October 26, 2016

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Development of ethnic languages and literatures

Myint Win Thein

The 22nd Myanmar Ethnic Traditional Performing Arts Competition successfully concluded recently. At the ceremony to honour doyen artistes, who acted as judges at the competition, Vice President U Henry Van Thio said that the government spends large sums of money on organizing the competition every year to preserve the traditional cultures of ethnic peoples.
Myanmar is a country of many ethnic peoples. Therefore, it needs to preserve many cultures and traditions and traditional dances of ethnic peoples, like the group dances of Rakhine and the Kayin ethnic groups at this year’s event, which are gradually added to the competitions year by year.
Culture is defined as the customs and beliefs, way of life and social organisation of a particular country or group, including art, music and literature. Among these cultural aspects, the most distinctive characteristic of culture is language. However, many ethnic languages are disappearing very rapidly around the world. Historians and linguists are making utmost efforts to record and save these endangered languages. We still do not know how many of these ethnic languages are facing extinction.
Although there are so many foreign language courses and schools in Myanmar, we rarely find ethnic language schools. This is because they are not used very widely in schools, offices and businesses. It is time we made efforts with all seriousness to save ethnic languages by encouraging ethnic people to use their languages wherever possible and it is expected that ethnic language and literary contests will be added to the competition in the future.

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