ZBC To Start Language Learning Programme in Six Dialects
22 December, 2009: In attempts to find ways of improving communication and understanding among dialectically diverse Chin people, ZBC (Zomi Baptist Convention) is set to introduce ‘language learning programme’ in six different dialects in 2010.
The programme, which will publish a book of lessons in Tedim, Falam, Cho, Matu, Mizo and Hakha dialects, is to start with children and youths from Sunday Schools at churches.
Rev. M. Thawng Kam, General Secretary of ZBC, said: “If our children, especially the youths, can start learning now and longer, they will be able to at least understand each other even if they cannot speak the other dialect yet.”
“ZBC is a place where each Chin tribe gathers and works together. Having been unable to use our own dialects in ZBC meetings, we have got to speak in Burmese, which we cannot speak fluently. And many others who cannot speak Burmese at all do not talk during the meeting. This difficult situation makes us difficult to understand and share with each other.”
Researches have shown that the Chin dialects share more than 400 common or similar words. It is believed that this will help the learning process easier.
Chin pastor Rev. Shwekey Hoipang, of Dai-Chin in Southern Chin State, said: “It is a good programme and I do not have any objections. However, the Khumi and Dai Chin-tribes seem to have been omitted by the ZBC although both are the main groups in Southern Chin State. It may be just because Khumi and Dai are not parts of the mainstream Baptist denomination. The Khumi belongs to Anglican denomination and Dai belongs to Methodist and Presbyterian. Over all, it is good to start and implement this kind of linguistic activities in order to reduce diversity and to promote unity among the Chin people.”
When asked why only six dialects are selected, the GS said a decision was unanimously made at ZBC Board meeting and six dialects that are mainly spoken in townships were chosen for the first trial period of attempt, adding: “We are well aware of other dialects equally. Since this is only a start, we want to make sure the programme is working well and we lay a proper platform first so other dialects can also be implemented. It is much better if each and everyone, regardless of where and who we are, understand this point.”
A report by ENC (Ethnic Nationalities Council) said there are 135 races or tribes in Burma and 65 of them are all from Chin State. It is also estimated there are more than 45 different dialects spoken in Chin State.
It is our big hope, Rev. Thawng Kam added, that this programme will eventually bring about a useful platform for our work in Christian ministries and our future generations.
The language learning programme, which was initially planned to be materialised in 2009, will start next year after NCCF (Norway Chin Christian Fellowship) had agreed to provide financial assistance for publications.
The new move has been welcomed as ‘a good step forward’ although it could take years to fully operate. It has also received positive supports from the Chin people who live in and around Tahan of Kalay Myo, where many different dialects including Mizo, Tedim, Hakha, Falam, Zangiat and Burman are spoken and understood.
At the kind invitation of the Baptist Union of Norway in July this year, Rev. M. Thawng Kam made a month-long visit to Norway. During his stay, he also met with Chin communities and churches in Denmark and Germany.
Founded in 1953 under the leadership of Rev. S.T. Hau Go, the Zomi Baptist Convention, an association of Baptist churches in Chin State, has currently over 200,000 members, with 873 churches, and 28 associations as well as 6 local churches based in Rangoon.