[lg policy] Robert Barnett on Tibetan Language: Policy & Practice

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Jan 23 15:55:35 UTC 2015

 Robert Barnett on Tibetan Language: Policy & Practice

At his Culturally Curious blog, *Matt Adler talks to Columbia University’s
Robert Barnett about the complexities of Tibetan language and its situation
in China*
Both dialects and policies, Barnett points out, vary more than is often

Today, in the post-Mao era, the language of state mouthpieces like the
newspapers, television, radio and official texts (including history texts)
is still locked in the Leninist era from 35 years ago – to read an official
Tibetan newspaper day after day, with its wooden terminology and endless
praise of the state, is a mind-numbing experience. And China’s education
policies in Lhasa and the Tibet Autonomous Region are very damaging for
Tibetan language: all middle schools there (unlike Qinghai) are required to
use Chinese as the teaching medium. This is starting to happen in
kindergartens now too. So a lot depends on whether the Qinghai or the Lhasa
model of education is adopted in the future.

But, although there is much they are not allowed to write about, other
areas of culture and language in Tibet that are less important to the state
have flourished since the 1990s, making claims of cultural genocide seem
overstated. The huge increase in education, publishing and distribution of
commercial media has led to a surge in creative writing and publishing in
Tibetan, particularly in poetry, short story writing, popular music,
religious texts, and more recently in film, particularly in Amdo. But the
larger problem is that Tibetans who are fluent in Tibetan find it hard to
get good jobs, even in Qinghai, so in the longer term this is likely to act
as a general economic disincentive for the future of Tibetan language, and
the current renaissance faces serious risks and challenges unless
progressive policies are introduced. [*Source

Earlier this month, Xinhua noted *the publication of a new encyclopedic
Tibetan dictionary*
arguing that the introduction of terms for “WeChat,” “broadband,” and
“robot,” as well as “lightning marriage,” “new normal,” and “Silk Road
economic belt,” <http://tibet.news.cn/english/2015-01/07/c_133903262.htm>
show that Tibetan language is flourishing:

The dictionary will have about 150,000 entries, three times that of the
Tibetan-Chinese dictionary published in 1985, the most comprehensive
Tibetan-language reference book until now.

[…] “Language is a mirror of the times,” said Qoizha, deputy head of the
Tibet regional compilation and translation bureau.

“New words reflect the rapid development in Tibet in terms of politics,
economy, culture and education,” said Qoizha, adding that new words also
add vitality to the Tibetan language.

[…] “The dictionary is getting thicker, more professional and encyclopedic,
which is strong proof of Tibet’s cultural development,” said Wangchug, 69,
a Tibetan language translator. [*Source

The state news agency also reported that Han officials in the Tibetan
Autonomous Region will now be required to “master” Tibetan
following Xi Jinping’s declaration last September that “one cannot serve
the local people well if one cannot speak the local language.”

Read more on Tibetan language
<http://chinadigitaltimes.net/china/tibetan-language/>, and more from
Robert Barnett <http://chinadigitaltimes.net/china/robert-barnett/>, via
 January 21, 2015 5:57 PM
Posted By: Samuel Wade <http://chinadigitaltimes.net/author/samuelwade/>
Categories: China & the World
<http://chinadigitaltimes.net/china-news/main/world/>, Culture & the Arts
<http://chinadigitaltimes.net/china-news/main/culture/>, Politics
<http://chinadigitaltimes.net/china-news/main/politics/>, Society
Tags: languages <http://chinadigitaltimes.net/china/languages/>, Robert
Barnett <http://chinadigitaltimes.net/china/robert-barnett/>, Tibet
<http://chinadigitaltimes.net/china/tibet/>, Tibetan language
<http://chinadigitaltimes.net/china/tibetan-language/>, Tibetans


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