Tip of the tongue: Linguists say Swat’s local languages falling out of use

Suggest government support is necessary to preserve them.


Our Correspondent September 22, 2015
Zubair Torwali, the chairman of Idara Barai Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT), said languages suffer from an identity crisis—much like people. PHOTO: http://ibtswat.org/

MINGORA: Linguists in Swat demanded all tiers of government take note of disappearing native languages of the region and work towards their preservation.

A seminar at a hotel continued into the late hours of Sunday and participants appealed to journalists to play a positive role in highlighting these fast fading languages.

Titled Lesser Known Languages of Swat: Challenges and Opportunities, the seminar was organised by the Forum for Languages Initiative (FLI). Culture activists, linguists and journalists from different parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa attended the event.

Zubair Torwali, the chairman of Idara Barai Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT), said languages suffer from an identity crisis—much like people. He said the situation is worse in a region like Swat.

He said Torwali and Gawari are the indigenous and original languages of the region, but had been ignored ever since Swat was a princely state. He explained a language can fade away over a few decades if it is not written regularly. “The same has happened to Torwali and Gawari,” he said.

Zubair added globalisation was an imminent threat to local languages. “There is a dire need for written scripts of these languages to preserve them” he added. He said the government should promote local languages by conducting different seminars to attract attention.

Another speaker, Inayatullah Faizi, said language was one of the many components of being alive. “If you want to preserve a culture, promote its language” he added. Faizi also urged the media to play a constructive role, adding local linguists and researchers needed to put their heads together if the government was not interested.

Muhammad Sagar, another one of the participants, said there are at least 30 languages spoken in the northern areas of Pakistan and many are fading fast. He added the forum was working to preserve 14 such languages.

“It is not just a language. It carries with itself deep cultural roots which we want the government to preserve” he added. Sagar stressed future generations would remain unaware of their ancestry and know nothing about their culture if these tongues fade into oblivion. “Our focus and main objective is to preserve oral and verbal traditions, folklore, local songs, proverbs and poetry, apart from developing reading and writing skills,” he continued. He added there was a need to compose bilingual and trilingual dictionaries in these languages to record them.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2015.

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