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Most Effective Way of Cutting a Nation from its History – Imposing a Foreign Language

24 Oct

By Guest Contributor: Dr Irfan Hyder

The project for cutting a nation from its history and roots always starts with the introduction of a foreign “language”. We know how Ataturk’s drive for secularism led him to change the Turkish script from Arabic to Latin script to cut the Turks from their history, and we also know how the British used English as a tool to create an elite class more anglophile (more loyal than the king) to serve them during their colonial rule and later to extend their control during the post-colonial era. This elite class identified themselves more with their colonial masters than with their fellow country men as evidenced by the distance they still maintain (see the VVIP culture and the motorcades of our rulers; military, political or feudals).

The latest attack on this severance of ties to our culture and history has come from an unsuspecting quarter. Lately, Islamic schools have become big business. In fact, they have replaced the English Medium secular schools in terms of the business value. In their strive for differentiation and as a pillar of their marketing strategy they are now trying to introduce Arabic from the play group level (around 2 years of age) with the objective that by the time they are through, the kid would have a complete command on Arabic and English at the expense of Urdu. They think that Urdu being a cultural language with so much non-Islamic baggage should be condemned to oblivion. English being the language of the commercial world has to be adopted. And of course, Arabic being the language of the Prophet and Islam has to be adopted. What a wonderful idea to reduce the load of one language by dumping Urdu and just retaining English and Arabic; balanced Deen and Duniya! Indeed.

This is known in our culture as “Na daan dost say dana dushman behtar hota hai”; that is ‘a wise enemy is better than a foolish/simple minded friend’. In their superficial understanding of education and inability to understand child psychology, they would like to do away with learning in the mother tongue or Urdu and only focus on Arabic. There are several major issues with this undertaking:

Firstly from educational point of view, there is prevalent consensus among educationists that the best medium for early childhood education is the mother tongue. We see this practiced in all the developed world, whether it is France, Germany, Finland or any other country in Europe, or whether it is Japan, Korea or Taiwan, or whether it is China. Early education is given in the mother tongue to facilitate the process of articulation and comprehension because a child who is armed with the ability to articulate his thoughts and to comprehend complex ideas in his mother tongue can very easily learn a foreign language in few months later on. Early childhood is the period of time when a child is in the process of learning how to articulate complex concepts in to words and sentences and how to interpret complex ideas being articulated orally. This process is short-circuited by the imposition of the burden of negotiating through the maze of the foreign language with the result that the child becomes lost in the complexity of foreign words and in the effort of making sense out of them, and looses sight of the more important process of articulation of complex ideas and comprehension of complex ideas. Resultantly we get children who are unable to express themselves freely and to comprehend the complexity of oral tradition. Children who are unable to do this in their mother tongue would always definitely have a problem doing the same thing in the foreign language. Hence, the loss of creativity and new ideas, loss of confidence and the recourse to “ruttafication” i.e. rote learning that we see around us. (Qafla thak kar fiza kay paech o khum may reh giya!)

Psycholinguistics experts widely agree that language acquisition during early childhood is most effective in the natural environment of the “mother tongue” as the use of the “other tongue” has severe side effects.

Secondly, learning of language is a social phenomenon. Supposing the child becomes proficient in a foreign language, but his parents or grandparents (and the large extended family) can not communicate in that language, the child would become a pariah and a misfit. He would actually either become a recluse or would become quiet, thereby loosing the practice that is necessary for  improving his communication skills. Communication skills are not acquired by attending  classrooms lectures but practicing and experimenting the skills in society; enjoying the company of books or other written literature, learning new ideas through different media, discussing them with peers, showing them off, refining them through arguments, clarifying them by sharing them with elders and peers.

Thirdly, a child who can not communicate with his grandparents has actually been cut-off from his history, and a child who is not able to communicate with those younger to him in the society is cut off from his future. By cutting off the child from the language of his elders and from the language of the others, we are divorcing him from his society. Each nation has an oral history of traditions and values that are passed from one generation to another. The transmission typically takes place from grandparents to grandchildren; parents often being too busy in their daily strive for earnings or in the household chores. Thus, it is the interaction of the grandparents, who have enough time as they have crossed that stage of life where one’s day is filled with concerns for earnings and household chores, to spend time with their children and reminisce about the long forgotten days. They often talk with their grandchildren about their nostalgic view of life and the wonderful times they had and in the process transmit the important lessons of their lives. By taking away the common language medium between the grandchildren and their grandparents, we effectively break this chain of transmission, leaving behind children that are not rooted in their cultural history and who are a sitting duck to be cherry picked for whatever ends the dominant civilization wants us to adopt. And definitely their agenda is not to make our kids remember and cherish the thousand years of Muslim rule of subcontinent!

Role of Language in Promoting Values

BERLIN (AFP) – Germany’s attempt to create a multi-cultural society has failed completely, Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the weekend [Oct 17, 2010], calling on the country’s immigrants to learn German and adopt Christian values.

Fourthly, “Kavva chala hans ki chaal, apni chaal bhi bhool gaya” (a crow who starts copying the magestic style of a swan movement, ends up forgotting even his own style of walking). What would be the future of these misfit children? They would never be accepted as Britishers or Americans however better their English is. They would never be accepted as Arabs, however, good their Arabic is. They would not be considered as locals as they would not have any affinity or common ground with the Pakistanis. We would have produced another generation of misfits having no truck with their predecessors or their history. Think about children who can not understand Iqbal, Ghalib or Faiz, or who can not understand Farhatullah Baig, Qurratul Ain Hyder, or Mukhtar Masud; or who can not understand Azad, Thanvi or Maudoodi. How can they understand who they are and what are their traditions and roots? Britishers were successful in making them forget Gulistan, Bostan and Masnavi, the rest of the task would now be completed by our “nadaan dost”.

We have not yet been able to resolve the problems introduced by the elitist English speaking “kalay baboos” in Pakistan who neither can fit in with the locals nor with any of the foreign speaking countries. They are misfit, and unfortunately because they are in power, they have played havoc with our foreign policy that has always traded the interest of the local people with the foreign interests. What would be the fate of this, yet another class of elites who not only consider themselves to be superior because of their English skills, but would also consider themselves Islamically superior because of their Arabic. They would also sport a superiority complex with our traditional ulema, who at least have always identified themselves with the common people. Here would be a brand of scholars well versed in Arabic and English but having nothing in common with the ordinary Pakistanis, as they would have severed their links with their culture and history. It is here that the biggest danger from the “Nadaan dost” lies. We could always explain away the actions of English speaking elites as “slave mentality”, but how would we explain the actions of this new breed of “scholars” disconnected with common people, and taking actions perceived to be against the interests of the people? Please note that the leadership always has to come from the people from amongst themselves. It is never imported and hoisted from outside.

Language and Legacy

The politics of language for subjugation is old and we have been at the receiving end for quite some time. Where the language could not be changed, the script is changed. This was done effectively in Turkey by Mustafa Kamal Ataturk when the Turkish script was switched from Arabic script to the latin script. With a single stroke of pen, he made cut off the links of the new generation from the legacy and the entire treasure of literature and culture accumulated over the past five centuries. The recent turnaround took over eighty years to recast the literature and history into the new script.

In British India, the colonial masters tried to supplant Urdu in place of Persian when they established the Fort William’s College in 1800.

“William College aimed at training British officials in Indian languagesand in the process it fostered the development of languages such as Bengali and Urdu.” Fort William College: Wikipedia

However, the choice of Urdu backfired as it was already in its creative ferment and represented the evolutionary synthesis of words, phrases and poetry from Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit and hosts of other local languages and dialects. With its Arabic script and its immense capacity to work as a great integrator, Muslims and Indians adopted Urdu with an unmatched zeal and today Urdu represents one of the major languages after Arabic containing the Islamic literature and cultural literature of India containing the social, cultural and political history of Indian people along with a treasure trove of poetry and novels and short stories.

When this attempt to use Urdu to cut off the Indians from their cultural and historical links with Persian and Arabic failed, British Colonists were forced to change the official language of India to English. English being in a foreign script and with no links with existing lingual traditions met with a fierce resistence especially from the conservative ulema. Urdu having such a great capacity to internalize foreign words proved resilient to this thrust and soon internalized a large vocabulary of English words and became a common medium of communication among people of the subcontinent speaking hundreds of different languages and dialects. India after partition rechristened Urdu as Hindi, changed the script and became increasingly Sanskritazied.

However, the British managed to create a divide between the rulers and the ruled by making English the differentiation factor. Only those who adopted English stood a chance to move up the economic ladder, and those avoiding it were destined to remain at the lowest levels (Recall: Farsi seekho tael baecho). The primary legacy of the colonial rule is the prevalence of English as an official language in the subcontinent, more so in Pakistan. English still is still considered the stepping stone for upward mobility, but comes at the expense of cutting you from your culture and roots as borne out by the experience of the last sixty years of post partition days where we are ruled by thoroughly confused elites who do not know why Pakistan came in to existence and do not know what to do with the conflicting emotions of loving the West or loving their heritage at the expense of adopting secularism. Up to the eighties, the prevalence of English was unable to dislodge the association with culture that people had through their linkage with Urdu and their mother tongues that provided them with link to their past.

But, the fatal blow to cut off the links with our history and culture was brought about by the advent O/A Level systems in Pakistan. It effectively destroyed the foundations of Urdu by first diluting the contents of the Urdu text books by significantly reducing the prescribed number of poems, poets, essays and their writers, and then reducing the emphasis on correctness by freely distributing the grades that made it possible to pass the exams without having read novels and literature. In a very subtle manner the O Levels first introduced an Urdu lite version and unbeknowest to the Muqtadara people removed the entire legacy of Urdu. Today graduates of O and A levels have proficiency of Urdu which is much below the elementary level of about forty years ago and often are unable to understand or appreciate poetry of Iqbal and Ghalib. Today there are parents (whose mother tongue is not English) who talk to their children even at home in only English. The children know nothing of any language except English except may be some rudimentary working Urdu that they have picked up on the side. Effectively these parents have cut off their children from (i) their family traditions transmitted through their grand parents and other relatives who can communicate fluently in English, and (ii) common people. They are aliens hoisted on the hapless public and these aliens are bombarding the common people with their anglophile-Americo-philic culture on FM. Unable to talk intelligently beyond punctuating with each word with a plethora and combination of “aah”, “aaaa”, “um”,  “you-know”, “I-mean”, and other useless litter of the street language. Transformation of the air waves from the transmitter of quality literature of the early days we now see the junk that can not be heard for more than a few minutes except by the brain deads.

We would now have a breed people whose Arabic can not be better than the above scenario because they were never able to practice comprehending complex ideas and in articulating complex ideas in their mother tongue in their social setting with their peers, seniors or even juniors, on the road with strangers, with their barbers, with their tailors and with other common people. Without the development of such a skill in their mother tongue, they would be always deficient in the foreign language as our experience would English suggests.

What an effective way to sever the ties of a nation with its cultural and historical roots!