Sat. Dec 4th, 2021

The Language Issue

By Rabia Tariq

There is a famous saying; if the Greeks had to learn Latin Alexander wouldn’t have succeeded in conquering the world.

Language is a very important component of a persons identity. People can not value their own culture and heritage if they don’t know their own language. We see that today in Gilgit Baltistan, alongside our very own local languages we have to learn and speak  Urdu and English as well.

Urdu, being the national language, is spoken and understood all over Pakistan, and thus our lingua franca! It is also understood in India, Nepal and Afghanistan, to some extent! In Pakistan, we have to learn Urdu as an full course subject.

English, being the official language of Pakistan, is necessary for good employment opportunities in our country. Globally also, knowledge dispersion and book publishing is happening in English more than any other language. Those who can speak and understand English get access to unlimited knowledge and opportunities across the world. People who can afford, send their children to institutions where the medium of instruction is English. Therefore, making English mainstream and learning of English accessible to everyone will eliminate the classism from society and discrimination from jobs and employment opportunities.

There are of course some naïve people in every society, who might believe in the false claim that Urdu is the language of Muslims! We all know that Muslims speak many languages in South Asia. Our languages are rich and there’s a world to be explored in the literature developed by Sufis and poets of all the languages of all the lands that today are divided into different nation states!

There is no denying the fact that learning an additional language could be useful and even an advantage. But this is a choice that needs to be made individually by people according to their social and economical needs. They should have the right to choose the language they want to learn or speak. Maybe someone wants to read Dostoevsky in Russian or Nietzsche’s books in German and not Ghazals of Mirza Ghalib and Mir.

Urdu might be easier for us but it won’t benefit us much. The inflow of knowledge, progress and new ideas is very low in Urdu. Translating knowledge from other languages is not enough for keeping the masses educated and well-informed. A person focused on learning languages instead of acquiring knowledge is also at a loss. He will be using the part of brain responsible for languages and not the whole brain. We should replace Urdu with English language nationally and in every sphere of society for convenience and keeping up with the rest of the world.

In many parts of the country where Urdu is not spoken, teachers in schools spend a lot of time translating and converting information into local examples understandable enough for little children. Providing primary education in local languages will increase the literacy rate and also get the students interested in education. United Nations promotes the use of First language as a means of education in schools at primary levels. It is believed that the capabilities of evolving ideas and finding solutions in children develops at a faster rate when they acquire education in their own mother tongue. There is a famous saying that if the Greeks had to learn Latin, Alexander the Great wouldn’t have conquered the world.

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