The more a language is receptive, the more its chance of survival. This receptiveness also makes it richer by the day, opening the doors to newer possibilities.
On the contrary, the more resistant and unwelcoming a language is, the harder is its chance of survival and limited is its scope. Such a language is more common with the linguists and sociologists as anatomy objects. For example, Bangla has survived and Sanskrit is more or less dead. Latin is a dead language, but English is very much alive.
Perhaps there is little debate about the receptive quality of a language. Rather, the focus of attention is more on the role and influence of a language, how it is used as a tool for the neo-colonial powers as it is a crucial tool for imperialism.
The language of the conquerors has always turned out the language of the conquered territory. Language of royal order, court, law and businesses changed overnight. Many lost jobs while new opportunities were ushered in for many. The images, experiences, thoughts from unknown, exotic cultures also enriched another via language. This is a two-sided exchange always.
Horses or ships were used to conquer lands and to set up colonies. These have now been replaced by television and the internet. Our tastes, visions, imagination and perception are being shaped by information received through these. Language still plays the grand role.
The references of a ‘Thai soup’ or a ‘pizza’, or a ‘grilled chicken’ or ‘bhapa pitha’, arouse our different taste buds. Our dreams, destinations and choices are re-shaped by a new language. Language is shaping the landscape of mind every day.
The question is, whether the use of other languages threatens one’s own mother tongue. When the job sector demands it, there is a common tendency to have a good command of a foreign language. The employers, however, claim candidates skilled in other languages are rare. In this backdrop, there is also another debate whether English should be used at all in our country.
As English, or in some cases, other languages, has become part and parcel of professional life, we cannot stop using it. The question should rather be how to maintain the practice of several languages and whether it really helps to use other languages. You cannot thwart the aggression of other languages only by shutting your doors. Rather, it is important to gather strength from inside, using your own forces. Let the other languages also borrow from you.
Additionally, studies show learning several languages helps in better comprehension, perception and cognizance. Then, the emphasis should be on the proper use of mother tongue and other languages. Not only our own language, we must also learn English, Spanish, Persian, Turkey, French and so on to strengthen ourselves and our culture.
Sweating over finishing a single sentence solely using English or Bangla manifests poor language skills. TV, the parliament, adverts, office - the hybrid is everywhere. Restaurants, banks, road signs-there are hardly any instructions in Bangla. The court sometimes dictates to ensure the proper use of Bangla in every sphere, but, the method and mechanism are still invisible and the results too. A better user would produce pure expression using only a language. Using, ‘so’, ‘but’ frequently while the rest of the sentence is in Bangla, only magnifies the weakness. The pain is to finish a purely Bangla or English sentence.
In our university days we found our friends from the ethnic minority could speak, write better Bangla than many of us. They loved their own mother tongue, respected Bangla and used English as well.
Whether we honour and perceive the sacrifices made by our ancestors in 1952 for the right to mother tongue, is actually reflected by our practice. That practice includes using my own language flawlessly along with others with care and dedication. Proficiency in one language always helps to master another in this regard.
One may ask, why writing about this in February. What about the other months? The answer provides the key to another common practice. The media bring the issue forward in February and they do so as the audience never demands it other times.
Media can change people and the opposite is equally true. A transformed and learned audience compels its media to respond accordingly. Whether we would use our mother tongue and foreign languages properly, depends on each and every one of us.