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Use of Bangla at universities

  • Published at 01:07 pm February 21st, 2021
Ekushey
Photo: Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The language which doesn’t help one to gain social prestige or economic prosperity should be treated as insignificant

Among the power centres of Bangladesh, the status of Bangla is a little better at general universities. Bangla is used more in general universities than elsewhere and its status, too, is higher, if only a little. Most teachers deliver lectures in Bangla, students read textbooks written in Bangla and they also answer questions in Bangla in exams. University administrations, too, use Bangla as the medium of communication. Apparently it all sounds amazing but it actually reveals something dangerous: General universities stay outside the purview of the main power centres of the state and hence Bangla can enter these campuses. There are some powerful departments at general universities where Bangla is virtually absent as a medium of communication. Economics or Statistics or International Relations or different departments of science are comparatively more powerful, so Bangla is not used in those departments. The special universities of Bangladesh stand totally outside the linguistic ambit of Bangla as those are regarded powerful. Bangla is absent in engineering or medical universities; even the agricultural university has excluded Bangla, though the students there are supposed to grow crops in the soil of this land. Even to this day, power and English are inseparably connected while Bangla and powerlessness are intertwined in a  universal bond. 

The form of Bangla used in general universities cannot be called sincere or solid. These universities are literally surrounded all over by Bangla as their walls are painted in Bangla alphabets. But the Bangla on the walls is full of errors in sentence construction and spelling. The corridors of universities bustle with Bangla but that Bangla does not reflect any semblance of an accepted model. The Bangla used in textbooks or class lectures is also very weak. One often needs to put in great efforts to understand the Bangla used in administration. So the Bangla used in all spheres of the general universities is incorrect and an ugly mixture of the refined and the vernacular. It is obvious no one is sincere about Bangla; no one takes Bangla seriously. 

It is only logical that the society which is rotten to the core will fail to set its linguistic priority. The condition of Bangla in general universities is a reflection on some deeper social-political-epistemological problems. The reason Bangla is used in these universities is that they stay outside the state’s power centres and that Bangla is clearly not the language of power. Bangla does not help anyone climb up the social-economic ladder. The language which doesn’t help one to gain social prestige or economic prosperity should be treated as insignificant, no matter how much pretentious emotion one has for that language. No one even respects that language, leave alone feel proud of it. It is an unpleasant truth that we Bangalis do not respect Bangla as much as we respect English, and why not? English is the language to rise through the ranks, both social and economic, whereas Bangla will take you down. The same is true of the areas of knowledge: The subject which benefits one most to get a job is entwined with English and has nothing to do with Bangla. 

Without language it is impossible for humans to think in an organised way; without learning a language correctly it is impossible to acquire or impart knowledge at all. University is the place to learn from books. A student can never learn from books if his/her command over the language is not good. To carve newer avenues of thought, it is indispensable for one to have a sound knowledge of one’s mother tongue because language is the medium through which new thoughts are born and disseminated. A language with disease can give birth to unhealthy thoughts and ideas. If we don’t try to improve and practise the original language, there’ll be no development of original thoughts – only borrowed ideas will be passed as new thoughts. So, first and foremost, both teachers and students need to learn the Bangla language properly. All universities should take immediate steps to that end. This is the treatment we need right now to cure our language of all diseases that it is plagued with. 

(Translated by Arts & Letters Desk)

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