Monday, June 17, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

To save a language

The government should ensure that these languages can thrive

Update : 27 Feb 2020, 11:56 PM

It is a matter of great regret that the Santali language, spoken by over a hundred thousand people within the borders of Bangladesh, is on the verge of dying out. This comes down to neglect on a policy level, as right now there are no textbooks in Santali, and so it is not clear if the language can be successfully carried off to the next generation.

Thousands of indigenous children are being deprived of a proper education in their mother tongue, because the requisite textbooks and qualified teachers are simply not there.

To see a language face extinction because of neglect is nothing short of heartbreaking, particularly because of our proud history of standing up for our right to speak our mother tongue Bangla. The month of February is a good time to remember not just the blood that was shed to uphold Bangla as our mother tongue, but our duty to all other languages.

Given the endangered status of Santali, as well as a host of other indigenous languages, it is clear that we have not fully stuck to the pledge we made back in 1952.

The spirit of Ekushey, after all, is not about the supremacy of any single language, but about every citizen’s right to speak, read, and learn in his or her own language, free from oppression or tyranny. 

To that end, the government should ensure that these languages can thrive, not just in spoken form, but in classrooms and textbooks. Saving Santali would mean preserving the richness of the cultures within Bangladesh, and protecting diversity.

Bangladesh’s linguistic diversity is one of our great strengths, and should be treated as such. 

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