Thursday March 22, 2018 05:52 PM

The triumph of Bangla in the UK

The triumph of Bangla in the UK
File photo of a procession celebrating the Bangla new year in LondonAlamy

Great Britain, the birthplace of the English language, is now known as 'third Bengal'

The usage of Bangla is not merely limited to business signs and names of establishments in the UK, but has spread to names of hospitals, parks, mosques, and even instructions in manuals. Conversely, Bangladesh is full of English signs and English names of business establishments.

Britain has been rife with budget cuts over the last few years, but British courts still offer an option for expensive Bengali interpreters. Until April 7, 2014 the theory section of British driving tests was available in Bangla. However, the option for taking the test in foreign languages was removed altogether.

A close compatriot of Bhashashoinik Tasadduk Ahmed, London Saint Mary Centre founder and former chairman Md Lokman Uddin said on Tuesday: “Taking advantage of Britain’s Equal Opportunity laws, we began putting up Bangla signs along with English ones. Areas like Tower Hamlets, Camden, Birmingham and Cardiff all have street and business names in Bangla, with some streets being named after eminent Bangladeshi figures.

“Even NHS hospitals have voice directions in Bangla and Sylheti alongside other languages, with Kabi Nazrul Primary School and Osmani School being centres for a Bangla education in the UK.”

“We have been lobbying for the inclusion of Bangla in O and A Levels since the late 70s, and despite postponement due to a lack of staff, teachers, and students, Bangla was eventually made an O Level subject. The Shaheed Minar at London’s Altab Ali Park is a testament to the Bangladeshis’ love for their mother language. Before 1985, we would build makeshift Shaheed Minars to observe February 21,” he added.

Many signs in London are written in Bangla in addition to English Alamy

Community personality and former student union leader Nurur Rahim Noman said Oldham has a Shaheed Minar too.

However, although a lot of importance is given to Bangla, the Bangladesh High Commission does not have any long-term plans for the promotion of Bangali culture.

Lawyer and author Biplob Kumar Poddar said: “Britain is known as the third Bengal. It has the largest Bangali population as well as the biggest presence of the Bangali culture outside of Bangladesh and West Bengal. Many Bangali expatriates living in Europe have moved to the UK to give their children a Bangla education.

“Despite this, sadly, second and third generation Bangalis are forsaking the learning of the language, with most of them unable to read or write in it. Bangla will be completely ignored by the fourth generation of Bangalis,” he continued.

In a conversation with journalists on Wednesday, poet and author Abu Maksud said: “Bangla has been practised in Britain for over a hundred years. Even back then, a Bangla newspaper used to be published and the first literary publication is now past its 70th year. In recent years, the proliferation of Bangla has increased with the advent of more publications, television, literature, and cultural associations. Every year, multiple books by Bangali expatriates get published at fairs along with oral histories, translations, plays, and research papers.“

The British Parliament now has three Bangladeshi-born women as members.

According to the British Office for National Statistics, Britain has around 231,000 Bangla-speaking people, making it the fifth-most spoken language. The British census of 2011 also reflected this data. Many departments publish notices and announcements in flawless Bangla.

Former official of the British Education Policy Department Tahur Rahman Begum said: “Britain has thousands of libraries with Bangla books in them, with at least nine different forms having Bangla as a nationality option since the 80s. Bangalis are the fourth biggest ethnic minority community here. In June 2017, British schools included Sylhety as a separate subject, with the dialect being included as a listed language alongside Bangla.

This article was first published on bangaltribune.com

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