One Tibetan Activist’s Language Policy

Pemba spoke good English and fluent Chinese. She still used Tibetan at home, but saw Chinese, pragmatically, as the language of progress and communication. Even when speaking in Tibetan, she would break into Chinese to transmit a piece of data, such as a telephone number. Like the younger generation of Tibetan fiction writers, she felt that the Chinese language offered a way to reach out and speak to a larger audience. Pemba had no view on this; unless you used the tongue of the dominant power, you would go nowhere. Many of her friends were Chinese. She avoided discussing Tibet’s political status with them, but otherwise they had similar views on the need for change in China, and matching scorn for the corruption within the Communist hierarchy. “It’s not the Chinese that are the problem,” Pemba had said, “it’s the Communists.”

SOURCE: Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land, by Patrick French (Vintage, 2004), p. 50

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