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Brunei seeks to preserve dying ethnic languages
Publication Date : 29-08-2013
Preserving languages and its cultural implications are as important as preserving the natural heritage of Borneo in heightening the island's great diversity.
Brunei's Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Setia Hj Hazair Hj Abdullah at the opening of the Forum Kepelbagaian Bahasa di Borneo, said there is a need to realise that language is also key to unlocking knowledge on various subjects, including the environment, which needs to be discovered and preserved.
He added the extinction and near-extinction of ethnic languages results in more than just a disappearing community and affects the knowledge that can only be obtained from that particular language, such as knowledge on biodiversity, medicine, environment and farming which, in turn, will all share similar risks of extinction.
He also said the wealth and specialty possessed by each ethnic group contributes towards social sciences.
"The richness and uniqueness of Borneo not only lies in its source of flora and fauna, but also in the hundreds of language characteristics, culture and socio-economic state of a society. The social richness presents itself as a cultural manifestation of this island that can enhance the profile of Borneo as diverse and unique in its social values."
Efforts in trying to present Borneo as a biodiversity and preservation centre depends not only on scientific knowledge and technological improvements highlighted the minister, but also on cultural knowledge, especially its language and understanding which are vital in realising such efforts.
"This is in view of the content that ethnic languages have on the name of flora and fauna that is not easily translated into other languages," he said.
"We need to see the diversity of the languages in Borneo as equally magnificent as the various forms of biodiversity found on this island which showcases the colours of our culture that is exciting to the outside world, be they tourists, researchers or linguists."
The minister also expressed his concern over the swift rate of which languages were becoming obsolete — a worrying trend, as he described.
"As of now, languages all over the world face the threat of extinction. According to research by the National Geographic Society, almost 3,500 spoken languages across the world will be extinct or not be used come the year 2100. At the same time, every 14 days, one language in the world will disappear," said YB Pehin Dato Hj Hazair.
The Language and Literature Bureau (DBP) has documented the ethnic languages of Brunei, said the minister, and will serve as a bridge towards the understanding of languages and dialects for the new generation. He added that it is then up to the new generation to appreciate what they have with great tenacity.
"In this era of globalisation, there are many cases that have changed in relation with culture and arts. This includes language. I believe that today's society share the same concerns on their native languages, especially amongst the new generation. While the world is now connected with one another, there are many languages that are at risk of endangerment."
The minister hoped the forum would be an effective platform for the cross-culturalisation of diverse languages and culture in fostering love and language pride amongst the public for their native language.
During the opening of the forum, the minister launched a book published by the DBP titled, "Kepelbagaian Bahasa di Borneo: Bahasa sebagai Mozaik Sosial, Ekonomi dan Budaya" containing research papers on the studies conducted on diverse languages found in Borneo.
The two-day forum themed "Bahasa Sebagai Mozaik Sosial, Ekonomi dan Budaya (Language as a Social, Economical and Cultural Mosaic)" saw the participation of various local and foreign experts and academics who gathered at the Rizqun International Hotel to present their research and findings on the various languages they had studied on the island of Borneo.
The presentation of research papers is expected to continue today with the forum officially coming to a close later in the afternoon.