This article was published on May 23th. Min-drug is the pen name of Jamyang Kyi, a journalist with Qinghai TV who is also a prominent contemporary writer and a very popular singer. Jamyang Kyi is well known for her essays which touch on many Tibetan issues as well as women’s issues. Her pen name Min-drug comes from a constellation called “Karma mindrug keykyo” (six stars with a crooked neck). Jamyang Kyi expresses her concern over the way in which Tibetans are responsible for the loss of their mother-tongue.
One day this summer when I was in the office, a woman cadre from one of the prefectural Television Stations came to our office. A few years ago, she worked at our station as an intern, so I knew her. I quickly greeted her saying, “How are you?” She replied, “Ni-hao? (How are you?).” I asked her, “When did you come to Xining?” She said, “Zuo-tian (Yesterday).“ I asked what her job was and she replied to that question in Chinese also. This incident gives us a surprise; there is nothing to do.
Some Tibetan dancing halls and restaurants have appeared in Xining recently. I thought these would be some places to have fun and a good environment for the children where they can learn some ethnical values so I was happy about them. One Saturday night, we went to have fun at a Tibetan dancing hall. After ordering some tea and soda, we asked, “How much is it?” A girl in a sleeveless dress answered in Chinese. Suddenly the customers clapped and the entertainments started. The MC hosted the entertainments speaking mainly in Chinese. Following this, some male and female singers with Tibetan names and wearing Tibetan costumes and Khata (ceremonial scarves) on their necks sang many Chinese songs. It looked like many of the customers were Tibetans that night.
Another day we went to a Tibetan teahouse, which was decorated in Tibetan style, and there were many types of Tibetan tea. The owner and waiters/waitresses were all Tibetan. I heard the owner saying he has the idea of turning his teahouse into a window to introduce Tibetan culture and customs, and I was overjoyed. When we were just about to leave after a sightseeing tour of the decorations, I saw a neat bookshelf in front of me. I looked at every book clearly, but to my disappointment, I didn’t see a single Tibetan book or magazine on the bookshelf. All of them were Chinese books and magazines.
In the last few years, I established the rule at my house that everyone must speak Tibetan at home. I have a severe problem of mixing Chinese with Tibetan, so my husband and child often corrected me. But at the office, all my colleagues like to speak mixed Tibetan and Chinese, so I feel I don’t have a good Tibetan-speaking environment. Anyway, because of the rule at home, it is impossible not to pay attention to my language. Therefore, I automatically pay attention to my colleagues speaking the mixed sheep and goat language.
One day at the office, a TV presenter from Kri-ka (Ch: Guide) who mixed Chinese in her Tibetan too much. I deliberately said to her, “You are a TV presenter. If you speak like this, it is not good for you when you are doing interviews.” She said, in her area, if she used Tibetan words instead of the Chinese words that the local people are accustomed to, they would sneer at her. I said it is not right to follow the people when they are wrong. In fact, some local people are not even aware if some of the accustomed words are Chinese or not.
Exactly about ten year ago, while three of us family members were touring the Children’s Park, not far from us, some elderly men and women from Gro-tsang (Ch: Ledu) were talking about various things while eating their picnic food. At one point, my daughter, Yangzom Zangmo, asked, “What language are they speaking?” When I paid attention to their conversation, I realized they were speaking a mixed sheep and goat language. My daughter said they were speaking the same language as a classmate of hers from Gro-tsang, and she laughed. That language really did not sound good. At that time, I said to myself, “Ten years later, we may become like them.” At that time, it was not that popular to mix Chinese words in our language.
This year’s June Gathering Festival (an annual festival, on which day all the Tibetans from Xining gather at a park to have a picnic. In Tibetan it is called Zi-ling Bod-tsogs.) was held in Xining. The Qinghai TV Station made a report about it and showed it on TV. Right after that, many people in the audience made a lot of comments: “Oh, it is terrible. The people who work on the preservation of written and spoken language at the Radio and TV Stations also speak this mixed goat and sheep language in their daily life. If we continue to take this path, it won’t take long for our language to disappear.” This is a fact. If I explain the way my colleagues speak in their daily life at our station in an example, it is like this:
A: Which xing-qi (Weekday) is today?
B: Today is xing-qi Two (Tuesday).
A: Is zi-xing-che-la-li-sai finished (Bicycle Race)?
B: Did you watch the bi-mu-shi (Closing ceremony) on dian-shi (TV)?
A: I missed the bi-mu-shi (Closing ceremony).
B: We may get some rain today. I don’t have a yu-san (Umbrella). It is fine. I will be on duty for the jie-mu-zhi-zao (Programme production). Stay in the ban-gong-shi (Office) over lunchtime to jia-ban (Work overtime).
A: Is it your turn to zhi-zao (Ch: 制造 En: Produce) today?
B: Yes, When we zhi-zao (Ch:制造 En: Produce), there is a lot of ze-ren (Ch: 责任 En: responsibility). We have to jia-ban (Ch: 加班 En: Work overtime) over lunchtime.
Translated by Reb Sa