Sign of the Times – Karen language classes taught for free in Rangoon

A sign of the easing of restrictions on its citizens by the Burma government are that Karen languages are now being openly taught in a public space in Rangoon.

Karen language classes are to be given free to anyone interested in learning the three different ethnic languages offered by Thamathambuda Buddhist Karen Library on Arzarni Street, the eastern gate of Swedagon Pagoda in Rangoon.

The language classes started in July this year where anyone, irrespective of religion, who wanted to learn the language could attend.

Naw Thara Nor, a teacher, who teaches the S’gaw language class told Karen News that they are also accepting any children who want to learn the language.

“We accept anyone who wants to learn. We have classes every Saturday and Sunday from 1pm. Right now, we have 15 students. We teach three different Karen languages – S’gaw, East-Pwo and West-Pwo.”

Naw Thara Nor said that aside from language classes, the students will have chances to listen to speeches on human rights and on environment issues.

Mahn Aung Myaing, the secretary of the Thamathambuda Karen Buddhist Group that is responsible for organizing the classes told Karen News.

“We’ve started the classes in order to maintain our Karen languages and our literacy. Now, there is not only literacy classes, we try to organize other topics that are important for people to know. We want our young generation to be able learn their own language and we want to promote our literacy at the same time.”

A female student attending the classes spoke to Karen News about her fears that the language could disappear.

“Our Karen literacy has almost disappeared in my life time. My Mom and Dad, can only speak and read a little. They can’t write it. I go to the classes because I want to be able to speak, read and write my language.”

The use of the Thamathambuda Buddhist Karen Library for language classes had been donated and built by a Karen couple Saw Kyaw Tun and Naw Kyar Nwe in 1935. They were from Tayaolat village in Ma U Pin Township in the Irrawaddy Division.

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