The language should be used in pre-primary education in the tea-producing region, says SUST language researcher Prof Karim
‘Deshoali,' the parlance of the tea workers of Sylhet region, should be preserved through research and used in pre-primary education to encourage children from this community to enroll in schools.
"The responsibility of preservation of 'Deshoali' and research falls on the Bangla speakers," Prof Dr Md Ashraful Karim, a language researcher from the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), told UNB.
It should be one of our key demands in February, the month of the historic Language Movement, the Bangla department chair of SUST said.
Most of Bangladesh's tea gardens are situated in the three districts of Sylhet region, and Moulvibazar has the highest number of tea gardens.
"The tea workers came here from various regions in India about 150 years ago. They used to speak in the local language at first. 'Deshoali' gradually came into existence through the amalgamation of various languages. It became the language of the tea workers," Prof Karim said.
However, they do not have any alphabet or written form.
"'Deshoali' is the mixture of local Bangla, Hindi, and the tea workers' own language (from the regions they came from)," the researcher said.
He noted that there have been research and surveys on the tea workers' socio-economic condition but the language has hardly been focused on. "We practically show no interest in the language of this socially neglected community," Prof Karim said.
During his research, the SUST teacher said he found that Bangla has a great impact on 'Deshoali'.
Using 'Deshoali' in schools
The tea workers’ community is lagging behind in various fields, particularly education.
Although the government mandates setting up primary schools within one mile of the tea garden, hardly anyone follows the directive, Prof Karim said.
"Researches are being conducted on the Chakma, Monipuri, and Santal languages. Many indigenous languages now have dictionaries. We can similarly compile a dictionary of the 'Deshoali' language," he said.
The public and private organisations and the media should come forward to preserve the language. "Protecting language is the responsibility of the country," he said.
Bangladesh is imparting education in some indigenous languages.
"As part of that initiative, the government should use 'Deshoali' in pre-primary level in the tea producing region. This will encourage more members of the community to enroll in schools.
"This will bring down the illiteracy rate in the community. This will help preserve the language and allow us the opportunity to pay respect to the Language Movement martyrs," he said.