Tibetans have been debating about Tibetan Language preservation for a while. Fortunately, in recent years, these debates have turned into a movement or protests led by Tibetans students in Tibet, in places as Amdo Rebkong and Chabcha. A few months back, Tibetans on WeChat were criticizing two local Chinese chiefs of the education bureau in Tibet. They are Tan Ke, the Chief of Ngaba (Aba) Prefecture Education Bureau and Han Tin Bhu, the Chief of Ganlho Prefecture Education Bureau.
Tibetans online were saying that these two Chiefs insulted the Tibetan language and talked about the lack of future for people studying the Tibetan language.
For instance, Tan Ke said on 29th of October:
“These days when students are taking their final exams, if their Chinese language is good, then they have a lot of advantage and they can get into the top schools in the mainland. If they have prioritized Tibetan language, then their Chinese marks are very low and they can’t even get into an ordinary university. Therefore, it is better to teach everything in Chinese in Ngawa . If they study Tibetan, it’s less useful in future and it also doesn’t help to improve education in the nomadic areas.”
Here is a piece of what Chief Han Tin Bhu said:
“If you prioritize Chinese language in school, then your future will be bright. If you prioritize Tibetan language, your future will be limited. An educational system that prioritizes Tibetan is a dangerous educational system.”
Tibetans on WeChat were sharing the photos of these two chiefs. Tibetans were also sharing a cartoon in which these two representatives of the county education bureau and the prefecture education bureau were holding a giant scissor and a hammer and smashing and cutting up the letters of the Tibetan alphabet.
In addition, one Tibetan writer who calls himself Black Light wrote a letter to bureau chief Tan Ke in Chinese and Thai Dakpa has translated it into English. Here is the letter below:
Dear Bureau Chief, don’t block our way
Translated by Thai Dakpa
Dear Bureau Chief, let me ask a question first: how do you know there won’t be a career for those who learn Tibetan? Is is that the Chinese government plans to eradicate Tibetan language in future? You are a government official, so you may know lots of things that we the general people are not aware of.
Dear Bureau Chief, as Chinese language is more popular than Tibetan language, so English is more popular than Chinese. Have you abandoned Chinese and started embracing English? When does China plan to abandon the less popular Chinese language and embrace the more popular English language as the official language? If you have such a proposal, maybe we should learn English together?
Dear Bureau Chief, Tibetan language has not automatically become a useless language, but it is made so with so many measures and methods. So, if you want to give more of such speeches, please specify what you mean.
Dear Bureau Chief, one of the greatest communist leaders Joseph Stalin said that if you want to destroy a nationality, you first have to destroy their language. You may or may not have heard of these words,but you have to accept that this is what Joseph Stalin said. As such, your advocacy of Tibetan language being useless for career security is the first step towards this direction. Can a petty official like you take responsibility for this?
Dear Bureau Chief, any language of whatever nationality is not only meant for keeping your stomach full or getting you promoted. For a nationality that is on the verge of disappearing, her language is the only place where her culture can breathe. One’s culture is one’s inner ideology and outer behavior, so what you are asking the Tibetan people is to leave the motherland of our inner ideology and outer behavior. This might be easy for you to say, but it is too hard for us to do.
Dear Bureau Chief, any heritage, let it be small or big, of Tibetan language and Tibetan culture is a part of the treasure of human civilization. Our ancestors passed on this heritage for thousands of years with their blood and sweat. This is also the best gift we Tibetans present to humankind. So, please don’t block our way to preserve it.
This is dedicated to Tibetan students who are protesting against the speech given by Tan Ke, the Chief of Ngawa(Aba) Prefecture Education Bureau.
What does it mean that, although it has been a long time since the Chinese government changed all the textbooks from Tibetan into Chinese in many areas of Tibet, Tibetans and Tibetan students are still putting in so much effort towards preserving the Tibetan language and fighting for their language rights? Does the Chinese government policy answer to the hopes and desires of the Tibetans?
(Translated by Dhondup Tashi Rekjong and Tenzin Dickyi)