The power of the mother tongue | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 21, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:34 AM, February 21, 2020


The power of the mother tongue

Ekushey must go beyond symbols and rituals

As we commemorate Ekushey with honour, respect and genuine love for our mother tongue, this is also the perfect time to reflect on our responsibility to promote and preserve the Bangla language. True, we have the unique privilege of having Amar Ekushey being declared by Unesco as the International Mother Language Day, and yes, we now enjoy the freedom to express ourselves in our mother tongue in informal and formal settings and we owe all this to the sacrifices made by our Language Movement heroes. But have we been able to give the respect that such sacrifices deserve? It is a question that warrants deep introspection.    

The primary focus has to be in improving the quality of education by making curriculums more modern, updated and accessible, and ensuring effective, creative teaching methods and proper training of teachers.

The tendency of a large section of the elite class to give less importance to the Bangla language, giving the impression that it does not serve any real purpose in nurturing it, has resulted in an apathy among young people towards it. This has been accentuated by the inordinate proclivity towards Bollywood culture which again seems to dominate in most celebratory occasions marginalising Bengali culture in the process. This must be countered by encouraging reading in Bangla by producing better books in Bangla, promoting existing Bangla literature and making concerted efforts to propagate good Bangla translations of foreign literature of all genres. There is also a glaring paucity of quality Bangla movies, TV serials and children's programmes in Bangla, which adds to the apathy towards the language.

At the same time, while we must make sincere efforts to preserve and promote Bangla, let us not forget that there are other mother tongues in our country, spoken by other ethnic communities. Many of these languages have gone extinct while some are on the verge of disappearance. The state of a mother tongue is closely related to the social reality of those who speak it. We must always remember why our heroes willingly risked their lives to make sure that their mother tongue was not marginalised or made irrelevant. On this day which has become a global celebration of the mother tongue, we must recognise the importance of all mother tongues in our country and the right of all ethnic minorities to assert their cultural identity. Our diverse cultural heritage, which includes the different languages spoken by minority communities, is something that we should protect and preserve.

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