Yesterday we celebrated International Mother Language Day. The day is also known to the Bangladeshi people as Martyrs Day, honoring the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for Bangla language on 21 February of 1952. The day was proclaimed as International Mother Language Day by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999. The whole world is celebrating the day since 2000. But distortion of Bangla language has been a concern in recent years despite the rich heritage of the language. Hence, it is duty for us all to protect the language from distortion.
February is the month of language, art and literature for the people of Bangladesh. February is the month of sacrifice. Sacrificing lives for mother tongue is an exceptional event in history. People of Bangladesh sacrificed their lives for the sake of establishing Bangla as a state language of the then Pakistan. We achieved freedom to express our thoughts in our mother language. We speak Bangla; we express our thoughts and emotions in Bangla. February is the month of awareness of linguistic diversity and promoting multilingualism. February is also a month in which people learn how to respect each and every language of the world including regional dialects.
On February 21, 1952, student protesters gathered at the University of Dhaka and armed police surrounded the campus. Students attempted to break the police line at the university gate and police began firing tear gas shells toward the gate. Some students attempted to leave the premises but were arrested as they fled. Outraged by the arrests of some of their peers, students assembled outside the East Bengal Legislative Assembly. They attempted to storm the building and police opened fire on them, killing several people including our language heroes Salam, Rafiq, Barkat, Jabbar, and Shafiur.
We know about air pollution, water pollution and environment pollution. But we hardly know about language pollution. Like other pollution, a language can also be polluted if it is pronounced with foreign accent, style and tone leaving its own characteristics. A language can also be polluted by switching codes unnecessarily. Though linguists and conscious people of the country have been talking and writing against pollution and distortion of Bangla language years after years, the damaging process has not stopped. Rather, it is increasing day by day as the authorities concerned did not take any strict action against the language distorters.
Bangla accent and pronunciation are different from many other languages. Using mixture of Bangla and English, commonly known as ‘Banglish’ language in any media is very dreadful for our language as well as for our young generations because they follow and imitate them. But it is occurring every day. If it continues, we may lose the originality of our language. This kind of Banglish language is totally unexpected from our educated class.
Sometimes it is thought that, if Bangla is spoken mixing English words, people’s attention can be drawn without difficulty. But if Bangla language is presented in a beautiful way, people will accept it eagerly. So strategy must be changed. So, relevant people must create excellent programs in Bangla language with a view to protecting Bangla language from being stained despite the already made damages.
Media plays an important role in forming the listeners’ habits. Listeners follow the way the media shows them. So, the people working in different media or related to media must be careful while using Bangla language. They must do something that is better for the listeners and for the language as well as for the country. The writers must be careful to use undistorted Bangla in their books. If someone thinks that he can win the hearts of listeners, readers and viewers by using improper Bangla, their conception is totally wrong. Honor consists in purity. To make something impure to achieve something is not honorable. So, popularity and fame can be achieved respecting the originality.
Once this part of the world including Bangladesh was under long British rule and over the years we have adopted some English culture and etiquette in our day to day life. But that does not necessarily mean that we give up our own rich culture and etiquette and instead irresponsibly practice foreign culture in our day to day life.
Emphasizing the need for further enriching Bangla, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 21 February, 2016 called for building massive awareness to avoid distortion of the mother language. Since the world has turned into a global village, people need to learn various languages for the sake of their livelihood while there is nothing wrong in learning multiple languages. But right use of Bangla in reading, writing or speaking is a must for the people who have the honour of having this beautiful language as mother tongue.
It is needless to emphasize that the Bangla language has its golden history of a thousand years through the journey of which it has been branded as one of the richest languages widely spoken throughout the world. Literary geniuses of the Bangla language and literature have brought innumerable accolades and laurels including a Nobel of which Bengalis are rightly proud of. Till now, 4 Bengalis have received Nobel in different fields. It is the only language in the world for which Bengalis had to shed their blood and the spirit since then ultimately led to making a free and independent Bangladesh with Bangla as the state language under the charismatic leadership of the greatest Bengali of all time Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Bangla is such a rich language that Rabindranath Tagore’s works were translated in more than 40 languages. The works of Kazi Nazrul Islam was also translated in several languages. Similar happened with many other writers and poets who wrote in Bangla. People are studying the works of Bangla language worldwide to carry the fine works to their own language. If our own people do not practice proper Bangla, then we cannot progress with our heritage.
Bangladesh High Court had forbidden the use of English slang known as ‘Banglish’ on television and radio stations on 16 Feb, 2012 and expressed worry about a foreign invasion of the language. The history of Bangla, which originated some 1,300 years ago and is spoken by at least 265 million people all around the world, is wrapped up with the creation of Bangladesh as a country in 1971. Bangla is the fifth most spoken native language and the sixth most spoken language by total number of speakers in the world.
On 15 January, 2018, the then Indian President Pranab Mukherjee branded Bangladesh as the “protector” of Bengali language through their historic Language Movement and achievement of its international recognition. He, however, said contamination in people’s thought process and mind was deadlier than the environmental pollution and urged writers, artistes, poets and litterateurs to put in their efforts to clean the toxicity of mind and thoughts.
Many experts and important people often talked about saving Bangla language from distortion but nothing changed much. Today, the young generation of Bangladesh is completely exposed to contamination of the language everywhere especially with the use of different social media platforms. If the relevant authority does not act soon, we will not be able to protect our beloved language and that will be a shame for all.
Language is a free flowing entity and it gets contaminated on the way. But we need to put strong effort to reduce and contain that contamination. Parents at home and teachers at educational institutions need to act hard on properly teaching the language. Campaigns and competitions regarding proper use of Bangla should be launched for the young people. All must come forward to join this effort as it is our duty again to save our beloved Bangla language from distortion.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Chief Patron, Bangabandhu
Shishu Kishore Mela