Preservation and revitalization of local languages in Thailand
A Panel Discussion

7pm, Wednesday 26 April 2017
Members: free, Non-members 450thb, Thai journalists and Students with VALID ID: 150thb
Beside the Central Thai language, the only official language in Thailand, the kingdom has a remarkable linguistic diversity due to its location at the heart of Southeast Asia: there are around 70 different local or vernacular languages spoken in Thailand, regrouped in five main linguistic families. About 14 of these languages - for instance Nyah Kur in lower northern region, Mlabri in the north and Kuay along the Cambodian border - are on the brink of extinction, as, in parallel with the imposition of Central Thai as the main communication language through the education system since the beginning of the 20th century, there have been few efforts to preserve local, vernacular languages.

This has a direct detrimental effect on the transmission of the culture and the history, oral or written, of the many ethnic groups of Thailand. However, some programs have been developed to preserve and revitalized these local languages, mostly through Thai universities and with the help of linguistic experts. Efforts are also under to integrate bilingual and multilingual languages programs in the schools, in order for minority groups children to both learn Central Thai and keep and develop their mother tongue.

Professor emeritus Suwilai Premsrirat, a linguistic expert at Mahidol University and a former president of the Research Institute of Languages and Cultures of Southeast Asia University.

Mirinda Burarongrot, a language researcher at the institute specializing in multilingual education for minority children.

John Draper is director of the Social Survey Center at Khon Kaen University and a former project manager of the Isan Culture Maintenance and Revitalization program. He is also a human rights activist specializing in the human rights of minorities, especially the Thai Lao, Thailand's largest officially recognized minority.

Kirk R. Person works with SIL International, a global organization focused on ethnic minority language issues. He has conducted linguistic fieldwork in Thailand, Myanmar and China, advised the Patani Malay-Thai Multilingual Education project and collaborated with UNESCO and UNICEF on multilingual education projects and served on the Royal Institute of Thailand's National Language Policy Committee.

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