Khowar language: Keys of preservation

Published: December 16, 2013
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By developing a virtual keyboard, linguist seeks solutions relevant to an age of social media awareness.

By developing a virtual keyboard, linguist seeks solutions relevant to an age of social media awareness.

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

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Dec 16, 2013 - 9:50AM

    Great effort Rehmat Aziz Chitrali. All local languages deserve such attention.

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  • Akbar Ali
    Dec 16, 2013 - 11:21AM

    I salute Mr.Rehmat Aziz Chitrali for the preservation of local languages of Pakistan. Historical efforts done by Aziz. I request him to develop Kalasha, Shina, Balti, Burushaski, Doomaki, Yidgha, Wakhi and other local languages of Northern Pakistan.

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  • Major Iqbal
    Dec 16, 2013 - 12:05PM

    I love his mustache.

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  • Dec 17, 2013 - 10:48AM

    Thanks to All

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  • Azam Hussain Shauqi
    Dec 17, 2013 - 6:51PM

    Rehmat Aziz Chitral have did alot not only for khowar speakers but also for other nothern areas language. His brilliant efforts should be appriciated on national level by a national award. the public have already demanded thad trough a resolution.
    we solute his brelient efford for the nation of chitral.

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  • Dec 18, 2013 - 8:51AM

    Thanks to all for kinds words and wishes.

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  • Abdul Ali
    Jan 5, 2014 - 11:37AM

    admirable work. But as far I know, Khowar and other northern pakistani langugage speakers used to work with NP keyboards compatible with keyman and later on MSKLC which allowed the users to transcribe all the unique characters within MS word etc. Does this new keyboard introduced by Rehmat Aziz fulfill all the needs like Keyman and MSKLC?Recommend

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