Threat to language
Nilratan Halder | Published:
February 20, 2016 22:22:02
October 23, 2017 23:34:24
A book fair that captures the Bangalee ethos at its most poignant has until today survived the onslaught of the latest finger-tip but highly advanced technology. But will it do in the future - say 20 to 50 years from now? Let any speculation about this be left to the time now in a state of convulsion at the beginning of the new millennium. E-book and multi-media classrooms are no longer a subject of fiction even in this not so technologically advanced country. At a time when the habit of book reading - one that is devoted simply to pleasure and acquiring knowledge for the love of it as against passing time or examinations - is on the wane, there is indeed a real threat to a month-long book fair like that of Ekushey.
To understand the objective of holding a book fair for a month, one needs to appreciate the quintessence of Bangaleeness. Here is an intellectual product, a creative genre capable of recording the developments in different fields of knowledge. About 4,000 titles were published last year, this year the number is unlikely to be any fewer. Now if they represent the intellectual height and creative genius of a nation, there is not much to be optimistic either about the book fair or about the attainment of knowledge.
What types of new titles get published each year? An overwhelming majority of those are poetry followed by novels and detective or science fiction. Story books, essays, dramas are a few in number. Books on pure science, math, botany, zoology, engineering, astronomy, cosmology, environment and technology, including information and communication technology, are conspicuous by their absence.
If this is the measure of intellectual and creative output of a nation, there is indeed cause for serious concern. Admittedly, a handful of poetry or novels become so popular that they are sold like hot cake. But popularity is no measure of a masterpiece. Let alone the creations of the old masters, where are classics like Putul Nacher Itikatha, Chander Amabasya or even Chile Kothar Sepai?
A kind of creative dementia has set in on the one hand, and on the other, the mother tongue is lagging behind in accommodating the developments on the science and technology front. The result is a kind of stagnation of Bangla or at times vacuum because of the lack of appropriate expression. But Nature does not tolerate any such void, so aberration of language in the form of a hybrid kind fills up the vacuum. The best example of this is the language used for short message service (SMS).
Bangla may be the seventh largest language in terms of people who use it as their mother tongue, but indications are that it is on a course of retrogression. The indifference shown to the language at the primary or secondary level is matched by lack of any organised effort to develop it to be equal to the subjects of higher studies in different branches of knowledge.
In fact, language is like a living animal. It survives because it has the capability to capture the core meaning of human minds and abstract ideas - be it in relation to philosophy, science, math or humanities. On that count, the language has always been a backbencher but the peoples of far smaller size than the Bangla-speaking people like the French, Italians and South Koreans have not found their mother tongue inadequate in pursuing higher studies or research.
A language does not receive its nourishment through literature alone. Even in that area, Bangla has to depend mostly on its past glories, not much to count in the new millennium. This is really troubling. If this trend continues, how can this language be a vehicle of carrying the meaning of intense and complex realities and subjects? Books of poems and fiction - those too dealing with cheap feeling and emotion - alone cannot guarantee the immortality of a language.
Language is like the current of water. It must flow in order to stay in health. But that process stops once its users lose their touch with the stream of human consciousness. The most robust languages are those that have been liberal enough in accepting words and concepts from different cultures and climes. Highly developed languages like Latin and Sanskrit have become near extinct because of their refusal to accept reality and the changing circumstances all around. Until or unless, a language is simple as well as complex enough to meet the need of all segments of society, it finds itself out of context.
This does not mean that a standard dialect among their different variations will not be welcome to all. Here is a challenge to maintain the taste and sophistication, colour and images that a language has to capture the essence of a situation, feeling and emotion, geometric pattern and abstract ideas. Bangla is definitely losing out to foreign languages, particularly English. Literary luminaries of the past have left a rich legacy for their ancestors to build on. In the areas of science or technology the same is not true.
However, some brilliant products of this country have proved their talent by leading a few epoch-making researches on foreign soil, the United States of America in particular. If they take the pains to pen their achievements in their mother tongue, an example will be set. Others will follow suit in order to carry forward the job of nourishing this sweet language.