Australian based Karen keeping their mother tongue alive

Young Karen people who fled conflict in their homeland in Burma and resettled in Australia are able to learn, write and speak their own language.

Victoria State, appreciate and happy for being able to maintain their language through the official Karen language class.

The Australia government first recognized and introduced into state schools the teaching of the Karen language five years. The first Karen school was established at a government school – the Victorian School of Languages, in east Melbourne.

This year’s graduation, to be held on November 24, will be the fifth of the VSL 10th grade students.

Tee Noe is a Karen teacher who works at the Victorian School of Languages said every year he upgrades his own skills.

“All the Karen teachers at this school have to attend a Personal Development (PD) course twice a year every year. This academic year there are 23 Grade-10 students who will graduate. The Australian government recognized 46 languages for teaching in schools and the Karen language is numbered 44.”

Saw Frankie Benjamin is a student at VSL who says he both pleased and grateful that he attend a Karen School in Australia.

“I come to school and I meet with my Karen friends – I am very happy. I thank my parents for sending me to this school, so that I can learn the Karen language and now I can read and write it.”

There are 209 Karen students enrolled in the 2011-12 academic year, starting in grade one through to grade ten. Classes are held on Saturdays with additional evening classes. The Karen students are mostly from Karen communities who resettled in the Melbourne suburbs and Geelong.

Naw Wah Poe Lo, a 10th Grade student voiced her approval for the school when she wrote in her class yearbook.

“I am happy that I can study my Karen language and learn my language in Australia. I have improved and
gained better literacy skills in my own language.”

Naw Wah Poe Lo encouraged all Karen to learn their language.

“Younger Karen should come and learn their own language so our language will not disappear while we are [living] among other nationalities. We should try to learn more then we will progress in education and our knowledge. I would like to thank the Karen teachers, who teach us and the leaders who establish the Victorian Karen language class so we can learn about our Karen language and culture.”

Naw Gay Moo Paw, a 10th Grade student said.

“If I don’t go to this school [VSL], I think I would not be able to read and write Karen – that would be sad for me.”

Teacher Tee Noe said he wants all Karen people who have resettled around the world to never forget their Karen culture.

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