Okinawa plans to increase Shimakutuba users 30% in 10 years

Okinawa plans to increase Shimakutuba users 30% in 10 years

The Shimakutuba Promotion Plan

August 21, 2013 Naoki Isa of the Ryukyu Shimpo

The Culture Promotion Division of the Okinawa Prefectural Government published the Shimakutuba Promotion Plan Proposal on their website on August 20. The division aims to pass on the endangered Shimakutuba or the Okinawan language, to the next generation. They will publish the percentage of Shimakutuba users found out through the survey the government conducts for people in Okinawa.

Compared with the percentage calculated in the 2013 survey, the government aims to raise it three percent by 2016, 12 percent by 2019, and 30 percent by 2022. They will promote the language among Okinawan people and will examine the results of their projects in a survey conducted every three years.

They will gather preliminary results of the survey before the prefectural convention for the language on September 18, when they will announce an official plan that takes these figures into account.

The survey asks questions including to what extent Okinawan people understand Shimakutuba and what they should do to promote it. With the question on how much Okinawan people use the language in conversation, people who answer that they use it 1) mainly, 2) as much as standard Japanese or 3) for casual greetings, will be defined by the government as using it. If 30 percent of residents questioned in the fiscal 2013 survey answer that they use the language, the government will seek to raise that to 60 percent by 2022. The government plans to take a three-phase approach spanning ten years. During the first phase from fiscal 2013 to 2015, it will strive to make the public familiar with the language. In the second phase from 2016 to 2018, they will encourage each region to promote it and in the last phase from 2019 to 2022, Okinawan people will actively use the language.

In the plan for the first phase, the government has asked various organizations to cooperate on promotion. They will hold prefectural conventions and adopt a declaration for the language through the Promotion Movement Office. They will also encourage the use of the language on public transport and will provide opportunities for students to learn the language in national language classes and integrated studies.

The government asks for advice from researchers and encourages companies and the media to use the language. They encourage the people to take part in workshops for the language and practice it at home.

The government also seeks opinion on the projects on its website.
In 2006 the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly set up Shimakutuba Day to be held every September 18. UNESCO recognized Okinawan language, Miyako language, and Yaeyama language as endangered languages in 2009.

(English translation by T&CT, Megumi Chibana and Mark Ealey)

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