Researcher Dang Trong Ho: Preservation must be integrated with promoting traditional culture

Having a great passion and profound understanding of the traditional culture of ethnic groups in the Central Highlands region, researcher Dang Trong Ho is one of only a few researchers to be selected for the building of a curriculum on teaching the K’Ho and Ma ethnic languages to public servants working in Lam Dong province. Over previous years, he has also authored many valuable research publications on the topic.

Researcher Dang Trong Ho (R) during a discussion with a village elder in Don Duong district, Lam Dong province about the Chu Ru ethnic language.
Researcher Dang Trong Ho (R) during a discussion with a village elder in Don Duong district, Lam Dong province about the Chu Ru ethnic language.

Question: People say it is important to fully identify which values we need to preserve and hand down in order to effectively safeguard and promote the traditional cultural heritages of ethnic minority groups in the Central Highlands. Can you tell us how we can identity a culture?

Researcher Dang Trong Ho: It is true. Identifying helps us sort out the most essential cultural essences for preservation and promotion. While conducting research and identifying a typical culture, we need to work based on two important sets of tools, including a three-dimensional coordinate system (referring cultural actor, cultural space, and the specific period of time) and cultural characteristics. This in-depth approach helps identify the cultural identities of an ethnic group.

What are the main reasons leading to the loss of traditional culture in the Central Highlands, and its consequences, in your opinion?

The most fundamental reasons are the development process, the changes in the natural and social environment, external factors, and the responsibilities of management agencies.

The chance in traditional culture can lead to the risk of ethnic cultural identities disappearing. The loss of cultural foundations can also affect the Central Highlanders’ attachment to their community, and damage the stability and sustainable development of society.

Language is the most vivid and powerful expression of ethnic cultural identity; however, younger generations of ethnic minority communities in the Central Highlands are now gradually forgetting their mother tongue. Could you explain more about the consequences of this worrying problem?

The most obvious manifestation of this fact is that the younger generation’s mother tongue vocabulary is so poor that so they often have to borrow words from the Vietnamese (Kinh) people instead. As far as I know, few young people can remember and use their ethnic language’s words about traditional culture. It can be the result of their living environment, in which they don’t often communicate in and practice their mother tongue, thus they become detached from the basic values of their ethnic culture.

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A traditional stilt house of Ma ethnic group in Lam Dong province. (Photo:

You have professional experience in teaching the K’Ho and Ma ethnic languages to the Kinh people and even ethnic minority people in the Central Highlands region. Can you brief us on the results and efficiency of this work?

I have been doing this job since 2005, when Lam Dong province launched the teaching of the K’Ho, Ma and Chu Ru languages for officers and civil servants working in the residential areas of ethnic minority groups. Most of my students are Kinh people. I encourage them to communicate with local people to learn more about their culture. My students can now communicate at intermediate level, some of them even reaching a high fluency level.

From the perspective of a researcher, what do you think about the solutions to preserve and promote the cultural identities of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands currently being implemented? Do you have any suggestions regarding enhancing the work?

The preservation and promotion of the cultural identity of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands are being done in a sound direction, following the guidelines and policies of the Party and State. Many programmes and projects have been carried out. However, not all of them have shown a high level of efficiency.

In my opinion, research aiming to safeguard and uphold traditional cultural values must be carried out with reference to the current socio-economic situation. Second, scientists should increase their participation in bringing research outcomes into social life. Third, we should avoid implementing projects that lack scientific foundation. Fourth, preservation must be integrated with the promotion of traditional cultural values in order to facilitate socio-economic development. Last but not least, state agencies should only play the role of orienting, managing and mobilising resources for the implementation of researches on traditional values, rather than making interventions on the professional content of the research.

Thank you so much!