KUCHING: The Bidayuh community are urged to continue with preserving their main dialects while at the same time improve their proficiency in English.
Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong said he commended the ongoing efforts led by Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA) to document the four main Bidayuh dialects in order to preserve them for the younger generation.
He hoped these efforts will go hand-in-hand with encouraging the younger Bidayuh generation to master English to make them multi-lingual and more competent in the global arena.
“Culturally, we are identical. Because of the differences in dialect, we have to use another language which is usually English (to communicate with each other), and that, to me, is an advantage.
“That is why proficiency in English among Bidayuhs is not too bad, but it is now declining (among the young),” he said at the launch of the book ‘Selected Papers of the Bidayuh Language and Preservation Project (2003-2017) at DBNA headquarters on Saturday night.
The book contains papers presented by those involved in the Bidayuh language development project especially consultants from SIL International, a Christian non-profit worldwide organisation working with DBNA to preserve the four main Bidayuh dialects Bukar Sadong (Serian), Biatah (Penrissen/ Padawan), Jagoi Singai (Bau) and Selako (Lundu/ Sematan).
Manyin, who is also DBNA advisor, expressed his hope that the SIL consultants will also assist in spreading the importance of mastering English to the communities where they conduct their work to preserve the Bidayuh language.
Meanwhile, DBNA president Datu Ik Pahon Joyik said the next step forward for the community now is to include the Bidayuh dialects as a school subject under Kurikulum Bahasa Etnik (KBE).
He believed this can happen soon, with DBNA already producing Bidayuh Word List or standardised spelling for the Serian, Penrissen/Padawan and Bau dialects and the Selako dialect soon.
He explained the language documentation started 18 years with SIL International, and there is now growing interest among Bidayuh parents to purchase Bidayuh reading materials for their children.
“The Bidayuh Word List sold quite well and so is the playbook picture dictionary,” he said.
Held concurrently that night was a farewell for the book editor SIL International consultant Marilina Bongarraa and her husband Willy, as they are leaving home for Argentina after spending 16 years working with the Bidayuh community in Bau.
In their speeches, they called on the Bidayuh community to continue preserving and documenting the language. They also surprised the audience when they sang the song ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’.
Those present at the dinner included Association of Research & Development Movement of Singai Sarawak (Redeems) president Datuk Peter Nansian, State Security and Enforcement Unit deputy director Datuk Clarence Rorote Sagon and a former DBNA deputy president Datuk Stephen Jussem.