21st Feb: International mother languages day

By: Shoukat Lohar

[The writer is assistant professor in English at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology Jamshoro Sindh, short story writer and columnist.]

On this auspicious day of mother languages UN’s educational, scientific and cultural organ UNESCO and other International agencies and groups organize events to highlight the historical significance of mother languages.
In this context the conferences, seminars, symposiums, rallies and gatherings are demonstrated to unleash the mother tongue as the greatest medium of language description.
Sadly, speaking the mother languages which are organic treasures for other languages , are highly ignored due to centralization and monolingualization of the world.

The world is like a vase full of colorful flowers of diversified cultural heritage. So is with the languages of the world. According to world ethnologue “ there are more than seven thousand languages spoken in the world. But due to globalization and mcdonaldization of world , according to David Crystal there 4 percent languages spoken by 96 percent of the total population of the world “
further the aggravated is the condition with the mother languages or indigenous languages that these are virulently killed Every other day . According to David Crystal language death occurs on every after 14th day.

It’s very heartening and saddening news for the language scholars to ponder over this plight and plan policies and remedies against this atrocities to world mother languages.The historical background of the day being celebrated in the name of mother languages is full of interest and attention.

UN’s recognition came into accord in 1990 to recognize international mother languages day throughout the world on 21th February.

What is a mother tongue?
As the word says, it’s the language the mother speaks to the child, to pacify or play with the child that is the first language the child hears or speaks.An easy test to check a Child’s mother tongue is the language He/She is speaking the most at the age of 3–5. It’s simple in monolingual societies. But not always, straightforward in multilingual societies. A child while speaking a different language at home, studied the region’s lingua franca at School, while the language heard the most spoken around was the State language which also studied. This was on top of learning English as the international language and language of technical education.

Now, when one starts going to school and depending on the exposure ,the language of the region starts taking hold over the mother tongue if they are different. How much depends on the parents. Finally, Litmus test is when one is an adult what language he/she interacts with parents and siblings is what’s usually the mother tongue. Now in some cases even there may be 2 languages in the above situation with equal proficiency, that’s when one will usually chose their ethnic language as mother tongue.

In linguistics, we use “mother tongue”, “first language”, and “L1” to refer to the language that we learn before we have learnt any other language fully. There seems to be a difference in how our brain handles language when we first learn it, in early childhood, and how it learns later languages, “second languages” or “L2”. People who do this are called bilingual, or multilingual, in the strict sense of the world.
According to Sapir Whorf language is ultimate reality of the objects. It’s more than tool of communication. You talk to [someone] in a language [he or she] understands, that goes to [the person’s] head. If you talk to [somebody] in [his or her] language, that goes to [the] heart.
– Nelson Mandela well said by this great leader of the African world.

Are we really in the favor of mother languages? If yes then we needy to take some honest and true measures.
In the name of fashion or enchantment of English language we snatch the linguistic rights of a child. Who is helpless and powerless and can’t resist. We all need to recognize the significance of mother languages in letter and spirit.
Due to the overwhelmed consumerism and commoditization of the world. We are under the boats of neoliberalism and americanization . The enforced divergent towards English has left the languages of the world at the mercy one language. According to David Gradole the in coming century the world would be semi monolingualism. Due to the bulldozing of world culture and heritage a number of languages of the world are in danger. Some are extinct and some are in queue for being beheaded .We need to revitalize the dying languages. The policy makers and governments need to fund to uplift the status of indigenous languages of the world.
The linguistic profile of Pakistan is very rich in regards of languages. There are numerous languages more than 76 languages are spoken across the country. Urdu as national language, English as official language and Sindhi, Punjabi, Pashto, Balochi, Saraiki being the regional indigenous languages of the country. Among them are the Datki, Marvari, Rangri, Shanna, Hazarvi, Bohri and numerous other languages as minority groups of languages. These are mother languages of the citizens of Pakistan. Pakistan is a diverse country and there are multilingualism.
According to the constitution the provincial languages are the official languages of the region / provinces.

Sindhi language has rich heritage and cultural background it’s still in the wait of being recognized as national language of Pakistan. It has own script, live publication, TV channels and more than five crore Sindhi speaking people according to recent consensus. Due to the mushroom growth of private schools and academies Sindhi language has been highly marginalized and ignored.

Owing to the worsened state of state run education system parents are forced to get their education through private schooling.In private schools Sindhi language is banned. This another kind of genocide of a living language. It’s a live example of linguicism . This practice must be stopped. Sindhi speaking vocal class must rationalize this burning issue.

The Sindhi speaking parents must enforce the private owned academies and schools especially high fee schools to start teaching Sindhi language subject like that of five or six hours as they do with English or Urdu.
Let there shouldn’t be any mystification of linguistic issue. Who can deny the power and privilege of English, and status of Urdu as national language of Pakistan but provincial languages must not be ignored. Sindhi language must be revived through enforcing the private sector to give this language a space and value as it’s the most valuable language of the world. It’s only power, politics and ideology which has created differences amongst us. Let we not envoy over the multilingual Pakistan. The nature has diversity and there is beauty in diversity.
It’s world mother languages day throughout the world and festivals are organized by United Nations and other organizations but very sadly no private owned schools institution has organized any program to mark the recognition of this day.

As most of the private schools teaching hatred to the indigenous languages that’s why these schools can’t afford the recognition of the mother languages. In this regard parents must raise voice and question this disparity. If schools celebrate color day, pineapple day, Spider Man day, fruits day, Tiger day, ice cream day, meat day, food day and numerous other unproductive days where upon parents being pauper to their undue demands and notices. Government must take mother languages on board. Realizing their significance it must start programs in indigenous revitalizing and enlivening these great source of inspiration and emotional roots .

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