(Re)claiming Identity: Traditional Folktales of the Hare រ ឿងររេងសុភាទន្សាយ / Language Materials for Heritage Learners

Author: Chhany Sak-Humphry (Khmer Language Program, Indo-Pacific Languages & Literatures, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hawaii, U.S.A.)
Speaker: Chhany Sak-Humphry
Topic: Language Revitalization
CALA 2020 General Session


Like people throughout the world, Cambodian created folktales over the centuries. Elders passed on stories of the Hare to their children to foster their identity, to communicate values, to teach and to entertain.

Tales of the Hare, an oral storytelling, fall into the category of animal folktales, offering easy, fun reading, and depicting the daily social-cultural life of Cambodian people past and present. The Hare is one of the most appealing figures in the rich oral traditional literature of the Khmer people. The Hare has a compound of often irreconcilable features. Most often a trickster, he personifies the very qualities of typical Khmer personality: smart, brave, benevolent, cunning, mean, crafty, strengths and weakness, and cool mind in the face of crisis. Sometimes he is a helper; often he is a wise ally against injustice; occasionally he is a dupe of others’ wiles. The Hare represents the animal hero for Khmer people.

Based on the National Standards for Learning Languages 5 C’s and the World-Readiness Standard for Learning Languages, I have selected 21 stories of the Hare and developed a comprehensive curriculum, utilizing multimedia technology to create a textbook, CD-ROM and web-based instructional materials for teachers and learners of Cambodian language. Tales of the Hare language materals enrich the available material for heritage learners with historical and cultural relevant literatures.

My presentation will focus on (1) Why I selected Tales of Hare among all of Khmer folktales? (2) How did I develop the instructional materials to meet the criteria in 5 C’s Standard and the World-Readiness Standard for Learning Languages? (3) What are the constraints, challenges and benefits in creating the traditional folklore materials in digital format while connecting, preserving and delivering it in an e-Learning Era? (4) For Cambodian heritage learners, what does it means to (re)claiming their Khmer heritage and identities? (5) Will this approach capture heritage learners’ interest, promote and motivate learners’ autonamy, inspire them to preserve traditional Khmer Folktales in their communities?

Keywords: Tales of the Hare, Cambodian folktales