80% of schools teach or use Okinawan dialect

According to Okinawa Board of Education survey, 80 percent of public elementary and junior high schools in the prefecture had classes and school events in Okinawan dialect in 2012.  The survey was the first since the prefecture announced a plan to re-introduce the local dialect classes in the curriculum, and encourage its use at school events.

Officials have been worried that the number of people who are able to speak and understand Uchinaaguchi, or Okinawa dialect, has seen a sharp decline, and it is considered to be in danger of disappearing altogether. In the past, schools discouraged and even punished students if they were heard using Okinawan native language, and during the war years it was outright banned.

The Okinawa Board of Education announced Oct. 31 that out of 215 public schools in the prefecture, 79.9%, of elementary schools and 82.4 percent of junior high schools reported using Okinawan dialect in classes and school activities, and encouraged their teachers and students to do so.

A spokesman for Okinawa Board of Education said, “To carry on the Okinawan dialect, and ensure that it survives, we must start from the children.”