Audio recordings from Ted Studebaker in Vietnam. Audio courtesy of Gary Studebaker. Copies of Ted Studebaker in Vietnam may be purchased from Brethren Press.
Howard Royer: What are some of the distinguishing features of the Montagnard people—things that make them distinctive from other Vietnamese?
Ted Studebaker: The Montagnard people are considered a minority group in Vietnam, and as such they have many similar problems to other minority groups anywhere in the world. For one thing, their education and their rate of literacy is very low. Perhaps maybe only one or two or three percent of these people are literate enough to read and write. So, they’re very different in backgrounds ethnically—very different backgrounds in terms of their beliefs, traditions, and cultures. They’re more animistic in belief, and we would say more backward than the Vietnamese people.
Howard: Are they in one or two towns or scattered widely here in the Central Highlands?
Ted: All throughout the Highlands of Vietnam are different tribes of Montagnard people. The tribe that we’re working with here is called the Koho group of Montagnards. They speak the Koho language. But throughout Vietnam, perhaps there are 20 to 25 groups of Montagnard people speaking different dialects and having different traditions.
Howard: So unlike most volunteers who find it’s pretty necessary to learn to speak Vietnamese, you had to go beyond Vietnamese and learn a second language.
Ted: Yes, learning the Koho language is really helpful. It helps you get around in the villages. It helps you in being accepted by the people.