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[YRP Students' Essays] The Decoding of the Ancient Otomay Language

* In 1956 Horace Miner published the oft reprinted essay, "Body Ritual Among the Nacirema" in the academic journal American Anthropologist. In it, he examined North American healthcare from the prospective of an outsider, renaming the United States as "Nacirema," or America spelled backwards. Young people were invited to write their own version of his essay about a culture they had lived in, adopting the voice of an outside observer and perhaps hiding the name of the country for the reader to guess....

At the far eastern end of the earth, on a group of small islands dwells a tribe which calls themselves the Otomay. It is said that their ethnical roots originate in northern Siberia, and inhabiting islands which are isolated from the outer world, the Otomay people have cultivated their own unique culture. Especially after the Industrial Revolution, they consciously rejected interference from foreign countries. As modernization proceeded worldwide, European culture permeated the former bionics of the Otomay people and havocked their culture, but not comprehensively. The world authority of the Otomay culture, Professor Allie Osu suggests that the ancient Otomay culture still remains in the present day. One example that corroborates his theory is the language the Otomay people have left.

Surprisingly, according to research by Professor Afake Osu (a close colleague of Professor Allie Osu), 100 percent of the descendents of the Otomay people are taught the ancient Otomay language. However, many can only barely translate it to their present-day language, and even among scholars that make a specialty of this ancient language, there are uncountable numbers of questions that have yet to be solved. This fact overtly points out that the degree of difficulty of this language is extremely high. Yet the descendents of the Otomay are coerced to study this language; there are cases where an exam is held and the examinees have to take it endlessly until they pass it.

The study of the ancient Otomay language is rather unpopular among young people, for nowhere can they use it in daily life, and many find it fruitless to learn. Nevertheless, the decoding of the cryptic language is dealt with as an integral part of their education. To opposite opinions, Professor Allie Osu responds phlegmatically: "There is no doubt that the study of Otomay language is the quickest way to recognize the Otomay people. Knowing about your ancestor directly leads to knowing about yourself, and nowadays, with teenagers not knowing 'who they are', the study of Otomay language is definitely essential for the whole society."

Today, again, the youngsters confront their desks to decode the cryptic language.

Child Research Net would like to thank the Doshisha International Junior/Senior High School and Makoto Oshimo, student and author, for permitting reproduction of this article on the CRN web site.

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