Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Jarai language at risk as literacy falls in R'kiri communities



Jarai language at risk as literacy falls in R'kiri communities

Jarai language at risk as literacy falls in R'kiri communities

DYING LANGUAGE

Jarai is an Austronesian language distinct from the Mon-Khmer languages spoken by the Khmer majority and other highland groups in the region. It is distantly related to Bahasa Indonesia, Tagalog and the language of Cambodia's Cham Muslims. 

Lacking qualified teachers and working to help their families survive,

many young Jarai are losing touch with their mother tongue

ETHNIC Jarai community representatives in Ratanakkiri province are concerned that their traditional language may be lost, saying that written literacy in Jarai has declined to the point of extinction amongst local villagers.

Romam Film, a representative from Kong Yu village in O'Yadao district, said all those able to write Jarai had now passed away, adding that the loss of written literacy would make preservation of the spoken dialects more difficult.

"No one in my village can write the Jarai language, and I am very concerned that our language will soon end, even in speech," he said.

 

I am very concerned our language will soon end, even in speech.

The Jarai community in Cambodia - which numbered around 15,000 in the 1998 census - is isolated from the 315,000-odd Jarai who live across the border in Vietnam, complicating the teaching of the scripts used to write the language.

Although linguists have created hybrid scripts to reproduce the Jarai language - it lacks a native script of its own - the more popular Vietnamese-based script differs from the Khmer-based variant used within Cambodia.

Romam Film said most of people in his village still used the Jarai language as the everyday language of communication, but that none were now learning the language in a formal setting.

"Now we do not even have anyone to teach the Jarai language to the young generation," he said. "We only have one informal teacher in the village, and they teach the Khmer language."

Sev Twel, Kong Yu's "informal" Khmer teacher, said he has taught Khmer for three or four years in the village. He would prefer to teach Jarai, but is hampered by his inability to write it.

Another concern, he said, were the long hours worked by the community - including the children. Of the 50 children in the village, only four or five attended his informal classes. "They are all busy with helping their parents in the rice fields and farms and looking after their cattle," he said.

Romass Meak, 35, a Kong Yu villager who has four children, said none of her children were attending any school, and that all were busy helping support the family by taking on itinerant day jobs.

Romam Film  said that a few NGOs were helping out his village, but that they focused on issues aside from the preservation of the Jarai language. "In order to preserve our Jarai language, we need help from other organisations," he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from

  • Floods prompt evacuations in Kampong Speu

    Rain-induced floods and water flowing from Kampong Speu province have submerged the houses of 1,527 families living close to the Prek Thnot River in Spean Thma, Tien, Kong Noy and Roluos communes in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, according to data from local authorities. Spean Thma