TIMOR-LESTE: When do mother tongues divide?


Photo: Brendan Brady/IRIN
When can A-B-C’s spell conflict? A student in Manatutu District

DILI, 26 March 2012 (IRIN) – A proposal to sanction the use of indigenous languages in primary schools in polyglot Timor-Leste has divided members of government, civil society and educators, raising questions about how language can spur harmony – or discord – in the young nation.

The “mother-tongue” programme is spearheaded by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which has promoted similar programmes in other countries.  More

CAMBODIA: Airwaves breathe new life into endangered ethnic languages

Cambodia’s minority languages receive little recognition, both in this country and abroad. Though the French colonial administration drew a distinction between the ethnic Khmer majority and the highland-dwelling “Montagnards” in the north-eastern provinces, there has been little appreciation, either by colonial administrators or post-independence governments, of the remarkable linguistic and cultural diversity among the residents of these areas.

These languages are now being rescued from obscurity and the threat of extinction, under a radio initiative designed – with the help of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation – to safeguard parts of the Kingdom’s cultural heritage. More

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