How many Bangladeshi people born before the 90s know the words ‘ajeeb' or ‘pera’?
“I know what 'Ajob' means but ‘Ajeeb’? That beats me. The first time I heard this word was at university,” says Sadat Hossain, the young author of Arshinogor
“There are many other words like that infringing into our language every day. I grew up in a village so I thought this is just how urban young people talk. But then I found out that it’s actually many of our radio jockeys (RJs), who are eventually acting as our neologists.”
Are RJs solely to blame?
“I don’t quite agree with the idea that FM radio stations are the only liable party who are relentlessly bastardizing the language,” says Mir Rabby, associate executive director of Radio Shadhin. “The discourse on language is a constantly changing one and it is not isolated. The culture that we live in contributes a lot toward the language we speak every day.”
“However, I completely agree with the fact that the infiltration of our language, Bangla, is unacceptable by all means. But radio is not fully liable - there are a lot of issues involved. Are the people working in the radio industry well-versed in the beauty of the language? Do they know how the language of mass media should be?” he added.
A radio jockey and assistant producer at Colours FM, Ahona Rahman also speaks along similar lines as Rabby.
“Radio is a medium of entertainment, and if we speak really formally, like reading the news, people won't be entertained. The point is to speak in a way that we would do in our everyday lives. Having said that, I feel like some RJs take this to mean that we should speak in as much English as possible, just to sound cool.”
“I don't have a problem with using English within Bangla sentences - we don't use the word kedara
, we say chair now. As long as the correct pronunciation is being used in the correct contexts, it's fine, but I think it's ridiculous to say English just for the sake of it,” she adds.
Baitullah Quaderee, professor of Bangla at Dhaka University, also agrees that Bangla, like every other language, is constantly changing.
“During my father's time, no one knew what a 'missed call' was, but now we use all the time. Durdorshon
is the Bangla word for television but we simply say TV, the same with chair and kedara,
but it's alright to use these words because they are spontaneous.”
“The problem arises when you forcefully insert words from another language into your own just to make it sound somehow more interesting. This is what I call the 'but so' language because of the frequent usage of these two words,” he adds.
The power of markets
Dr Naadir Junaid, Mass Communication and Journalism professor from University of Dhaka, believes that the issues however do not just involve radio, or even any particular form of media, but that the entire media culture is working behind the adulteration of Bangla.
“If you look back at the pre-package drama period in BTV, you will see that there was a sense and insight in every single drama or TV programme. But with the emergence of package drama, it was taken over by contemporary market culture.”
This leads to the obvious question – is it the Indian Hindi serial mega-market that is influencing ours? According to Dr Junaid, it’s not other cultures that are to blame, but the commercially motivated market orientation of our media industry.
“When we were growing up there was no YouTube or FM radio, but we still listened to Dire Straits, Beatles and others. TV dramas like Eishob Din Ratri
were as popular in Kolkata as in Dhaka. If we did not have to look up to Indian culture in the 70s and 80s, why are we being influenced now?”
This same question is reiterated by Mir Rabby, who focuses on the brands and agencies that fuel the distortion of Bangla in mass media. “In a narrow market with too many radio stations to bear, we are quite dependent on the brands. This is a highly competitive market that runs on a minimum budget. You can’t get rid of the brand-impact here.”
“When we talk about the golden age of BTV, we are also talking about a time when they had the power and opportunity to create TV content with socio-political messages and outcomes in mind. Do we actually have the budget or scope to do that?”
Baitullah Quaderee also believes that the drive to make content “market-worthy” is “creating a loop between the young audience and the content makers, where both of the parties are influenced by the other.”
As Dr Junaid put it - “We have lost the most important feature of media - the quality, which is why the newer generations have to look up to Indian and Hollywood culture and are infiltrating Bangla with redundant English and Hindi words and phrases.”