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Tibetan Language at Risk Under Chinese Rule

July 19, 2010

New Tang Dynasty TV (NTDTV)
July 16, 2010

Tibetans have had their own language and many
dialects for centuries. But that all seems to be
changing. These days, Tibetan students study most
of their classes in Mandarin Chinese—a language
that's often key to finding a good job—especially
now that so many ethnic Chinese have migrated to Tibet.

Many Tibetans worry that this means their own
ancient language and its unique writing system
are at risk of disappearing. Even the Shanghai
Shigatse Experimental School, which is
technically bilingual, only teaches one class in
Tibetan—the Tibetan language class. All other
subjects are taught in Mandarin. Teachers say
there are no Tibetan language textbooks available
for subjects like history, math or science.

For decades, the Chinese regime has been
promoting standard Mandarin Chinese in the
Tibetan region. All business transactions are now
made only in Mandarin. And when it comes to
finding a good job, many Tibetans have little
choice but to learn it. High school student Dawan Dunjhu agrees.

[Dawan Dunjhu, Tibetan High School Student]: "I
want to be a lawyer, and for me Mandarin plays a
very important role both in my life and my study.
If someone can't speak Mandarin then they might as well be mute."

The Chinese regime claims it goes to great
lengths to support Tibetan culture, but many
Tibetans say that in reality, their language is being sidelined.

[Woeser, Tibetan Activist and Blogger]: "Whether
you can speak Tibetan has already become a
secondary issue, but whether you can speak
Mandarin has become crucial to your livelihood.
So the Tibetan written language has in reality reached a very serious point."

Tibetan is spoken by just a few million people across the Himalayan plateau.
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