Archive for the ‘Ethnic languages & Elective Subjects.’ Category

Using foreign words to help teach Kadazan

Sunday, December 24th, 2017

PENAMPANG: The toughest challenge in teaching Kadazan in schools today is that the students have totally lost their mother tongue and cannot even understand basic words.

Ironically foreign words have to be used to convey meanings, according to two lecturers from IPG Kampus Kent Tuaran, Dr Chiam Sun May and Evelyn Annol.

They were explaining after delivering their short papers during a Seminar on Kadazan language held at the Donggongon Library Hall.

Trainee teachers from their campus doing practical cannot deliver their prepared sets of lessons because about 80pc of the students totally cannot communicate in their mother tongue and soon get bored, they said.

The other problems are lack of teaching aids, academic reference books and mentoring process where the senior teachers acting as mentors are themselves not experts in the language.

Another combined paper by the two was a study on the use of language by the Kadazans themselves in the district.

Their findings were that those born in the 50s are still using the language, those from the 60s are dedicated in urging the use of the language but sadly those from the 70s to the 90s are no longer even speaking among themselves in Kadazan.

The participants were told that the language is not even taught at St Michael’s School, in the heartland of the Kadazans, because there are no takers of the subject.

In terms of gender, the womenfolk are more active in promoting the language.

The impact of the language being aired in the radio gave rise to some patriotism when the name of the village where the singers and composers came from are also mentioned, said Evelyn.

The British recognised the language in 1950 and by 1955 only 15 minutes of airtime was allocated and only for news. The Department of Information and Broadcasting decided to use Kadazan after doing some research and found it clear, easy to understand and already used in Church.

When independence came, the language was removed from the air in 1969, however, in 1979 it was revived after a radio pioneer Wilfred Mojilis applied personally to the Director to have the Kadazan Programme included in the air, said Evelyn

by Oswald Supi.

Read more @

The KadazanDusun language dilemma

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

DURING the third and final round of the recent statewide Mr Kaamatan or Harvest Festival Contest 2017, the seven finalists, out of 44 contestants, were asked two questions.

It was mandatory for first question to be answered in the finalist’s mother tongue while the second question, in the finalist’s choice of language.

Only one of the contestants, Dicky Jerry, representing the Keningau District, responded to both questions fluently in his mother tongue, Dusun.

Some of the other finalists could barely muster enough words in their mother tongues to deliver coherent sentences. At 19 years old, fulfilling other criteria superbly, Dicky impressed the judges, most of whom are KadazanDusun speakers, to win the coveted title.

Based on the 2010 census, Sabah’s population stood at roughly 3.2 million. Thirty-two ethnic groups call Sabah their home, out of which only 28 are recognised as indigenous.

The largest indigenous ethnic group, which forms 17.8% of the population, is the KadazanDusun. The other prominent ethnic groups include the Bajau at 13.4% of the population and the Murut at 3.3%.

Other indigenous ethnic groups constitute 14.6% of the population while the non indigenous groups constitute the rest of the population.

On 24 January 1995, the KadazanDusun Cultural Association and the United Sabah Dusun Association consented to declare KadazanDusun as the standard language of the KadazanDusun people.

Based on the 2010 census, the language is supposedly spoken by about 560,000 speakers residing in the districts of Penampang, Papar, Tuaran, Tambunan, Ranau and Keningau. Depending on the locations, the language is spoken in a variety of dialects.

The KadazanDusun’s Tangara dialect, for example, is predominantly spoken in the west coast of Sabah while the Bundu-Liwan dialect is more popular in the interior.

The similarities between the Kadazan and Dusun languages are sufficient for speakers of these two languages to understand each other easily. In a nutshell, the most salient distinction between these two languages are the differences in their phonemic charts. Kadazan consists of fricatives [v] and [z] which are absent in Dusun. On the other hand, /w/, / y/ and /r/ are present in Dusun but not in Kadazan.

In an earlier 2005 UNESCO’s report, the KadazanDusun language is classified as an endangered language, spoken by a mere 300,000 people.

The language has apparently joined about 7,000 other languages worldwide that face the real threat of extinction. Indeed, the language could eventually become a mere literary exhibit in 50 years if is left to survive on its own devices.

Prior to the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the KadazanDusun language was the predominant language in all KadazanDusun households. After 1963, Malay gradually replaced English as the medium of instruction in schools, and the official language in government.

Sabah Malay, which, according to a study is a dialect of Malay rather than a bazaar language, has become the language of communication among the multi-ethnic groups in Sabah. English continued to be held in high esteem.

Probably thinking that their children could learn their mother tongues at home, KadazanDusun parents born in the 1950s began to encourage their children to learn English or Malay, hoping for them to gain an advantage in securing jobs in both the government and private sectors.

Eventually, these parents too started to communicate with their children in English or Sabah Malay instead of their mother tongues. As a result, many KadazanDusun children nowadays grow up not acquiring a command of their mother tongues.

Through constant and popular use, Sabah Malay gradually replaced the KadazanDusun tongue in many KadazanDusun homes. This language shift contributed to the decline in the use of the KadazanDusun language.

Read more @

Learning how to speak properly is important

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Being articulate is a crucial skill in Putrajaya, especially for those who head ministries, government departments and agencies. File pic.

BABY babble may sound cute. We laugh in delight whenever a baby starts to coo and make unintelligible sounds.

But, if left unattended, the baby may have a rough road ahead learning to speak clearly when he gets older, and adults around him may have a tough time trying to decipher his strings of alien sounding words.

As new parents, we have been told by our elders to use proper and clear language when talking to babies instead of baby babble no matter how cute it sounds. The need to master the ability to speak clearly does not only apply to babies, but adults, too.

Most adults do not have speech impairment unless they have some form of oral defect or issues with their voice box.

Being articulate is a crucial skill in Putrajaya, especially for those who head ministries, government departments and agencies.

This writer has covered enough events at the administrative capital in the past five years to witness all sorts of people with articulation issues.

There are those with such a soft voice that even if you place a voice recorder near to the person’s mouth, it can barely capture what he is saying.

When this happens, the frustration on the journalists’ faces is obvious as we know it will be tough to write the article later, with our bosses breathing down our necks, rushing us to meet the deadline.

Besides the soft spoken people, journalists also have to deal with those who have problems putting their thoughts and views into words or sentences for the laymen to understand.

Such speakers also tend to be long-winded, trying to impress listeners with their speeches that are longer than 30 minutes and peppered with jargon

Dealing with such characters is enough to make reporters reach for painkillers to numb the headache as we write the article.

Things go from bad to worse when journalists have to deal with people who enjoy using words and terms that do not exist in the dictionary, in sentences that are confusing, jumping from one subject to another all in one breath.

Once we have picked up our jaws from the floor, we cringe at the task of having to file in an article that our bosses and readers can comprehend when we have trouble understanding it.

For us in the English media, we often have to translate speeches from Bahasa Malaysia to English since Bahasa Malaysia, as the country’s official language, is widely used here in Putrajaya.

On rare occasions, we are spared from translating when speeches are in English, but another thing rears its ugly head — the atrocious pronunciation.

My brain has to do an acrobatic act just to figure out what the person is trying to say because their diction can sometimes be monotonous, sounding similar to the tone when one delivers a speech in Bahasa Malaysia.

I do not expect the speakers to sound British or American, but they should correctly pronounce English words.

A word, if pronounced wrongly, can mean another thing. For example, the word “bow” (bau) refers to the action of bending downward or to incline, while “bow” (bo) refers to a knot with two loops and two loose ends.

Pronunciation is so important that when I pursued my degree, I had to take a class on speaking skills. We had fun learning about it.

I was intrigued by what comedian Harith Iskander shared during a National Transformation 2050 dialogue session with the prime minister and those in the entertainment industry on Wednesday night.

Harith called on his fellow compatriots not to be afraid of the English and Chinese languages if they want their career to go beyond Malaysian shores.

“If you want to move forward, don’t be afraid of the English and Chinese languages,” he told more than 300 movers and shakers of the entertainment industry.

The same call should be made to those in Putrajaya.

Mastering English or Chinese will not make you any less Malaysian, but will instead give you a competitive edge.


Read more @

Going the extra mile

Sunday, March 26th, 2017
Yallene (seated left) showing her SPM result slip to Pandiyan, Pathma, Kanimolly and Kaaviyaan at their family home.

Yallene (seated left) showing her SPM result slip to Pandiyan, Pathma, Kanimolly and Kaaviyaan at their family home.

FORMER fifth former P. Yallene went the extra mile when she scored A for Tamil Literature in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination last year, although the subject was not taught in her school.

Now 18, the former SMK Taman Tasek Mutiara student also turned out to be the school’s top SPM scorer by scoring 5A+, 5A and an A- in the exam.

Although much of her success in the Tamil Literature subject is attributed to the fact that the school does teach Tamil Language, which she scored an A+ in, Yallene said she would not be able to pull off the feat without guidance and proper revision.

“We have four periods, or two hours of Tamil language subject taught in the school every week, but the teaching covers grammar and essay writing.

“To get assistance in Tamil Literature which covers novels, poems and drama, I asked for advice and extra lessons from the Tamil language teachers.

“I’m thankful for having Ms. Prema and Ms. Uma Devi in school for their help,” she said in an interview at her home last Tuesday.

Yallene also said that due to the new format in Tamil Literature introduced last year, there was little reference that she could obtain outside of school.

“There are no past-year exam questions to try out. Even reference books are limited at bookstores.

“I’m glad for the help and support from everyone in guiding me,” she added.

Asked about her secret, she said studying hard and paying attention was key, besides the willingness to always seek help from teachers.

“I also attended tuition for all the subjects, seven days a week.

“It was very tiring, but the reward is worth it,” she said.

Yallene said she has applied for various scholarships including from the Public Service Department. She hopes to pursue medicine and become a doctor.

Her parents who are both teachers also expressed pride in her success.

Her father A. Pandiyan, 47, who is a Maths teacher in SMK Simpang Ampat said he was happy with Yallene’s success and hopes that she will never give up learning her mother tongue.

Read more @

Adenan: Christmas, a time of great rejoicing and celebrations

Monday, December 26th, 2016

KUCHING: Christmas is a time of great rejoicing and celebrations for our Christian friends, and people of other religions share in the joy and festivities, as this has been our practice, said Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

He said in Sarawak, people make it a point to send greetings to their friends and make an effort to visit them according to the open house tradition.

“The open house tradition is a unique facet of our shared culture that we must continue to nurture and cherish for the sake of our unity and harmony which is so vital for the continuous development of Sarawak,” he said in his Christmas and New Year message here on Saturday.

He said Sarawak is a land where people of many different races and religious beliefs live together happily side by side, like brothers and sisters who have much respect for one anothers culture and religion.

“In some parts of Sarawak there are Christian and Muslim families that stay together under the same roof, and religion is of no issue because they belief that “your religion is your religion and my religion is my religion,” he said.

“That’s the way it has been for us in Sarawak for the last hundred years and that’s the way it should be all the time in the future. Of late, when there was a great deal of social tension on issues of race and religion, we in Sarawak kept our cool and refused to be drawn into debates that are very divisive in nature,” he said.

“For so many years, there has been no hindrance and issue at all to religious freedom in Sarawak. We are free to worship as we wish; Christians are free to use the word “Allah” as they used to and there will be no “Hudud” in Sarawak,” he added.

On economy, Adenan said Sarawak cannot forever be a commodity-based economy, as it is time for the creation of more downstream industries in order to process its raw materials such as natural gas, timber and silica sand into products that can fetch much greater value than when they are exported raw.

He said with the implementation of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy Programme (Score), Sarawak is well on the road to industrialisation with more and more investment from overseas.

He pointed out that Score has attracted 21 investments worth RM33.50bil, generating over 17,000 employment opportunities, especially in the Samalaju industrial zone in Bintulu.

Adenan said Sarawak has high hopes that the Pan-Borneo Highway will become another factor to propel its economy in the decade to come.

“I believe many of you who travel from Sematan to Miri have seen that works in some packages have already started. Pan-Borneo highway is not empty talk and it is steadily becoming a reality,” he said.

Adenan also wished the people of Sarawak ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.’


Read more @

Vital to keep mother tongue

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

CM says this is to prevent it from getting extinct, preserve racial identity and heritage

KUCHING: The multi-ethnic communities in the state should document, enrich and enliven their language as a way to prevent their mother tongue from disappearing with time.

In giving this advice, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem said it is important, especially for the small ethnic groups, to conserve their mother tongue to avoid a ‘language death’ – a situation when future generations shift to another language and no longer learn their mother tongue as their first language.

Adenan was officiating at the launching of the ‘Comprehensive Iban-English Dictionary’ by Dayak Cultural Foundation (DCF) yesterday.

“What happens today (yesterday’s launching) proves that the Iban language is still alive, well and prospering because of your care, concern and love for the language. I urge other races to do the same before their language disappears. Put it on record, who knows, sometime in the future, certain languages might become extinct,” he advised at the event held at Hilton Hotel here.

Deputy Chief Minister and DCF chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, patron Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu Numpang, the foundation’s managing trustee Tan Sri Datuk Amar Leonard Linggi Jugah, including two of the book’s authors Janang Ensiring and Dr Robert Menua Saleh were also present.

Adenan cited native North American languages such as Apache and Cheyenne (among others) as examples of mother tongues that were critically endangered because there were only a few native speakers of the languages around.

He believed some of the said languages could be found in digital forms in museums and research facilities.

“We hope this would not happen to the natives here,” he added.

The 1,980-page Iban-English dictionary aims to preserve and promote Iban culture particularly in the fields of performing arts, language and literature. Bilingual in nature, the dictionary has Iban as source of language and English as a target language.

The dictionary is the result of many years of collaboration among Janang, Robert and Jantan Umbat from the Tun Jugah Foundation, with Prof Emeritus Dr Vinson H Sutlive Jr and Joanne Sutlive, who were commissioned by DCF to compile the dictionary two years ago.

It contains over 30,000 entries of headwords and derivatives with definitions, synonyms, antonyms, idioms, pronunciations, etymologies and examples of phrases and sentences.

To this, Adenan said: “The launching of the Iban-English dictionary is a reflection of what we are doing today, a reflection that when we do have culture, when we do have tradition, we have civilisation. The Ibans not only have words to describe things, but also words to describe abstract thoughts.”

He stressed on the importance of learning and practising languages of the multi-ethnic groups in the state, especially at the secondary school level, in order to keep them alive.

“I always remind our brothers and sisters in the peninsula that when you talk about Bumiputera, in Peninsular Malaysia there are 99 per cent Malay Muslims but not all Bumiputeras in Sarawak and Sabah are Malays or Muslims. In fact, most are Christians. You must give them recognition, don’t categorise them as ‘lain-lain’ (other ethnics),” he added.

by Geryl Ogilvy Ruekeith.

Read more @

Documentation Of Ethnic Languages Needs To Be A Continuous Effort – Mary Yap

Friday, August 12th, 2016

TAWAU, Aug 11 (Bernama) — Documentation of ethnic languages and local dialects needs to be a continuous effort to avoid their extinction, said Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap Kain Ching.

She said this was crucial as the current young generation lacked exposure to their respective ethnic language inherited from their family, as they preferred to speak in the national language or other languages such as English.

“The effect is that ethnic language usage could not flourish and eventually could face extinction, and this is worrying.

“Thus, the documentation of various local languages which is now in implementation is among the best measures to maintain the precious heritage, culture and language of any ethnic group,” she told reporters at the UNESCO 2016: Preserving Ethnic Languages and Local Dialects programme, here, today.


Read more @

Keeping dialect alive

Sunday, August 7th, 2016
User friendly: Tan poses with a copy of the dictionary which took her more than three years of research to compile.

User friendly: Tan poses with a copy of the dictionary which took her more than three years of research to compile.

THERE are over 6,500 languages in the world and almost half are in danger of extinction.

Tan Siew Imm said Penang Hokkien, which uses words loaned from Malay and English, may just be on this endangered list.

So, Tan set out to ‘protect’ her mother-tongue.

She came out with the Penang Hokkien-English Dictionary, which carries over 12,000 entries.

The dictionary, compiled after more than three years of research, was launched at Sunway University.

Designed to be user-friendly for both native speakers and learners of the language, it lists Hokkien words and terms, and their definitions in English.

On top of having direct translations, it also provides the cultural context for certain words. For example, ong lai hua, literally an unripe pineapple, is an offering during Chinese New Year prayers.

The dictionary also has an English-Penang Hokkien glossary which translates common phrases such as, turning over a new leaf, taking a lion’s share, and a bad workman blames his tools.

Tan used to be a lecturer at Sunway University’s Centre for English Language Studies but retired six months ago.

The dictionary is funded by a research grant from the university and is published by the Sunway Education Group as part of its commitment to community development.


Read more @

Shot in the arm for science education in Tamil schools

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Young minds: Dr Mohamed Yunus with a group of students at the National Level Science Fair for Young Children 2016.

Young minds: Dr Mohamed Yunus with a group of students at the National Level Science Fair for Young Children 2016.

PETALING JAYA: Science education in Tamil schools has been given a shot in the arm, thanks to the vision of environmental consultant and education gamechanger Dr Mohamed Yunus Mohamed Yasin.

His steely resolve to make a difference led him to organise science fairs for Tamil schools.

The Science Fair for Young Children (SFYC), a series of events aimed at promoting science in Tamil schools, has been in place for the past 10 years.

It is organised by the Association of Science, Technology, and Innovation (Asti), a body founded by Dr Mohamed Yunus to help create a positive environment for pupils to explore science.

The SFYC involves some 80,000 schoolchildren aged 10 and 11 from 300 Tamil schools nationwide.

“Our kids have won national-level competitions and international ones including in Singapore, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, London, and New York,” said Dr Mohamed Yunus, who holds a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Cambridge.

Recently, five 12-year-olds from SJK(T) Mentakab bagged gold medals at the 2016 International Invention Innovation Competition in Canada (iCAN).

The winners, J. Jayashri Selven­dran, Mutu Paramasivam, Darshana Jayasangkar, Puventhiran Jayara­man and Thesiigan C. Selvanayagam, who designed an innovative calorimeter will also be going to Jakarta for another competition after the UPSR later this year.

In March last year, three students from SJK(T) Ramakrishna, Penang, beat 300 international contestants to bring home the first prize at the 35th Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition.

Durgashini Srijayan, Kumurth­ashri Ponniah and Sugheson Ganeson bagged the gold medal under the Excellent Youth Science Creation category for the eco-friendly thermo container they created.


Read more @

Keeping alive a dying language

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

Motivating mentor: Shi himself had learnt Manchu from the older residents and is determined that the language must not become extinct. – AFP

Motivating mentor: Shi himself had learnt Manchu from the older residents and is determined that the language must not become extinct. – AFP

Spoken by China’s upper class up to a century ago, the country’s only Manchu speakers now are a handful of old people trying desperately to teach their mother tongue to the younger generation.

IT was the language of China’s last imperial dynasty which ruled a vast kingdom for nearly three centuries. But 71-year-old Ji Jinlu is among only a handful of native Manchu speakers left.

Traders and farmers from what are now the borders of China and Korea, the Manchus took advantage of a crumbling Ming state and swept south in the 1600s to establish their own Qing Dynasty.

Manchu became the court language, its angular, alphabetic script used in millions of documents produced by one of the world’s preeminent powers.

Now after centuries of decline followed by decades of repression, septuagenarian Ji is the youngest of some nine mother-tongue speakers left in Sanjiazi village, one of only two places in China where they can be found.

“We mostly speak Chinese these days, otherwise young people don’t understand,” he said, in his sparsely-furnished hut beside cornfields, before launching into a self-composed Manchu lullaby.

Manchu is classed as “critically endangered” by the United Nations’ cultural organisation Unesco, which says that half of the more than 6,000 languages spoken worldwide are threatened with extinction, a major loss of knowledge and diversity for humanity.

Saying it loud and proud: Students of the Sanjiazi Manchu village school reciting phrases during a language lesson. – AFP

Saying it loud and proud: Students of the Sanjiazi Manchu village school reciting phrases during a language lesson. –AFP

But schemes to save Manchu are spreading as ethnic conciousness grows among the 10-million-strong minority.

The sign for the village primary school in Sanjiazi, in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, is in Manchu’s vertical script, with posters in the language written by pupils lining its corridors.


Read more @