Save the endangered languages
While inaugurating the four-day programmes marking the International Mother Language Day -- and distributing the International Mother Language Day Awards -- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told that the government has been working to ensure that no language across the world faces extinction. She further stated that the International Mother Language Institute has been established to preserve other languages in the world.
However, it is a sheer disappointment for us as many indigenous languages are on the brink of extinction, and since speakers of those languages are no longer found using them. According to a recent media report, 14 indigenous languages--Kondo, Kharia, Koda, Soura, Mundari, Kole, Malto, Khumi, Pangkhua, Rengmitcha, Chak, Khyang, Lusai, and Laleng (Patro)-have nearly become extinct -- and the number of their speakers have been shrinking. According to experts, a language is considered to be endangered when it is spoken by less than 5,000 people. Dishearteningly, the aforementioned languages have very few speakers as they are only spoken among elderly family members.
We all know that cultural identity and language are inextricable. Every language reflects a unique world-view with its own value systems, philosophy and particular cultural features. The extinction of a language results in the irrecoverable loss of unique cultural knowledge embodied in it for centuries, including historical, spiritual and ecological knowledge that may be essential for the survival of not only its speakers, but also countless others.
Now it is time to indentify the reasons associated with this problem as limited number of speakers is not the lone reason. There are other economic, religious and social factors linked to this extinction threat. The dominance of Bangla over other indigenous languages in the hills and in the plains has led many indigenous communities to speak Bangla instead of their own language. Another threat the speakers of the languages are facing is the lack of exposure from their surroundings, especially in schools.
On a positive note, most of the reasons have been identified and now strategic measures need to be taken to protect these endangered languages. Only documenting these languages is not enough to save them. We recommend forming a language commission to save the endangered languages. Furthermore, we need to establish more language archival centres so that we can preserve some of the major corpuses of endangered language. When all the indigenous people of the country will be able to speak in their mother tongue and get educated in their own language, only then observing the International Mother Language Day will serve its ultimate purpose.