HYDERABAD: On the second and last day of a conference on mother tongues, eminent linguists told the audience that languages did not clash with each other but at times social and political divisions and contradictions made languages bone of contention.

A large number of people atten­ded the conference titled ‘The Role of Mother Languages in 21st Cen­tury’ held at Dr Baloch Hall of the Sindhi Language Authority (SLA) on Friday.

Discussing reasons for differences between speakers of various languages, Progressive Writers Associ­ation Pakistan (PWAP) secretary general Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed, who is a former director of the Pakistan Study Centre, Univer­sity of Karachi, said: “One can hope that in a society where there is no polarisation, languages not only co-exist but also enrich one another through interaction.”

Highlighting the importance of mother tongue, he said that while under the spell of globalisation when the smaller cultures and languages were struggling for their survival, increasing number of educationists and social reformers were pleading that at least primary education should be given in the mother tongue. He gave a number of reasons why mother tongue was so important.

“Mother tongue is just acquired by the child instead of learning it. The environment in which the child enters in society also makes it easier to interact in the mother tongue,” he said.

He said that from educationist Dr Maria Montessori to philosophers like Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky, all had acknowledged the significance of mother tongue. He cited their scientific and philosophical explanations of how the human mind developed, emphasising that the faculty of language was inbuilt in human brain.

In his highly academic article, he cited examples from the writings of great Urdu writers including Josh Malihabadi, whose forceful and rational arguments in favour of mother tongue were as convincing as those of Russell and Chomsky.

“Sindhi language is facing a big threat from Urdu and English as Sindhi children are taught in English-medium schools where they do not know about their own language and culture, but they are fully aware of music and literature of other languages (English and Urdu). While Sindhi, including folk and Sufi literatures, is also very rich and old,” said SLA secretary Prof Shabnam Gul.

Describing great Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai as a big language expert, she said that every language gave a message of love. She said that language was aimed to ensure positive interaction with people.

“The first language of Moen­jodaro was Brahvi and it was the most spoken language of Balochis­tan 50 years ago. But there was a different situation now,” Brahvi Res­earch Institute of Pakistan dir­e­c­tor Nazeer Shakir Brohi claimed.

He stressed Sindhi and Brahvi institutions must be opened to discover and decipher Moenjodaro’s language. He also said that 20 newspapers were brought out in Brahvi.

While reading paper on Seraiki, Seraiki Adabi Academy chairperson Dr Sadia Kamal said that over 70 million people spoke Seraiki in the country while there were more speakers in India.

“Folk and children literature of this language (Seraiki) is marvellous,” she said.

She also recited some Seraiki couplets with typical accent and received big applause.

Writer Noor Ahmed Janjhi said that in the world, language and humans were created simultaneously.

“Many languages became accents and many accents became languages while there was a big example of Sanskrit,” he said.

He said that over 7,000 languages, including 70 languages in Pakistan, were spoken in the world. Speakers of any language might be less or more in numbers, but languages must be given the same importance, he added.

“We will have to rectify our attitude towards languages,” Univer­sity of Sindh Sindhi department chairman Dr Anwar Figar Hakro said. He added that those languages which were “dead” needed to be imposed or taught in educational institutions for their survival and promotion.

He said that language had strong links with nature and without study of nature, it was impossible for any language to prosper.

Others who also spoke were University of Balochistan Balochi language and literature department chairman Dr Hamid Ali Baloch, University of Peshawar Pashto department former chairman Dr Nasrullah Jan Wazir, Poet Imdad Hussaini, University of Karachi teacher Dr Sher Mahrani, Dr Fayyaz Latif, Sehar Gul Bhatti and poet Ayaz Gul.

Sadarang Ali entertained the audience with his sweet and sonorous voice while reciting verses of Bhitai.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2019

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