Saving ‘endangered’ languages in Malaysia

Their feet nimbly tapping out a whirl of steps, the children twirled and swirled to the lively music of Malaysia’s Portuguese Eurasian community.

They earned oohs and ahhs and laughter as they cajoled the seated guests to join in the dancing at a recent cultural event in Kuala Lumpur.

Made up of schoolchildren, the dance troupe is part of efforts by the country’s Portuguese community, whose ancestors settled in Melaka in the 16th century, to preserve its eroding culture.

The loss is keenly felt, particularly in the decreasing use of their native tongue – Melaka Portuguese or Cristang, a Creole language.

With a population of around 1,000, the Melaka Portuguese Settlement – where the young dancers are from – has the highest concentration of Cristang speakers, but many of those below 45 are not fluent.

Cristang is not alone in its plight. Minority languages are rapidly being replaced by English, Malay and Mandarin – the dominant tongues taught in Malaysia’s schools.

Read more: The Straits Times

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