Stories about language

Why should Sindhi be taught in all schools of Sindh?

The Government of Sindh recently announced that it would ensure that private educational institutions offer Sindhi language as a separate subject. The announcement went on to state that schools refusing to offer Sindhi would be fined or even have their permits revoked.  This announcement has led to predictable outrage. Some have argued that students who attend private schools have no use for learning a language that is ‘only’ spoken within Sindh. On the other hand, children attending public schools, given their financial background also have little practical utility for studying the region’s native language. This, in itself, is a false assumption ...

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Twitter, Facebook and Rap music are “klling da English lang”!

“LOL, LMFAO, Congo, TTYL” For those of us born before the 80s, this would probably seem like an alien language or could lead to the assumption that the sender of the message has gone nuts. Prepare yourself, my literate friends – this is the ‘new groove’. This is what they ‘dig’ these days. Apparently, abbreviations have become our friends and we don’t let any chance slip from using them. Unfortunately, some of these actually end up being more confusing than helpful and annoy the hell out of a lot of people, including myself. The younger generation has made a short form for everything they ...

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Is this the death of the Urdu language?

After reading Raza Rumi’s ‘Delhi by Heart’, I came across a touching phrase by Khurshid Afsar Bisrani, “Ab urdu kya hai, ek kothay ki tawaif hai, mazaa har ek leta hai, mohabbat kam kartey hain.” (What is Urdu, but a prostitute of a brothel, everyone takes advantage, but only few truly love her.) This prompted me to pen down my feelings regarding the state of Urdu in daily life. The way our young generation has distanced itself from Urdu, especially Urdu literature, is something to lament. Thanks to my upbringing, with both my parents being fond of reading Urdu, I have lived in an environment ...

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What happened when a Pashtun child tried to read Urdu

Note: To fully understand this post, it is mandatory that you watch the video pasted above. If one knows Urdu as well as Pashto then watching this video invokes instant laughter. I had great fun carrying out this experiment on a lot of my friends, having them watch the video and crack up. However, the post-laughter response to this video has usually been a lament about the state of education in Pakistan. There were many who were genuinely saddened by the unfulfilled potential of this boy to learn. Many deficiencies in the education system of Pakistan can be attributed to the meager ...

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When Ramazan became Ramadan: Our infatuation with Arab culture

Come the sighting of the moon and my inbox, cell phone and social media feed is inundated with greetings of ‘Ramadan Kareem Mubarak’. It’s a common phenomenon and I am not the only one to experience this but it does make me think. What has happened in the past couple of decades that we have made the shift from Urdu words to decidedly Arabic ones? If the change was in language as a whole it would make some measure of sense. Languages are of course organic and new words come in but in this case it is not a natural ...

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If Twitter can have their site in Urdu, why can’t Facebook?

Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has been a revolution, an addiction, a maddening genius which took over websites like MySpace, Orkut, hi5 and revolutionized the dynamics of social interaction. To cater to its ever increasing user base, 1.11 billion (active March 2013), Facebook has revamped itself many times to keep a competitive edge and keep their user base intact. In 2008, it offered users a new experience- now Facebook could be used in one’s mother tongue. This breakthrough received immense positive feedback. The language barrier was felt no more and networking became simpler, authentic and increasingly intimate. However, with Facebook allowing over 50 languages across ...

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Urdu and I: A love affair

In grade six, I handwrote Ibne Insha’s “Kal Chaudvin Ki Raat Thee” and gave it to a girl I firmly believed to be my soul mate. Her lack of enthusiasm at replying with an equally moving ghazal (or even replying at all) dismayed me so I delved further into Urdu literature than I had ever before. “What was a grade six student doing reading Ibne Insha?” I hear you ask. To put matters in perspective, I had grown up in a house full of books. I carried my Famous Five right next to Inspector Jamshed and His Gang. Books on ...

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How I learnt ‘I can’t speak Urdu’ is not cool

I had recently shifted to the web desk at The Express Tribune and much to my amazement, it was only fun up until I had to translate breaking news into English! I didn’t really learn how to speak Urdu as a child, and never did well in that subject at school either. Guess what, it’s come back to bite me on my backside! Make no mistake, Urdu is not just a problem for me. There are lots of societal “burgers” out there who struggle with the language at all times and do absolutely nothing about it. What’s embarrassing is, I was born and brought up ...

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Why butcher the English language? Just speak in Urdu

Walking towards the Select mart at the petrol pump today, I saw a sign on the wall that read “Select Gate” with an arrow pointing towards the right. It took me a while to figure out that they really meant that the door (the “gate”) was to the right. The writers of this sign may be excused for being uneducated people who are unfamiliar with the English language. Being an avid reader and a writer, however, like Henry Higgins, I am particularly sensitive to the abuse of the English language, especially when it comes from someone who really should know ...

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Mind your language: Chal Parha’s take on language in schools

Chal Parha is a brilliant TV show, recently launched on Geo, hosted by Shehzad Roy to reform the government education system in Pakistan. The second episode was a thought provoking insight into the issue of the language of instruction in Pakistani schools. The episode looked at the emotional trauma and turmoil children face when they are forced to learn or communicate in languages which are completely foreign or alien to them, in our case these being Urdu and English. It does not only cause confusion in the minds of the students, but may eventually lead to a loss in self-confidence and the ability to express themselves, ...

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