Young Cham speakers are educated primarily in either Vietnamese or Cambodian, and as a result the Cham language is changing quickly. More and more loan words are being integrated into colloquial Cham vocabulary, with the effect that the spoken language has departed from the language used in many older Cham texts. In turn, interest in Cham literacy, and therefore Cham literacy itself, was declining until the 1970s.
Since that time there has been a resurgence in interest in the script, primarily as a consequence of a government-approved minority literacy program, which led to the Cham script being used in primary education. This came about at the request of the people, who actively campaigned for the language to be taught in the Cham script rather than a roman transcription. Young people in particular demonstrated a renewed interest in learning the script, although adult literacy classes also took place. Both boys and girls are now being educated in the script. Recent reforms to the script, intended to facilitate education, have led to bitter disputes within the Cham community as to the role of the script.
The script has religious significance both among the (predominantly) Hindu Cham population in Vietnam, and the Muslim population in Cambodia. Priests from either religion are presumed to be literate in the script. One of the major religious uses of the script today is the inscription of sacred formulae on amulets worn by both Hindu and Muslim Cham.
In addition, the script has traditionally performed a storytelling function. Many homes still pass down stories written in the traditional script from generation to generation. The history of the Cham Kingdom was also documented, allowing modern-day scholars to study the subject. In 1977 Pierre-Bernard Lafont, a linguist who spent many years studying the Cham language, compiled a bibliography of manuscripts written in the Cham script, consisting of over 250 pages.
Although the script is highly respected, the issue of revitalization vs. preservation is hotly contested by speakers of the language, which somewhat hampers efforts to establish and propagate a standardized version which everyone is willing and able to use. As a result, in practical terms, the script can be said to be in a somewhat unstable position.
1. Doris Blood, The ascendancy of the Cham script: how a literacy workshop became the catalyst. (2008). in International Journal of the Sociology of Language 192 p45-55. (c) Walter de Gruyter 2. Marc Brunelle, Diglossia, Bilingualism and the Revitalizatio