ISLAMABAD: Meet Rehmat Aziz Chitrali: a government employee by profession, a linguist by choice and an innovator by disposition.
“To love all languages, is to love Pakistan in its entirety,” says linguist Rehmat Aziz Chitrali, a man intent on preserving local language, and especially the saccharine, Persian-influenced Khowar.
In this vein, Aziz has developed a virtual keyboard allowing speakers of the Khowar dialect as far as China and India, and locally in Chitral, parts of Swat, and Gilgit-Baltistan, to type directly in the language through accessing the tool online.
Once bookmarked, the simple phonetic keyboard can be used offline, and the text can either be cut/paste into a word document or uploaded online on various social media platforms with just a click of a button. The keyboard can also be used by users of Urdu, Punjabi, Hindko, Farsi and Dari languages. Aziz hopes to extend the trajectory of its usage to other dialects, as well.
Khowar differentiates itself from other languages through its use of six uniquely pronounced alphabets.
“Children will pick up English and Urdu in school but they will never learn their own regional languages unless their parents make an effort to teach them at home, “shares the linguist, who has penned more than 500 articles and 40 books, and participated in the first ever Khowar Language current affairs show on Khyber News Television earlier in 2008.
For languages to survive, they must be employed within the creative fields of literature and television, he believes.
A man with a vision
Though a government employee by profession, Aziz has little hope vested in the establishment towards the preservation and promotion of languages. He has taken things unto himself, and has already achieved milestones.
As of yet, Aziz has succeeded in introducing his mother tongue Khowar within the 1st to 12th grade syllabi across schools in district Chitral, setting up departments within the AIOU and Karachi Urdu University devoted to the study of the language, and writing several children’s books and developing a dictionary in order to engage the youth.
Hailing from the precariously located valley of Mirandeh Khot, the linguist and poet has devoted a large part of his life to writing about his local landscape and has highlighted issues of education, human rights and language preservation through his penmanship.
“For every ten steps one takes, the language evolves and absorbs other influences,” says Aziz. He believes that this kind of evolutionary assimilation gives regional languages an indelible place in the socio-cultural fabric of the nation. Chitral itself has 14 different dialects.
“The new generation of parents who have settled in larger cities are hesitant to teach their children regional languages because of a deep-rooted complex,” he expresses. “We must stress on the need to embrace heritage, and preserve Pakistani culture in its nuanced and unique whole.”
His keyboard can be accessed at www.branah.com/khowar <http://www.branah.com/khowar> <<http://www.branah.com/khowar>>.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2013