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New app in China to facilitate learning of Tibetan language

(Global Times)    10:27, March 28, 2019

The Tibet regional government will launch a new app on Tibetan language learning next month, the latest innovative tool the government is using to protect and develop the Tibetan language.

The app stems from a growing interest in recent years in Tibet Autonomous Region, Buddhist culture and the Tibetan language from Chinese outside the region and foreigners, Pu Qiong, deputy director of research administration department of the office of Tibetan language working committee, told the Global Times.

The autonomous region in Southwest China has launched a number of online platforms for learning Tibetan, and a Tibetan language course taught at Tibet University was included in the domestic Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) platform last year, La Qiong, a senior official with the office, told the Global Times.

The course has an enrollment of more than 2,500 students from 15 Chinese universities and is available on zhihuishu.com, a domestic MOOC platform.

The regional government has also introduced a variety of Tibetan application software and information products with the help of Tibet University. These include a bilingual education system (Tibetan and Putonghua), an electronic dictionary (Tibetan, Putonghua and English) and a Tibetan language search engine, as a way to keep the ancient language updated.

"As an ancient language, Tibetan could see its usage drop by 50 percent if it fails to advance with the times," La Qiong said.

The regional government has regularly updated the Tibetan vocabulary with new words and expressions derived from Putonghua.

According to La Qiong, the Tibetan language applications and software are expected to be introduced to countries involved in projects under the Belt and Road Initiative.

The method used to develop the Tibetan language was established after the China-proposed Tibetan Code Character Sets for Information Interchange (TCCSII) was adopted by the International Standardization Organization (ISO) in 1997.

Before 1997, some foreign countries including the US, India and the UK had developed their own standards for the Tibetan language, according to La Qiong.

However, the TCCSII is now widely used as the international standard, which is supported by Microsoft Windows, IOS and Android systems in Tibetan word processing, according to the office.

Based on the TCCSII, China also developed a national standard for the Tibetan language, and the learning of Tibetan is listed as a main course in primary and middle schools in the region.

"The regional government has never required all courses to be lectured in Putonghua in schools, and has never canceled or reduced the number of lessons taught in Tibetan," La Qiong said, refuting overseas media reports claiming Tibetan language learning has been weakened or even faced extinction in the region's schools.

The option of teaching in Putonghua or Tibetan is adjusted according to local conditions. Most schools in remote villages use Tibetan, and those in cities may adopt bilingual education, according to La Qiong. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Liang Jun)

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