I speak Punjabi (but my kids might not)

Out of 7,000 languages, nearly half are likely to disappear this century, with an average of one lost every two weeks!

Affan Chaudhry March 16, 2012
Ik Sutti Uthi Dooji Akhon Ka’ani ’-

Do you understand what this Punjabi idiom means, or do you need a translation in English first? The literal translation may be “one just woke up and the other one is partially sighted!” but that isn't what it means. 

This funny phrase refers to a person who has just woken up and then on top of their disheveled appearance is cross-eyed as well. It is used "icing on the cake" in English.

Most people wonder why everything in Punjabi sounds so comic? Maybe our ancestors just appreciated humour.

If you belong to a Punjabi speaking family and couldn't understand then this is proof that our language is teetering on the brink of extinction. How many more generations will it be before the original dialect just vanishes from the planet? Nobody in my circle of friends has a Punjabi vocabulary like my parents have. If the trend continues, than it’s not really hard to predict the outcome.

The Punjabi language is not the only one facing this acute hazard of becoming extinct. According to the World Resource Institute, out of 7,000 unique languages spoken in the world today, nearly half are likely to disappear this century, with an average of one lost every two weeks!

Imagine the sound of Punjabi and the rich cultural heritage it boasts lost forever.

You may think the notion is absurd or maybe do not see it happening in your life time.

So, what’s the big deal if there isn’t a single person speaking Punjabi at the end of this century?

Who needs Punjabi anyway?

Aren’t we better off with a universal language?

But imagine our offspring speaking only English (or Chinese for that matter). Language is not just the encoding and decoding of information among people but it brings with it the norms, identity, traditions, history and values of a society. When we move to a foreign country, we adapt to other languages and our lifestyle also changes.

While I believe different languages can co-exist within a society and this might be the ultimate solution to save the endangered ones. We spend so much time learning so many random things, but what I fail to understand is, why not make a little effort to learn our own mother tongue? Why not strive to save our languages, so that history may not hold us responsible for confining these languages only to the books kept in the unfrequented corners of old libraries.

I can’t describe the delight I saw on the faces of my elders when they came to know that at least somebody from their descendants was interested in learning the language they spoke all their life and are so proud of.

Languages need not to be taught, but should define who we are, which means we need to inculcate a sense of responsibility and understanding explaining why a mother tongue is important for the next generation - why speaking their own language will earn them more respect.

The point here is not against the learning of other languages but the emphasis is to keep our own culture alive. I believe that we become the unintentional ambassadors of many things involuntarily, but by fate and being the heirs of Pakistani and Eastern culture at large, we owe it to our region to uphold its worthiness and value, and keep it bustling with progression and development for our future generations.
Affan Chaudhry The author is an Entrepreneur and a final year student of Electrical Engineering at NUST Islamabad. Interested in literature, culture, music and robotics. He tweets @affanch
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Abdul Basit | 11 years ago | Reply Languages are like speciesin the life cycle if anyone specie extincts; the others dependent upon it, gets endangered tooLets support and protect the beauty of life because without diversity there is destruction and death everywhere__
Hasan Awan | 12 years ago | Reply My family lives in South Punjab, Kamalia and some members in Chakwal, Khushab, Sargodha and in Rawaplindi. My mother speaks a Dialect similiar to Seraiki, my father speaks a Ludhyanwi Punjabi, and fortunately now i can speak Seraiki Diaelects and Ludhyanwi with ease. But the point is that neither the Punjabi of Baba Farid that was introduced around 1100 years ago was introduced in schools nor does the dielects like Potohari, Hindko,Chakwali, Derawali, Seraiki, Ludhyanwi, Majhi, Haryanawi to name a few, There should be one General Punjabi and one Oral Punjabi which should include all dialects and Written and Oral Punjabi must be taught to us. Anyway I found a very good website for anyone who want online books about Punjabi. http://www.apnaorg.com/
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