The month of February is replete with various ceremonies and events organized in commemoration of the Language Movement of 1952. Lives were lost, but it was all to retain our language, our identity.
As time passed, we rose high as a nation, as a people -- holding firm on to our history, we clung to our culture. And yet, Bangla, the celebrated language with an unprecedented history, is now in jeopardy because of the intrusion of foreign language slowly seeping into our culture.
Bangla as an official language
Access to the internet and the introduction of satellite channels have exposed us to foreign languages and diverse cultures. These external cultures are implicitly invading us through their language.
English, as an international language, is preferred everywhere, especially in workplaces. Government job exams do include tests on Bangla knowledge, but in the private sector the value of being fluent in Bangla is overshadowed by a necessary proficiency in English.
Apart from that, Hindi -- the language of our neighbouring country India -- has also infiltrated our culture. Unfortunately, children these days are seen trying to speak in Hindi, thanks to Hindi-cartoon shows, with Hindi daily soaps being the equivalent for adults. The government has taken a few commendable steps in the past, to obstruct the broadcast of kids’ shows in foreign languages, but such initiatives have proven to be deficient compared to the unbridled influence of foreign cultures and languages.
Our apathy towards our own language should be addressed properly. It is only in February that the concerns for Bangla are aired, but we fail to bring up these sentiments in the remaining 11 months.
Bangla as court language
The court, in a few cases, has upheld the importance of Bangla as an official language. Many times people have talked about transforming the legal system into being completely dependent on the Bangla language.
The indecipherable texts of laws become more mysterious to the general masses when it is not in the mother tongue. Moreover, an established maxim is that being ignorant of the law is not an excuse. Which is exactly why we need to solidify Bangla as the official language in our judicial system.
The only apparent solution to liberate the legal system from such dependence on other languages is to translate the important materials into our mother tongue which, definitely, is a mammoth task and cannot be achieved overnight.
Many countries use their mother tongues as a barometer of cultural progress, but we have failed to promote our own language in any meaningful way
Bangla as an international language
February 21, the International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is observed to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity after UNESCO announced the observance of the day in 1999.
Many countries use their mother tongues as a barometer of cultural progress, but we have failed to promote our own language in any meaningful way. Despite being the seventh most-spoken native language with more than 300 million speakers, Bangla is yet to be announced as an official language of the United Nations. However, a campaign has been launched this year in this regard.
What about ethnic languages?
Linguistic rights are etched in our constitution, where Bangla is recognized as the state language of the republic.
However, at the same time, Article 23(A) of the supreme law safe-guards the culture of indigenous tribes, minority communities, and ethnic sects.
We can see the approach from the government to distribute textbooks printed in Chakma, Marma, Garo, Sadri, and Tripura languages. As the nation that fought for their mother language, we must acknowledge other mother tongues as well.
The scenario of use and abuse of language cannot be stated summarily. Language is a right. We must realize that our language is in jeopardy. The blood of our forefathers was shed to retain our right to speak Bangla, and we need to honour their sacrifice.
Raihan Rahman Rafid is a freelance contributor.