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Kokborok Language Skills to aid Tripura's Priests and Nuns
By Joseph Pulinthanath sdb
Shillong, Jun. 12. AGARTALA: Twenty-three church personnel serving in different parts of Tripura took advantage of the holiday season and converged at Don Bosco Peace Centre Agartala to participate in the 'Intensive Kokborok Learning Course for Priests and Religious' held there 27 May to 10 June 2016. A working knowledge of Kokborok and the ability to converse in it, they believe, will considerably enhance the quality of their service.
Kokborok is one of the two official languages of Tripura and is spoken by large groups of tribes in the Northeastern state. Within Tripura, approximately 800 thousand tribesmen speak the language. There are also Kokborok speaking tribes spread across the hill ranges of neighboring Bangladesh.

In recent times there has been a shift in the language policy of the diocese. In earlier decades, Bengali was used as the medium of liturgy even among Kokborok speaking tribes. Today, however, Kokborok has become the norm in liturgy in all Kokborok speaking areas. As a result, there are many church personnel today who can fluently converse in Kokborok and also officiate at Church services held in that language.

The language course is among the annual programs of the Peace Centre much looked forward to by new entrants into Tripura. Its objective is to familiarize the basics of the Kokborok language to those who are new to it but want to converse in it. 5 priests and 18 nuns attended the Course this year.

The dawn to dusk Intensive Course has been specially designed to suit the needs of Church personnel who need to interact with people in the villages on a variety of topics and matters. The teaching methods adopted gave a great deal of emphasis on language used in realistic situations and on making the learners aware of how the language works.

In addition to basic grammar, the text of the New Testament, the Holy Mass and various prayers became resource material for students to pick up new vocabulary and usages.

Bishop Lumen Monteiro CSC, DD, of Agartala Diocese who inaugurated the Course called it an ''absolutely significant and relevant initiative'' and urged the 'students' to give it their best shot so that the days truly prove beneficial.

The highlight of each day was the 'speech' each student needed to make at the end of the day in Kokborok. The exercise, according to a participant, helped her to ''overcome inhibition'' and ''feel more confident'' in talking Kokborok.

The faculty consisted of Mr. Rajesh Debbarma, Ms. Meena Debbarma, Father Sunny Palamthattel and Father Joseph Pulinthanath.

''It is an indication that priests and religious, more than ever, now desire to be intimately involved in the lives and life-issues of the people. It is not possible without being able to converse in their own language,'' said Sister Cecilia MSMHC when asked to comment on the great interest the church personnel has for the Kokborok Course.

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