Losing the Kadazan Language is a Real Danger
Published on: Saturday, October 08, 2016
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By Tan Sri Herman Luping
THE Kadazan language is in danger of being lost.

Like many of the languages in the rainforests of South America, it is disappearing and may be lost forever.

Kadazan parents no longer speak to their children in their native language – they converse in Bahasa Malayu, English or Chinese.

As a result in the next 20-30 years our language will have been lost as most young people do not speak it.

They want to get on with their lives and the best way they see to get a promotion in their careers is to speak Bahasa.

Many of our parents prefer to teach their children to speak Mandarin as it is perceived to be a future economically important language.

To the parents, there is no expectation for Kadazan – they do not see their children gaining economically from it.

It is seen as being only for your own local use in the community, which in a busy life looking to the future of your children is not as important. Parents perceive that their children will not get a job if they have Kadazan language skills, but if they speak Mandarin they can see that a job would be more easily available. Most Kadazan parents, including in Penampang itself, are no longer interested in preserving it.

The call by respective Kadazan leaders like the Deputy Head of the KDCA, Datuk Seri Panglima Clarence Bongkos, for more action to stop the death of the language needs to be heeded. He says “I predict that the Kadazan language will be confined to the museums.” He fears that the new generation these days shun their own mother tongue in preference for Bahasa Malayu or English. When he was in school, he says, at least the teachers spoke to him in Kadazan but today it is no longer the case. Even in the rural areas, formerly a stronghold for the language, they are speaking Malay to their children instead of Kadazan or Dusun.

The time has come for a proper meeting of Kadazan leaders across all parties to work out a programme on how best to retain the language so that it will continue to be spoken by both young and old. We realise the economic benefits from learning Mandarin or English but Kadazan is our God given gift and we are losing it. Rita Lasimbang, CEO at the Kadazandusun Language Foundation, has done her bit by putting out an updated Kadazandusun Language dictionary but more needs to be done. Another has been funded by the government but has yet to be finished.

Even now in our churches we cannot get our mass and sermons in the Kadazan language – the priests prefer to do it in Malay or English. It used to be that the church was a bastion for our language – the foreign missionaries used to encourage us to speak the language. These missionaries were the first to create a dictionary for the Kadazan language.

Now many local Kadazan born priests do not know the language.

This writer’s daughter, Jo Luping’s company, Siung Films, is producing a film called “Huminodun” in the Kadazan language as her attempt to bring attention to the need for the language to be spoken and to encourage youth to see their language in a positive light. She wants her people to be proud of their language and culture and to see it on the big screen, television and social media.

She also wants to focus on the historical background of our people. To get it made Jo is enlisting the services of local excellent companies such as Vinoun Films and Froggy Planet. The film is being supported by the KDCA, the KDCA Women’s Council, the Kadazandusun Language Foundation and funded by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment.

The story of Huminodun is about the first daughter of Kinoingan who was sacrificed to ensure her people could live forever.

Jo Luping, through her film and the story of the sacrifice of Huminodun is hoping the language can be perpetuated in the same way.

There are some efforts being made to help preserve our language, but as Malakun states, more must be done.

Judging by the interest and crowds at the annual Kaamatan Festival in Sabah, the people are still very much interested in their culture. It is now time for an organised effort to be put in and plans made and implemented.

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