Almost all the speakers at a seminar on mother languages stressed the need for imparting education to a child in his mother tongue, which, they felt, made the learning process easier.
The seminar was held at the National Museum, Karachi, on Thursday evening to mark the importance of mother languages and their pivotal role in groups being enabled to forge an identity.
Zubair Dehani from the Institute of Applied Linguistics said, “We feel that basic education should be in the mother tongue, to be gradually changed into some other language. Multilingual education is the best way to expand educational skills.”
Zar Khan of the Lyari Literary Forum said, “Language is a source of identity and reflects the soul of the society.” He said the mother tongue was representative of the ideas, hopes, the ideals and the aspirations of a society, and referred to education in the mother tongue as a basic fundamental right of every citizen.
“When our children go to school and have to learn a different language, it is counterproductive.”
It was for this reason, he said, that the Lyari Literary Forum had made special arrangements for teaching Balochi in schools. Poonam Paschal from the Parkari Community Development Programme said that it was heartening to see that today books and magazines were being published in Parkari.
Parkari are people inhabiting the Nagarparkar area who have their own language and customs. Erona Matthew, who compered the cultural programme that preceded the seminar, was also from the Parkari community. She explained many features in a video that was screened on the Parkaris.
Sartaj Khan, a social sciences researcher, who spoke on the state of Pashto, lamented that the development of Pashto was being jeopardised because of the Pukhtoon elite who were deliberately relegating it in favour of English or Urdu.
”Pashto is in danger of slipping into oblivion because of the Pukhtoon elite,” he said. Dr Riaz Shaikh, dean of Social Sciences at SZABIST (Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology), said that Pakistan was a civilisation that was 5,000 years old and as such had a rich heritage for the preservation of which preserving the language was of utmost importance.
A language, he said, was reflective of the group’s collective psyche, social mores and cultural heritage. Groups, he said, took up another language just to stand out and differentiate themselves from the commonfolk.
He said that the age of colonisation had done maximum harm to the development or preservation of languages because the victors always foisted their language on the vanquished. He cited the case of Latin American countries where the conqueror, Spain, had foisted its language all to the detriment of the local tongues which had now all been confined to the dustbin of history.
The seminar was preceded by a colourful cultural programme reflecting the pivotal role of dance and music in Sindhi culture. There was a solo by a male vocalist in the Punjabi-Marwari language.
Then, a Kacchi wedding scene was enacted which included a lively dance and very joyful, cheerful songs, depicting a purely rural scene. There were vocal presentations by other groups, all so vividly reflective of our artistic and cultural heritage.