Tibet Web Digest has translated a WeChat post about the importance of creating story books, toys, and drawing books for children’s in Tibetan language. The post was published by Meru Yulha Thar, a professor at Qinghai Normal University in Xining, Qinghai province, on his WeChat wall on November 12, 2015.
Professor Meru Yulha Thar was born in 1979 in Chentsa in Amdo. He has a PhD in Tibetan studies from the Northwest University for Nationalities, which is in Lanzhou, in Gansu province. His publications include two books, one in Tibetan entitled “Research on the Political System of the Tibetan Empire,” and the other in Chinese called “Research on Regional Names of the Tibetan Empire.”
Children’s Books and the Future of Tibet
Meru Yulha Thar
A nation’s future depends on its children. Whether a nation’s future will be a source of light further down the road is directly related to the growth and development of its children.
Children naturally become immersed in the language in which their books are published, and that language also shapes the worldview of these children. The reason why Tibetan children like the Chinese language and like to study it is because there are many children’s books, cartoon books, colored drawing books, and digital story books in Chinese for them. If we have a range of children’s books and toys in Tibetan, Tibetan children will naturally come to like the Tibetan language too.
When we discuss the way in which Tibetan children come to adopt the Chinese language, often, we try to prove that this is because of the external environment. However, I consider that the environment is not the core factor here. Rather, it is other sources of influence – toys, story books, television, and drawing books – that play the major role in language adoption.
Tibetans around my age and from the previous generation didn’t have an upbringing with children’s books in Chinese and also didn’t have Chinese television. Because of that, when we were young, we either listened to the stories shared within our family or we played various games with our friends in Tibetan language. What we listened to and what we watched were in Tibetan. For instance, Mero Tsedrung and other folk tales were the books that we read, and Sukyi Nyima and Nagye Tselo were the stories that we listened to. That is why we became interested in Tibetan and why our childhood was glorious. However, today’s Tibetan world is the opposite. Tibetan children now have cartoon films to watch in Chinese and stories to listen to in Chinese. So Tibetan stories and Tibetan folk tales are banal to them, and these stories have less power to capture their interest. However, this is mainly because we don’t have Tibetan toys, Tibetan story books, Tibetan reading materials and Tibetan animation movies for these children, adapted according to their age.
We do have a few animations and drawing books in Tibetan these days, but the children don’t care for them; they are not interested in these tools. There might be other reasons, but when we look at these Tibetan items carefully, it seems that they just change the cover alone. So they are not novel. They wouldn’t produce a good outcome even if the children were to use them.
Since our future belongs to our children, and we need to plant the seed of hope in them, we should leave the major issues aside for now and pay more attention to our children’s world. When we grow old, and we want to talk with our children, if we have to listen to them in Chinese, our feelings won’t be the same. Who will we tell our innermost secrets to when that time comes?
When we talk about children’s education, we also need to discuss the kindergartens and pre-schools in Tibet. We have many kindergartens and pre-schools in Tibet. Many Tibetans think that the children should be taught in the bilingual system, but that is something we should be careful about. This is something which eliminates their mother tongue and makes them competent neither in Tibetan nor Chinese.
We should prepare teaching methods, teaching tools, and text-books for Tibetan children, and we should know how to teach them in their mother tongue.
Therefore, to build the future society of Tibet, let’s start with children’s education, and with children’s books. And let’s also be aware that education starts from kindergarten.
(Translated by Dhondup Tashi Rekjong)