Language lover

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May 16, 2018-

I went to attend a photo exhibition project at a local school. As I stepped inside the school premises, I could see children running on the grounds recklessly. I turned to see a teenage boy standing all alone in front of the photographs on display.

I walked up to the first photograph and stood before it. The caption contained long sentences, both in Nepali and English, describing the people in the photograph. The Nepali text was placed above the English text. I read the Nepali text first. I strained my eyes and read it word by word. I pronounced the words very slowly so as to read them correctly. After reading four lines of the Nepali text, I sighed and began reading the English text. I read all the captions in English as I moved on to the other photographs. When I got to the last photograph, I questioned myself why I felt so much difficulty reading the Nepali text. A small voice within me argued why I had ignored the national language to choose the language of the West.

Then I went to have a haircut. I had to wait as there was a little girl already seated on the chair with a silk gown. She was talking continuously to her mother who was standing in front of her. I was amused to hear the girl speaking with a complete American accent. After they left, I asked my hairstylist where they had come from. “Why, they live nearby at Jyatha,” she said with a smile. I realised how the educational system had changed our language and behaviour. If I found it so difficult to read Nepali fluently, how harder a time would this child have understanding the language?    

Since childhood, I grew up speaking my mother tongue Nepal Bhasa at home and with relatives. I attended an English medium school where we usually spoke the international language. I learnt Nepali from my teachers, and used it mostly to communicate with them. Most students at my school back then used to complain about Nepali being a difficult subject and having to take extra classes. It is indeed an irony that one’s own language seems quiet intricate because I see English being used in the maximum number of places rather than Nepali, be it while collecting health reports, receiving bills or using high-tech gadgets. People have started to use English to show off or exhibit a high standard; and I presume that Nepali, in the present context, is only used for official government work.    

After reading a brief report about the demise of the last speaker of the Kusunda language in a daily paper recently, I felt distressed that an indigenous language had been lost. Is this going to happen to our national language too in the coming days because cultures and languages reach great heights, and then become extinct in an evolving world?

Published: 16-05-2018 06:59

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