Saving Lepcha language: Association from Kalimpong bags global award.

By Amitava Banerjee 

Only Organisation from India to win  this award

A self-learning app developed by the Rongring Lepcha Culture and Welfare Society (RLCWS), Kalimpong, to keep alive and propagate the endangered Lepcha language has bagged the coveted World Summit Award (WSA) in the culture and heritage category. The organisation is the only one from India to win this award and the only organisation from Asia to win it in this category.

WSA (World Summit Awards) was initiated in 2003 in the framework of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (UN WSIS) held in Geneva. The declared aim of the conference was to make Information and Communication Technology (ICT) accessible to everyone and to bridge the digital divide. WSA was established as a means to achieve this. The award is given in 8 categories with nominations from 182 member countries vying for this award. “UNESCO in a report had declared 2,500 languages as endangered globally. Out of this, 197 are from India and Lepcha language is a part of this list.

In 2020, the RLCWS started a survey to earmark the causes for the slow death of the Lepcha language,” stated Gideon Lepcha of the RLCWS while talking to Millennium Post. The reasons for this were — lack of experts, decentralised content, oral transmission with more than 90 per cent unable to read and write and lack of a simplified framework to learn the language.

“Taking up the challenge we devised a new framework, the Wangboo framework for simplified learning along with designing and developing a self learning app. Using this app anyone can learn the Lepcha language in two months. Till date students, linguists, researchers and language enthusiasts across 12 countries have taken part in this self-learning programme with a success rate of 95 per cent,” added Gideon. Talking about the WSA nomination process, Gideon stated that among nominations from 182 member countries, 17 initiatives are shortlisted in each of the 8 categories. Among the 17, 5 are declared winners in each category. “We have been invited by the WSA to attend and receive the award at the Global Congress, in Chile from April 14 to 17. We will also be provided a slot to share and pitch this unique app to more than 400 global leaders and online jury. Out of the 5, one will be declared a global winner,” stated Gideon.

The society feels that this award will have a huge leveraging power to make a difference in the cultural identity of the Lepcha Tribe within the country and at a global level.