A Contribution from Judy Ruo-ying CHEN



Language and Culture

©Judy Ruo-ying CHEN, 2000

To preserve the language of a nation is to preserve its special culture and history. When people can not understand the old language, they will be less tightly connceted to or even gradually lose their cultures and histories. Their enemies know much more clearerly than themselves as to this point.

We still remember that in the famous article The Last Lesson, the first thing Prussians did when they intruded France, was to replace French with Prussian in the school education. Japanese also took the same strategy in order to cut off the connection between people and their histories and cultures. This evil refused to only stay in people's memory and is still threatening certain cultures and nations. Thus both Jews and Tibetans are still fighting to preserve their languages for the sake of their cultures and histories at the edge of being extinguished.

However, we can never over-emphasize people's short-seeing to forget the past mistake, and to trade off culture for pragmatic benefits. India is a vivid example.

As living in one of the most promising emerging markets and the most attractive places for foreign investment, Indian kids are happily and confidently choosing English as their only language at school, since they will take huge advantages of being able to speak English in the future competition. So does India itself as a nation. That is why Indian government does not want to bother itself and its people to have the language of Hindu as compulsory course in schools. Seeing the tempting benefits promised by the globalisation, nobody in India still remembers that Hindu is the bridge to the unique, ancient and vulnerable Indian culture and history. In a globalised world, there is no room for different nations to keep their own cultures and traditions. History and culture are too pale and too consuming in face of a bright future with prosperity for today's human being.

However, we should ask ourselves a question: why are Jews and Tibetans still making such stubborn fighting? We, human beings, are the creature of our cultures and histories. It is the diversity of cultures and histories that keeps the world alive and evolving. Our passion for our own cultures and histories is the matrix of creativity and impetus needed for the world's future.

Indians, especially Indian government, shall feel it a shame in front of the old Jewish Rabbis and Tibetan monks, who are desperately teaching kids of their old and beautiful languages on the verge of dying.