Friday, October 29, 2010

Learn your Khmer!!

The teacher said to the two boys: "You need to go back to Kindegarten because you don't know your Khmer alphabets"

Me: Oh! No! (saying in my heart after hearing the comment)

Chanda & Vaan said to me: But English alphabets are easier to learn.

Me: *Double oh no!*

The conversation above just illustrated an interesting encounter I had recently with two 1st Grade boys. In the midst of helping the kids to have better opportunities in the future through learning English, it had somehow made them feel less interested in learning their own mother language. This is not good. Their mother tongue is their culture, it's their identity.

The above encounter triggered some thoughts in me as I reflect my journey as a Christian. I’m sharing the following from the perspective of being a Chinese.

When I was a young Christian, fellow believers told me that now that I’m a Christian I must “change” my name, meaning to have a Christian name (by the way is there really such thing as Christian name?). The explanation given was that the Christian name reflects that I’m a Christian. How silly! The Bible said people will know that we are Christian or disciple of Jesus Christ by our fruits, our lifestyle. For the Chinese, names (which also include the family name) are very important, you don’t simply change them. In that name is one’s identity. In that name one could tell whether a person is a Cantonese, Hokkien, Teow Cheow or any other Chinese ethnic groups.

Now, if you wonder why I still called myself Christine that’s because I realized too late that I don’t have to “change” name and “Christine” is kind of stuck with me now. LOL!

I use to also hear people making comment saying “If I became a Christian I have to live like a Westerner, eat with fork and spoon and use only plate.” (No offense to any Westerners just that typical Chinese view Jesus as the westerner’s God).Why such comment? Because they were told that they must change to identify themselves as Christian.

May us be very careful with what we taught and model for others through our lifestyle. Certain things are just cultural. People don’t have to change what is cultural to identify themselves as Christian. It is good to let them keep what is cultural ‘cause that’s what makes them unique.

So, what happen to the boys mentioned earlier? They have to start learning Khmer and we have three older girls who are more than happy to teach.

Sokkhan using the flashcards to teach.

Games time with Tina


Anonymous said...

Your post triggered a thought in me. I've heard some people reasoned that they use an English/American names (eg John or Peter) because it's easier for the non-chinese to pronounce them compared to their chinese name like Loh Inn Chiin hehe). Now the thought I had was, "how often do we come across non-chinese adopting a chinese name so as to make it easier for us chinese to pronounce their names?". The answer unfortunately is "hardly". That leads me to my next qtn - "Why then do we so eagerly adopt a so-called Christian/English/American name?" Anyone like to answer that? :) ps: tis is purely for academic discussion hehe

Anonymous said...

Christine/ In Ching Law, that is a great blog. You are really thinking like a missionary now! You are doing a great job learning Khmer, and a blessing to the kids by teaching them English. For the kids to be successful, they need to be Khmer, but be able to flourish in a international world where English is so essential.