Parents play important role in mother tongues’ sustainability

SIGNING OF AGREEMENT: Felix (seated left) and Howard (seated right) signing the Letter of Intent yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: Parents have the most important role in speaking to their children in their mother tongues and to ensure the sustainability of their mother tongue for future generation.

This was mentioned by Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) vice chancellor Professor Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Kamaruzaman Haji Ampon during the launch of the International Workshop of FieldWork Software 2011 at UMS yesterday.

He was represented by UMS Research and Innovation Centre director Felix Tongkul.

Additionally, Dr Kamaruzaman also urged Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and cultural associations to promote their mother tongues through the publication of phonologically correct materials and in actively speaking their languages.

“I understand that several communities, including the Kadazandusun, Iranun, Tobilung, Kimaragang and Rungus have begun to establish play schools and kindergarten in collaboration with SIL International (formerly Summer Institute of Linguistics), that use their native languages as media.

This is to be praised,” he said.

He added that worldwide studies had shown that when children learn to read in their mother tongues in the early years, they could easily shift later into the national language, even if the national language was very different from their native language (such as English, Spanish or French).

This, he said, was because their conceptual understanding and literacy proficiency were allowed to develop properly in their mother tongue.

“This leads to multiple language proficiency, which in turn leads to higher educational standards and greater opportunities for tertiary education. These educated indigenous people are then able to develop communities and lead governments.

Thus, mother tongue literacy among children has a direct correlation with the eradication of poverty,” he said.

He added that everyone has a part to play, whether as parents, researchers, members of cultural associations, NGOs, policy planners and members of the general public.

Dr Kamaruzaman also commented on the workshop, which is the second to be organised at UMS.

He said the software used, FieldWorks, is a suite of software that could be used for compiling dictionaries and also for managing cultural data.

“This workshop will not only make available the technical expertise and training in utilising the FieldWorks software to participants but will also act as a platform for the exchange of knowledge gleaned from multi-disciplinary research experiences of participants,” he said. A total of 80 participants from Sabah as well as from abroad are presently here to take part in the workshop.

“It is our hope that participants in this week’s workshop will learn to use the FieldWorks software as tools for both dictionary compilation and also for storing ethnographic data, with a view to documenting their cultural heritage and developing more literacy materials in their mother tongues,” he said.

Those present during the event were founding professor for Linguistics from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and former dean, graduate division and director of research Professor Emeritus Dr Howard McKaughan, PPIB dean Associate Professor Dr Ismail Ali, holder of the Kadazandusun Chair Associate Professor Dr Jacqueline Pugh Kitingan and president of UMS Mixed Methods Association and chairman of the main organising committee for the workshop Associate Professor Dr Ahmad Tarmizi Abdul Rahman.

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