So Culturally Rich

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So Culturally Rich, Sher Alam Shinwari
Published in Khyber.ORG on Wednesday, March 23 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)


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So Culturally Rich

Sher Alam Shinwari

Publishing Date: Wednesday, March 23 2005

According to linguists, many languages of the world are on the verge of extinction due to a lack of government support for their development and increasing globalization, which causes a loss of ethnic identity. Dr Tariq Rahman, a distinguished scholar on Pakistani languages, has carried out a very fruitful research on scientific lines on many languages spoken in the country. He also floated the idea that a well equipped research institute should be established in Pakistan where researchers and language experts could conduct meaningful research on various languages spoken in Pakistan. In his celebrated book Language and Politics in Pakistan (OUP, Karachi, 1996) Dr Tariq Rahman has skilfully described different language movements in Pakistan and drawn the conclusion that they were genuine and should be supported. His idea was given practical shape by establishing the Frontier Language Institute (FLI) in November 2002 in Peshawar.

Muhammad Zaman Sagar, the programme director (PD) for the FLI, while talking to this correspondent said, "Much has been written on and about seven major languages, namely, Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Pushto, Brahvi and Seraiki but people know little about the languages spoken in the Northern Areas. Pakistan is a country of rich culture and ethnic diversity. Many peoples of Pakistan recognize the importance of preserving the precious treasure of their cultural heritage, including their many languages."

The Frontier Language Institute (FLI) was established under the auspices of the Frontier Welfare Organization (FWO) to conduct research on languages spoken in different parts of the Frontier. Among 69 languages in Pakistan, 26 are spoken in NWFP and 12 are being used in district Chitral alone. The primary aim of all that we do is to equip our people to produce and use all kinds of literature in their mother tongue. The secondary aim of FLI is to help facilitate the establishment of effecttive mother tongue literacy programmes, which assist the people to read and write in their mother tongues after which they would be able to effectively learn reading and writing in Urdu.

About 75 people speaking 20 different languages, including Palula/Ashrati, Khowar, Torwali, Gawari/Kalami, Shina, Hindko, Wakhi, Gawari-Bati, Dameli, Yidgha, Saraquli, Eastern Kataviri, Kalasha, Indus Kohistani, Potwari, Kashmiri, Gojri and Bateri, have participated in various training events offered by the FLI. The institute has arranged workshops in Peshawar, Bisham and district Chitral on issues in language development like data collection methodology, phonology, grammar and cultural research.

The Institute plans to host several other 3-4 day workshops every year, to address specific needs expressed by those intimately involved in language development work. This may include orthography and writer's workshops. In December 2003, the FLI introduced the first of several one year courses which will train people in linguistics, literacy, anthropology, lexicography, translation and language planning. This will enable them to preserve oral traditions, poetry, proverbs, folk-tales, and compile dictionaries/glossaries.

"The FLI believes in the intrinsic worth of all mother tongues and cultures. We should preserve our languages for future generations so that they could know about the richness of our traditional stories and social customs," Sagar maintains.

The FLI recently brought out its maiden Newsletter in English and Urdu titled Zabaan carrying solid information about various research activities of the Institute. The FLI has published a very attractive and colourful Calendar 2005 titled "Celebrating language diversity in Northern Areas". This calendar carries photographs and demographic details of different languages spoken in the NWFP. According to the calendar the number of people speaking these languages is pretty impressive - Bald (270,00), Bateri (20,000), Burushaski (100,000), Chilisso (3,000), Dameli (5,000), Domaaski (500), Gawar-Bati (1,500), Gawri/Kalami (100,000), Gojri (300,000), Hindko (2.5 million), Indus Kohistani (220,000), Kalasha (3,000), Kataviri/Kamviri (7,000), Kashmiri (105,000), Khowar/Chitrali (220,000), Ormuri (8,000), Pahari/Potwari (3.8 million), Palula (10,000), Pushto (10 million), Shina (500,00), Torwali (80,000), Ushojo (1,000), Wakhi (12,000) and Yidgha (6,0(X)). It has mentioned different locations m which these languages are spoken in the Frontier.

"We have used various research sources and survey reports for the identification and categorization of the languages given in the calendar. Establishing a full-fledged research department at the Peshawar University Campus for carrying out a substantive and meaningful research on languages and cultures of the Frontier is the need of the hour," the programme director of the FLI suggests. "We encourage speakers of smaller languages to form community-based organizations in their respective areas and then recommend committed individuals to us for taking proper training. We see a bright future for smaller languages in the Frontier to groom and contribute to the linguistic and cultural diversity of our country," he says.

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So Culturally Rich, Sher Alam Shinwari
Published in Khyber.ORG on Wednesday, March 23 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)