Skip to main content

Pakistan's regional languages face looming extinction

https://www.dawn.com/news/1306783


AFP

Updated Jan 06, 2017 10:16pm

Around a hundred women have gathered in a community centre in Peshawar but they are conversing in a dialect incomprehensible to the Pashtun that dominate the region.

They are exchanging anecdotes and ideas in their native Hindko (literally, "the language of India") at a conference organised to promote the increasingly marginalised language.

Pakistan's 200 million people speak 72 provincial and regional tongues, including official languages Urdu and English, according to a 2014 parliamentary paper on the subject that classed 10 as either “in trouble” or “near extinction”.

Hindko speaking schoolchildren sing the national anthem at their school in Mansehra.— AFP

According to scholars, Hindko's decline as the foremost language of Peshawar began in 1947 when Hindu and Sikh traders left the city after the partition of British India.

Known for its curious aphorisms such as “Kehni aan dhiye nu, nuen kan dhar” ("I'm talking to my daughter, my daughter-in-law should listen") — which is meant to convey a harsh message but indirectly, it only has some two million speakers across the country as opposed to Pashto's 26 million.

It has also become a minority language in the city of its birth.

Men read Hindko language books at The Hindko Centre in Peshawar.— AFP

“Years and years of political unrest in Pakistan's northwestern region and Afghanistan have adversely impacted our language and it has lost grounds to Pashto,” Salahudin, Chief Executive of the Gandhara Hindko Board which organised the event, explained.

Some three million mainly Pashto speakers fled war from neighbouring Afghanistan over the past 35 years, while others are more recent migrants from other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkwa province.

A young Sindhi woman looks on as she attends a Sindh Cultural festival in Karachi.— AFP

Loss of culture

The most endangered of Pakistan's dialects are now spoken by only a few hundred people, such as Domaaki, an Indo-Aryan language confined to a handful of villages in remote northern Gilgit-Baltistan. Even regional languages spoken by tens of millions like Sindhi and Punjabi are no longer as vigorous as they once were.

“There is not a single newspaper or magazine published in Punjabi for the 60 million-plus Punjabi speakers,” wrote journalist Abbas Zaidi in an essay, despite it being the language of the nationally revered Sufi poet Bulleh Shah and the native-tongue of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Young Sindhi women pose as they attend a Sindh Cultural festival in Karachi.— AFP

English has been seen as the language of the elite in Pakistan since the country was founded.

It is used at the highest official levels, despite the fact that this excludes the majority of Pakistanis — many of whom, as a consequence of low literacy rates, do not speak English well or at all, according to leading linguist Tariq Rahman.

Urdu, the most common national tongue and spoken as a second language by the majority of Pakistanis, has been relegated to the middle- and lower-level halls of power, while the widely spoken regional languages — usually native to their speakers — are not even taught in schools.

“The result is an underclass that remains out of any public policy making, its upward mobility increasingly limited, and harbouring a deep sense of inferiority,” wrote Urdu poet Harris Khalique in a research paper.

“A majority of Pakistanis is unable to recognise car registration plates, many road signs that are only in English, the signboards of shops and offices.”

A Sindhi folk singer wearing traditional Sindhi cap and Ajrak performs during a Sindh Cultural Day festival in Karachi.— AFP

Taking a stand

Some language activists have taken a stand, such as Rozi Khan Baraki, a champion of the Urmari language of South Waziristan tribal zone that claims some 50,000 speakers.

At its peak in the early 16th century, the language flourished across much of Afghanistan and what is now northwest Pakistan.

Sindhi children pose as they attend a Sindh Cultural festival in Karachi.— AFP

“But then people in [the area] began speaking Pashto and Persian because many of the speakers of those languages migrated to the fertile lands of this region.

“Migrations have also threatened our next generation, who being Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Dera Ismail Khan, Peshawar, and Karachi have stopped communicating in their mother tongue.”

Baraki said to avoid extinction, community elders have asked their people to “force their children to speak Urmari at homes, especially those who have married women who speak other languages”.

“Our next generation is threatened, this language is going to die if we don't preserve it today,” he said.

Young Sindhi women pose for a 'selfie' as they attend a Sindh Cultural festival in Karachi.— AFP

Rahman lauds such efforts but says the process of saving dying languages can only happen when it is taken up at a governmental level as was the case with Welsh, a regional language of Britain.

A loss of diversity can have lasting ill effects, he warns.

Those who shift from their mother tongue to assimilate “try to become clones of another group — the one which they want to imitate, and lose respect for their former group”, he said.

Children find it difficult to communicate to their elders, while folk stories and music can also fade from memory.

“There are names of herbs and local names for fruit and animals that are lost. In some cases when you lose the name of the herb the use is also forgotten,” he said.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Balochistan to establish first medical university

https://www.dawn.com/news/1366135

The Newspaper's Staff CorrespondentOctober 25, 2017QUETTA: The provincial cabinet on Tuesday approved the draft for establishing a medical university in Balochistan.Health minister Mir Rehmat Saleh Baloch made the announcement while speaking at a press conference after a cabinet meeting.“The cabinet has approved the draft of the medical university which would be presented in the current session of the Balochistan Assembly,” he said, adding with the assembly’s approval the Bolan Medical College would be converted into a medical university.Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میںPlease help the deserving persons...Salary:Salary package in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in these 300,000 jobs shall be on daily wages. The details of the daily wages are as follows;Welder: Rs. 1,700 dailyHeavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyMason: Rs. 1,500 dailyHelper: Rs. 850 dailyElectrician: Rs. 1,700 dailySurveyor: Rs. 2,500 dailySecurity Guard: Rs. 1,600 dailyBulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyConcrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 dailyRoller operator: Rs. 2,000 dailySteel fixer: Rs. 2,200 dailyIron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 dailyAccount clerk: Rs. 2,200 dailyCarpenter: Rs. 1,700 dailyLight duty driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyLabour: Rs. 900 dailyPara Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 dailyPipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 dailyStorekeeper: Rs. 1,700 dailyOffice boy: Rs. 1,200 dailyExcavator operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyShovel operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyComputer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailySecurity Supervisor: Rs. 2,200 dailyCook for Chinese food: Rs. 2,000 dailyCook…

China’s 'Digital Silk Road': Pitfalls Among High Hopes

https://thediplomat.com/2017/11/chinas-digital-silk-road-pitfalls-among-high-hopes/


Will information and communication technologies help China realize its Digital Silk Road?By Wenyuan WuNovember 03, 2017In his speech at the opening ceremony of China’s 19th Party Congress, President Xi Jinping depicted China as a model of scientific and harmonious development for developing nations. Xi’s China wants to engage the world through commerce but also through environmental protection and technological advancement. This includes Beijing’s efforts to fight climate change with information and communication technologies (ICTs) that it plans to export along its “One Belt One Road” initiative (OBOR). Xi may have ambitious plans, but could China be throwing up obstacles in its own way?In his speech, the Chinese president emphasized the need to modernize the country’s environmental protections. The Chinese state is taking an “ecological civilization” approach to development and diplomacy, with a natio…