Chinese Regime Injects Hundreds of New Words Into the Tibetan Language

Stone tablets with prayers in Tibetan. (Image: Wolfgang Maehr/Wikimedia Commons)
Stone tablets with prayers in Tibetan. (Image: Wolfgang Maehr/Wikimedia Commons)

The Chinese Communist Party just added nearly 1,500 words to the Tibetan language, and guess what! Surprise, surprise… quite a few of them are government catchphrases.

The Tibetan Language Committee announced the news on Jan. 7, saying the new words can now be widely used by translators, schools, and local authorities, according to state media Xinhua.

These so-called new words obviously play an important role in assimilating Tibetan culture into the Party’s agenda.

One of the phrases is “Silk Road Economic Belt” which ties in with a $16.3 billion infrastructure development plan for central and western China. By reviving the ancient Silk Road trade route, the regime could open up new markets for Chinese products in South, South-East, and Central Asia, as well as potentially the Middle East and Europe.

Two others were dubbed by current Party leader Xi Jinping: “New normal,” and “catching tigers and flies.” The latter was coined in early 2013, just after Xi took power, when he started promoting his anti-graft drive, and promised to go after the big corrupt officials (tigers) as well as the small ones (flies).

“New normal” is a more recent addition which Xi introduced in May last year to warn people to get used to the slowdown in China’s economic growth rate. He reiterated it at the APEC international summit in Beijing in November. No doubt Xi’s infamous “Chinese dream” can now be referred to in Tibetan too!

Aside from the political idioms, there are some more light-hearted ones, like “talk show,” and “lightning marriage” or “Shan Hun” in Mandarin, which is apparently now said as “dobdob nyatri” in Tibetan.

Another is 吐槽 Tucao in Chinese which means exposing a friend’s bad behavior, usually in a humorous way.

The move coincided with news from Xinhua two days later that a much bigger Tibetan-Chinese dictionary is in the making. One of the contributors, 78-year-old Trinley Qoizha, who is deputy head of the Tibet regional compilation and translation bureau, said: “Language is a mirror of the times.”

“New words reflect the rapid development in Tibet in terms of politics, economy, culture and education.”

Research by Lulu and Mona

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