown to the young generation, who replaces them by their Vietnamese equivalents. I try to write my mother tongue, which is seldom done. Furthermore I learn more of another ethnic language, more widespread, Bahnar, the one that I am now using to write this blog. I chose to write in Bahnar because I belong to a smaller group strongly influenced by Bahnar and because more people understand Bahnar than my own language.

Sedang man talking to visitors about his past village
Sedang man talking to visitors about his past village

  With this blog in Bahnar language, I first intend to protect a language close to my native language. Second, I feel the need to educate my children: in order to preserve their culture, people must first of all teach their children their mother tongue. If right at the family level, parents and grandparents do not consciously preserve the language by maintaining a daily use for their children and grandchildren, no one can help them revive their native language. Third, I want to share the information about my language, my culture, my ethnic group with everyone who might be interested.

  So, I write for myself and my children, I write for my own ethnic group, I write for all who have an interest in Bahnar language. I thank you if you can help me with this project. One more time, I really appreciate and need your help.

Read the Bahnar version