Tuesday, February 21, 2012

INTERNATIONAL MOTHER LANGUAGE DAY (Feb21, 2012)

MAHTAB BASHIR
mahtabbashir@gmail.com
ISLAMABAD

It is not unusual to ignore one's mother tongue while learning a second or third language in other countries. All over the world, many languages are becoming extinct. And with language the history of the race too becomes extinct. Unfortunately the mother tongue is being conveniently forgotten by today's generation.

Language is the most powerful instrument of preserving and developing tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongue serves not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.

Today (February 21) is the International Mother Language Day- a day that was proclaimed by UNESCO's General Conference in November 1999. The International Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

On 16 May 2007, by resolution 61/266, the General Assembly proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Languages, to promote unity in diversity and international understanding, through multilingualism and multiculturalism.

Punjabi is the most spoken language of Pakistan. It is spoken as first language by over 44.15% of Pakistanis. Punjabis comprise the largest ethnic group in the country. Punjabis are dominant in key institutions such as business, agriculture, industry, government, army, navy, air force, and police, which is why about 70% of Pakistanis can understand or speak Punjabi.

With the western onslaught that has created a wide range of complexes among the people of Islamabad in particular among youth to speak English under every circumstances, the city dwellers are ready to mark International Mother Language Day today (February 21).

A large part of our children, our youths are missing out on the joy and pride of expressing themselves in a well versed mother tongue, Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, Balochi, Sindhi, Saraieki or any other language. Most of these children are the students studying in the English medium schools. They have Urdu in their school curriculum but most of the schools keep the syllabus to a marginal level. That is more so because the other subjects in English come with lengthy syllabuses.
Apart from school some guardians try to keep Urdu or other regional languages practice at home through reading, writing or give them access to Urdu literature.

Students coming from Urdu medium schools also seldom delve into the Urdu literature apart from the school curriculum. There are a counted few who read Urdu books to help them strengthen their hold of the language and neither do they keep up with their writing.

In English medium schools learning English as a second language takes up a large portion of the children's learning capacity. Coming from Urdu or other provincial languages speaking families the children have a hard time learning the second language. At home parents try to supply them with English Language learning aids so the children can do well at schools.

There are children who are involved with extracurricular activities that concern the use of Urdu or other native languages but these are not large in number. Most parents would point out that the schools put much pressure on the children with a huge number of subjects and homework and that makes it quite impossible to engage them with extracurricular activities or to give them additional attention towards learning Urdu. The children's knowledge of Udru literature could get enlightened if they could join Urdu programs that include singing, poetry recitation, drama and other cultural aspects.

Reading Urdu fiction books and magazines through a weekly visit to the library may teach the children to value reading Urdu literature. In course of time they may catch up with Minto, Mumtaz Mufti, Bano Qudsia, Ashfaq Ahmed, and in poetry Perveen Shakir, Iftikhar Arif, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Iqbal, Mirza Ghalib, Mir, Faraz, Munir Niazi, to name few to enjoy the pleasure of Urdu literature one day.
And once a youth gets the beacon of those great works of Urdu literature he or she will be ready to soar to a much higher level of learning, the thirst for knowledge will drive the soul to unknown bounds. Why not guide our children to reach for the stars through their mother tongue?

The need to know one's mother tongue is no more felt by neither the children nor the parents. People living away from their native place are giving up their own language, preferring only English or other languages at home. One cause of this trend are the schools, which ask parents to speak in second or third language with the child at home, and not in any other language. Their opinion is that the child will otherwise become weak in the new language! This is a big myth. The mother tongue actually connects one to the roots and strengthens the imaginative powers.

Experts believe that preserving a child's cultural identity is the key to his or her success. And language is the first tool for a child to express himself or herself and is essential in preserving one's culture. In fact children find an emotional haven in their mother tongue.

Mother Tongue is a common language that is freely and comfortably spoken by adult generation both at home and outside to their successors in a community and reflect one's culture and ethnic backgrounds. It is the means by which different groups within the society maintain their identities. A child who had learned the mother tongue as his first language is more likely to be able to express himself first in the mother tongue and then translate the thoughts in other languages.

Other literary giants like Shakespeare, Keats, Dickens, Virginia Woolf ,Byron and the others writing in English language won their fame through their mother tongue. Tolstoy wrote “War and Peace” in Russian language. And there are many other literary master pieces that were fist written in the respective mother tongue and then translated into other languages.

We are to encourage our children to learn other languages, to strengthen their imagination and broaden their knowledge. However, it is our responsibility to guide the children so that they have a thorough knowledge of their mother tongue also. Why can we not dream of a day when another literary giant like ‘Iqbal’ or ‘Faiz’ will be born, of a day when the world will know more about the beauty and lucidity of our language?

Standing at a remarkable time when the world has recognized 21st February as International Mother Language Day, can we not promise that our children be illuminated with the beacon of their mother tongue and spread it worldwide?

The children are the nation builders of tomorrow. Let them have the touch of ecstasy that their mother tongue can bring for them. It is our solemn duty to enlighten our children, our youths about the sanctity of the day and guide them on to the importance of learning their mother tongue. 

Happy Mother Language Day to all!

1 comment:

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Really good> we should rememerize such event.