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It is important to learn our mother tongue—Paas

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Reverend Steven Paas, who has produced the new Oxford Chichewa to English and English to Chichewa dictionary, has said it is important to learn our mother languages because they determine people’s identity.

Paas said this on Friday when he interacted with teachers and other players as part of the launch of the dictionary at Dzuka Publishing Shop, a subsidiary of Times Group, at Trade Fair Grounds in Blantyre.

The dictionary was first launched in Lilongwe recently before the Blantyre event.

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“Language is very important, God gave us languages and we have to utilise them fully and it is important to know our mother tongue because this is the root of our identity,” he said.

Paas, who is based in The Netherlands, said language plays an important role in communication and that it was in this vein that he decided to work on this dictionary.

He started compiling the words and explanations in the dictionary in 1997, when preparing for his teaching at Zomba Theological College.

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During the event, Paas gave the teachers a dictionary each.

“At the moment we are waiting for the Malawi government to subsidise the dictionary so that students use it in schools, and I am hopeful that it will work because I had discussions with some officials from the education ministry,” he said.

The dictionary was published by Oxford University Press, especially for countries where Chichewa, also called Chinyanja in Zambia and Mozambique is being used by millions of people.

The small-page bible-paper book, with a very strong soft cover, according to Paas, has been approved for use in Zambian schools but also endorsed for use in schools in the country by director of the Centre for Language Studies of the University of Malawi Pascal Kishindo.

In the preface to the fifth edition of the dictionary, Kishindo, said there are some subtle and important changes and additions that have been made to improve the dictionary’s content.

“These are in the form of refinements to the definitions, correction of grammatical and linguistic infelicities, and addition of new entries,” Kishindo said.

This edition includes many new inserts, and updated definitions, with over 45,000 individual entries.

Writer and teacher Sylvester Ngoma hailed Paas for coming up with this latest dictionary.

“This is a good dictionary which will help students as well as teachers in terms of research. It will also help translators when they want to access Chichewa words,” Ngoma said.

The author of Chichewa books such as Nsinjiro Za Chiyankhulo and Tizame M’Chichewa further said that it was important to have such dictionaries because they also play an important role in preserving material which can be used by present and future generations.

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