Urdu Language in a Crisis!

Government has finally introduced single national curriculum (SNC) with an objective to have same syllabus for all students and to treat English as a subject and not as a language. Urdu as a language has been given importance in the curriculum.

I was delighted to see how our Urdu and English books used our own culture relevant stories and names (Something you don’t find in oxford books). People got divided and of course one section is clearly not happy with focus on Urdu language. I am very happy and here is why!

Few days ago, while I was on my way to drop my kids at school, I saw two ducks at the roadside. I told my kids; look at your right side, “batakh”. They got confused and asked if I am referring to ducks as batakh.

Yes! That’s what I have been doing for more than a year now. In the race to learn English, our children are forgetting their own native language and this makes me sad.

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My elder one is nine year old and she can speak and understand English language well and though she speaks Urdu (mother tongue) fluently, she finds it hard to translate many common English words into Urdu since no one speaks those words in urdu.

I blame myself for this because in order to make her learn English, I think I forgot to pay extra attention towards our national language. This is currently happening at most of the Pakistani houses and I think our education system and society overall need to be held responsible for this.

Language is the pedigree of nations and we as a nation are in danger of losing it. The first language of a child is important to his identity and maintaining this language definitely helps the child to protect his civilization, ethnicity and heritage.

When the national language is ignored, a person may find it difficult to link to his family and other members of his society.

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I often think that kids in America or England must be at an uninterrupted level of intelligence as their native language is spoken both at their homes and schools. Here, we have an entirely different case where kids switch to English language at schools and they may find it difficult to learn two languages at such an early age.

The commercial value of English language cannot be denied but learning this foreign language at the cost of proudly forgetting our own national language is something to worry about.

The loss of our native language can weaken people’s sense of belonging and distinctiveness, and it can uproot the whole community in the end.

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There are many reasons why knowing and speaking our native language is important.

  • It helps to develop better cognitive and intellectual development and most importantly that development is interrupted.
  • It is a strong forecaster of a kid’s general linguistic aptitude.
  • We need to keep in mind that native language helps a kid to connect with his own culture, traditions and people. Children who live abroad hardly use their mother tongue there and hence they find it difficult to communicate to their relatives or grandparents in their family back in their own homeland.
  • Native language definitely plays an important role in connecting with our own roots, traditions, values and most importantly our loved ones.

Unfortunately, speaking English language has become a trademark for judging one’s intelligence and class while on the other hand, many developed countries i.e. China, Germany or Japan are progressing and developing without promoting English language. They speak their own national language and take pride in it. Here in our country, we have a contradictory case.

One hardly comes across a person who can speak Urdu language without using any English word. Thanks to globalization, there is nothing you can find in its original form.

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Speaking Urdu language fluently never fails to attract attention and admiration.

I remember those classic days of PTV when there were many gentlemen who had the linguistic command over this language i-e Mustansir Hussain Tarrar, Moin Akhtar.

No one can deny the linguistic swag of those gentlemen. Listening to them was pure bliss. One hardly finds any such person these days, though we have maximum number of television channels today. Perhaps this is the reason we hardly come across young Urdu poets or writers like we had in old times.

Seven years ago, Indian Television launched a new channel and started broadscasting Pakistani dramas and I remember how much our stories and Urdu language won hearts across the border. They were literally in awe of Urdu language and compared this language to sugar.

Unfortunately that channel had to shut because of Indo-Pak tension but that admiration definitely made me more proud of my language. There are over 7,000 languages spoken in the world today but language diversity is at risk. Languages are dying every single year.

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According to language experts, if a language is not widely spoken or practiced, it is at risk of dying after 50 years.

We are in desperate need to revive our beautiful language before it gets veiled behind English language. We need to appreciate this step taken by current government of PTI to revive our own Urdu language. The mother tongue is the true symbol and identity of a nation and without its existence; we can lose our connection with our culture and values.

We need to remember that a national language doesn’t die overnight but at the same time, we can’t get it revived overnight. It takes time but even slow progress can yield amazing results.

The irony, however, is that I had to write this piece in English.

This opinion article has been submitted by Hadia Rahman. She is an International Relations scholar by education, a former news anchor; an academician, freelance host, and writer by profession, and an environmentalist at heart. She tweets @hadiarah

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