If the Shan are to survive and their culture be preserved, we must learn our language. We need to keep it and use it.
(Shan prayer guide)
Shan-Tai prayer month 2011, day 8
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
(John 20:30–31 ESV)
My children are currently learning how to read and write in English. In fact all children in our country are expected to learn their language. While English is the only language I know, I cannot imagine being unable to read it.
Literacy in my native tongue is something I take for granted. All of my education has depended upon this skill. Much of my daily life relies on correctly interpreting the symbols written around me. Such literacy is highly valued in my culture but in Burma the government suppresses ethnic languages.
Added to this the Shan have more of an oral tradition so the day to day need to read and write is less. The result is that very few Shan speakers are able to read or write the language.
There are several issues which arise out of the low literacy level in Shan script: Fristly, as Shan are forced to move out of their villages and families are separated from traditional village social structure, traditions of knowledge can be lost. Secondly, Christians from other cultures evangelizing and discipling Shan people are often accustomed to using written resources in this process but this will not be as effective in an oral culture with low literacy in their native language.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
(1 John 2:1 ESV)
- Opportunities for Shan to learn and preserve their language, and for God to use these things to advance His Kingdom (Colossians 3:23).
- Those ministering among the Shan to make the necessary changes in communicating the Gospel and in discipleship so as to meet the needs of this oral people (Deuteronomy 6:6–9, 31:19).
- Shan script
- Shan folk lore stories from the hill and water country (pdf)
- The Dog Holding the Moon In His Mouth (Folk tales from Shan State)
- A Written Thread – How Exiles Keep the Shan Language Alive