Magazine article New Internationalist

In Defence of the Mother Tongue

Magazine article New Internationalist

In Defence of the Mother Tongue

Article excerpt

The Tibetan word nying-je means - among other things - compassion, love, kindness and generosity of spirit. Like the Cherokee word oo-kah-huh-sdee, which describes being overwhelmed by how cute something is, these unique concepts can get lost in translation. With one of the world's 6,000 languages disappearing every fortnight, such unique words may soon disappear entirely.

Like many other endangered languages, Tibetan faces the challenges of rapid urbanization and dwindling numbers of native speakers. Yet in Tibet it is Chinese governmental policy that poses the greatest risk, according to campaigners.

Under China's near 70-year occupation of the country, Mandarin Chinese has become the official language of education, business and government, ensuring that Tibetans without command of Mandarin face widespread discrimination.

Tibetan entrepreneur and language advocate Tashi Wangchuk was arrested in January 2016 after filing a legal complaint against his local authorities for failing to protect Tibetan language provision, as is guaranteed by China's constitution. …

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