‘Every word is a preconceived judgment.’-Friedrich Nietzsche, Human All-Too-Human
There are many conflicts one can’t avoid if not on the same linguistic frequency as others. To a common man, language is basically a way to communicate thoughts, opinions, and emotions, however, if we dig deeper into this singularity; we realize that it holds the crux of our identity. It gives us a way to express our feelings, opinions, and sentiments to others. It is through the phenomenon of globalization that linguistic boundaries are crumbling all over the world.
Language leading to communication are the basic tools necessary in education. The Language Barrier in schools sets up entire generations to live on the metaphorical sidelines. Language barriers are a common issue that all non-Anglophonic countries face. World economic conditions and globalization guarantee that no state can work in isolation which is why this limitation makes an appearance at both inter-state and intra-state interactions. Even something as simple as a change in dialect can cause waves of miscommunication. The language barrier may prove to be detrimental to a country’s progress/ development in the mid to long term. One avenue where it is particularly bothersome is in Governmental institutions. It leads to miscommunication or more often than not ‘incomplete’ communication and it can negatively impact the whole system.
The miscommunication can cause time strain, loss of funds, public scrutiny, etc. Compliance, confidentiality, and security of information are critical to interpretation for government agencies. The language barrier in a case of emergency response may also cost lives. Although Urdu is our national language, however, our colonized tongue rarely strays from English in official dealings. Pakistan itself is a multilingual/ multicultural nation with more than 6 major languages and countless regional influences. There are only two official languages used in government institutions, documentation, etc.
Those two being Urdu and English, they’ve grown to be respected and associated with a higher intellect. However, this has had an adverse effect on the other languages and their use has often been decreed as a sign of an uncultured upbringing or just a lower status in society in general. Linguistic racism in Pakistan is born out of a superiority complex that has hailed from the time of colonization of the subcontinent. It is not just a language that forms the base of such discrimination but it also stems out of the accent, modality, syntax, and variety in vocabulary. It is projected as a threat to the social cohesion of society and is often further pronounced in situations where multi-lingual individuals face multiple socio-cultural issues. This form of racism exists in several contexts, the most prevalent being its presence in the education sector of Pakistan.
A country that houses a minimum of 74 linguistically social groups (Adeel Tayyab 2021) requires more attention to be paid to its inherent multi-lingual character. Only 10% of Pakistan is fluent in Urdu (Adeel Tayyab 2021) despite it being the national language. English stands out as a powerful language and comes out on top whenever put in comparison with national or regional languages, this is mainly because of its heavy influence in our region’s past. It is considered important as the language of employment. Urdu held influence over other provincial languages because it was so wide-spread that it naturally was assumed to be everyone’s first language but in the spirit of staying democratic, it was allowed to use provincial languages where required. In the educational sector, we can easily blame the failing system to a smaller than necessary amount of funds but a major role is played by the disadvantage children have to face in regions where they have to shift from their native language such as Sindhi or Pashto to English and Urdu abruptly. If there is one student amongst forty who stutters or isn’t as assured in English or Urdu then he is marginalized. Linguistic racism is born from such conditions and carves a place in the crux of our existence.
The fate of East Pakistan pays homage to this very point. Granted the unfairness of leaving out Bengali as one of the official languages was not the only reason for dissent but it did light the spark. The issue that the Bengali had with Urdu being the national language of Pakistan was also drawn from the fact that the people who got salaries from the state or the government workers ‘salariat’ faced many challenges because Urdu was used in governmental institutions and positions of a lower level within the administration, military, judiciary, education, etc. In places of a higher power, English had taken over which left the Bengalis hung in between a colonial language take-over and a provincial language dispute. The language barrier soon became stifling. The language became a symbol of Bengali unity and once it was disregarded in the race for the national language the conflict only grew till the annexation in 1971. After the separation of Bangladesh, the Sindhi Movement rose. It gleaned inspiration from the Bengali language movement and G.M Syed brought about the idea of Sindhudesh in 1972. Its main focus was on a separate state that would protect and promote Sindhi identity, culture, and language.
The language movement had roots in provincial conflicts with the Punjabi population encroaching on Sindhi territory and Urdu being the national language, leading to subtle isolation of the Sindhi population and difficulty in societal integration. The emergence of Sindhudesh was from this issue that the presence of Urdu wasn’t as much of a problem on its own but what it represented, which was Punjabi dominion and superiority over the area. UNESCO itself has researched and concluded that Urdu being the only major language taught in all provincial educational institutions till Higher education where there is an abrupt change to English, is damaging the uniformity of a country.
Keeping in view the problems/ shortfalls relating to overcoming ingress of foreign languages and number of local languages in mid to long term following recommendations are proffered:
a. As far as our number of regional languages are concerned these must be optimally used to strengthen our national fiber. These must be merged at lower levels of education and selected specialization.
b. Above will also help in achieving inter-provincial integration and harmony at the national level, leading international image building of Pakistan as a nation.
c. In case the ongoing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is to achieve the desired and optimum results, we must be all set to absorb all foreign languages including Chinese and languages of other members of One Belt One Road (OBOR) as required, alongside our official language.
Although linguistic racism is not a rampant issue that needs immediate attention, it is one whose roots have dug deep and taken hold in both national institutions and the human psyche. Pakistan is home to 212.2 million and promises them their safety along with constitutional and human rights. Such a feat is not possible if the language barrier remains in existence without achievable ways to dismantle it.
- Bureau Report. 2017. “People Advised to Remove Language Barrier to Benefit from CPEC.” DAWN.COM. DAWN.COM. August 11, 2017. https://www.dawn.com/news/1350934.
- Eun, Ellen, Kyoo Kim, and Anna Mattila. n.d. “The Impact of Language Barrier & Cultural Differences on Restaurant Experiences: A Grounded Theory Approach.” https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1175&context=gradconf_hospitality .
- “Language Policy, Multilingualism and Language Vitality in Pakistan.” 2020. Apnaorg.com. 2020. http://apnaorg.com/book-chapters/tariq/. 4
- “Linguistic Racism: Its Negative Effects and Why We Need to Contest It.” 2020. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 2020. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13670050.2020.1783638?scroll=top&needAccess =true.
- Max de Lotbinière. 2010. “Pakistan Facing Language ‘crisis’ in Schools.” The Guardian. The Guardian. December 7, 2010. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2010/dec/07/pakistanschools-language-crisis-lotbiniere.
- Scamman, Kimberly. 2018. “Telelanguage.” Telelanguage. September 7, 2018. https://telelanguage.com/the-impact-of-language-interpretation-for-government-agencies/.
- TechGig Correspondent. 2020. “Understanding the Difference between AI, ML, and DL.” TechGig. TechGig. May 3, 2020. https://content.techgig.com/understanding-the-differencebetween-ai-ml-and-dl/articleshow/75493798.cms.
- The Nation. 2016. “Language Barrier.” The Nation. The Nation. February 21, 2016. https://nation.com.pk/22-Feb-2016/language-barrier.
- VimolanMudaly, and Kajal Singh. 2018. “LANGUAGE: A BARRIER WHEN TEACHING AND LEARNING BUSINESS STUDIES.” ResearchGate. unknown. 2018. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327985564_LANGUAGE_A_BARRIER_WHEN_TE ACHING_AND_LEARNING_BUSINESS_STUDIES.
- Zubair Torwali. 2018. “The Lure of Linguicism.” Thenews.com.Pk. The News International. February 22, 2018. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/284470-the-lure-of-linguicism.