Articles / Essays

envisioning a long way in the Future: Anglicized Writing System as a robust Tool for Promotion of Unwritten Indigenous Languages of Central and South Asian Region

June 8, 2018

By Fazal Amin Beg

Globalization has though brought both challenges and opportunities for the lies of culturalcommunities around the globe, enormous opportunities could be availed by the local communities led by their visionary leaders and sensible representatives to globalize themselves within the framework of scientific and technological advancements on the one hand; and keeping their individual identities sustained like the diverse and colorful flowers of a garden.
Central and South Asian Regions are highly enriched in languages diversity and most of them remained unwritten and were transferred through oral tradition. at such a juncture of hue and cry for language endangerment (leading or moving towards extinction) as many social scientists anticipate that most of the languages will disappear from the scene, provided effective and efficient mechanisms are developed for the preservation and promotion of the unwritten languages in a sustainable way. Orthography (standardized written system) is thus highly imperative for the indigenous languages to be taught and transferred to the young and upcoming generations in an easiest and logical way for their communication in computers and through other information technologies.
As it’s clear to many that English is one of the dominant and prominent languages of knowledge acquisition and transmitionin different fielsat local, regional and global level among many countries in central and south asian Region as well as China. In Pakistan, in particular, English is a compulsory subject and is the official language as it begins right from the constitution of Pakistan to all official matters within public and private sectors as well as almost all civil society organizations. Private English medium schools are highly encouraged and parents prefer to send their children in English educational institutions. Gilgit-Baltistan region in the northern Pakistan cannot be spared in this venture and at least hundreds of English medium schools are evidenced in the region. At least most of the population of under 50 years old (both male and female) express themselves openlythorugh text messages or otherwise in their native languages by bringing in use the Anglicized (English-based) letters.
The school children under different age brackets are so quick and shrewd in reading, writing and understanding English that one wonders by looking at their performance. Consequently, it’s thus English again which encourages the youth and children to express themselves so nicely in their native languages as well as Urdu by using the Anglicized letters at various scales to exchange their views together. Among others, it’s again English which encourages the native students to learn about their faith in an effective and efficient manner in addition to their intimate contacts and easy interactions with the global forces in the market places in different fields.
In contrast, the youth and young generations at school level are evidenced by all parents, teachers and other family members as very slow and poor in learning Urdu because it is based on arabicized written tradition, as Persian /Farsi was Arabicized from its left to write tradition in its later stage of historical development. Arabicized written tradition has its own interesting facets. However, we must realize that Arabicized writing tradition has less logical approach in writing and more memorization practices particularly in terms of detachedvowel sounds (zeer, zabar, pesh and sakin/jazm). On the other, English, like other Aryan tradition of writing, has more logical approach as the vowel sounds are clearly symbolized and are mostly attached with the consonants and learners or native people can easily and quickly pick the words and read or write. Here thus lies the bottomline and bottleneck where serious challenges emerge at every steps in quick learning of Urdu, or Farsi or Arabic . The Holy Qur’an is clearly read as a Masterpiece because it has all the symbolization of vowels on each letters and that is why is relatively easy. Otherwise, the same issue will persist within it if symbolization of short or long vowel sounds are neglected, huge issues will appear in learning and appropriate reading of Qur’an. Taking a high lesson out of Al-Qur’an, we can then opt for Arabicized (Urdu writing to apply all the symbolization (or a’raab) on each words of the native languages, if could become effective for learning to the students of various indigenous languages. But, of course, it will never be wise. The wisdom then is to come out of one’s rusted egos, biases and look forward and develop one’s long vision in the future and pay serious concerns towards the young and upcoming generations and their genuine needs not only for centuries but rather for millennia ahead. And that would , of course, will be embedded in Anglicized written system for all indigenous languages of Gilgit-Baltistan Region and across the borders in Central Asia, such as the Pamiri languages within Eastern Iranian languages of the Arayan families. English is thus an Aryan language within Germanic branch of Indo-european languages. It therefore becomes easy for native speakers within Aryan roots to opt for logic and not for emotion to memorize (like parrots) reading and writing of words within indigenous languages context on Anglicized tradition.
I would also like to clarify and specify here that Latino-Greek (which is composed of Latin and greek letters for Wakhi, Burushaski or S̃hina) is inn some respect different from Anglicized tradition. but it’s important to note that almost all the vowel sounds and pronunciation of Latino-Greek are exactly the same in Anglicized (for instance, the Wakhi vowels follow in this manner: a, e, i, o, u, except for symbolization of ũ and ẽ differs from Latino-Greek). In the same manner, similar consoants are b, c, d, d̃, f, g, j, j̃, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, t̃, v, w, y, z). The different letter symbolization in English follow in this manner: ch,c̃h,dh, th, gh, g̃h, kh, k̃h, sh, s̃h, z̃, zh, z̃h. The difficult sounds of the indigenous languages, such as Wakhi, are of high importance for letter symbolization, which are interestingly easy for the learners in anglicized system as opposed to the strange letters of Latino-greek.
the most important point to seriously note here is to evaluate the utility and convenience of Anglicized versus Latino-greek and/or arabicized. Anglicized is already and highly popular and in practice among the language communities of Pakistan and central Asia for exchanging their views in their native languages, except for few retroflex or other difficult sounds. Anglicized has thus been developed on the set stanadards of writing in English for mass education or in other words educating common people. We can evidence each day that how Urdu is being promoted, in a way, on Anglicized versionthrough text messages you get. But for formal education, the anglicized version has been formalized logically and efficiently based on English software and it never ever involves or require any kind of software or special font as it is pre-requisite at any cost for Latino-greek and Arabicized systems. On the opposite is Latino-greek, which is being used for scientific work by international researchers and scholars so that set of standardized formats develop to contribute to knowledge. It hasn’t, and it cannot have, its desired root for mass education. Based on my own efforts for over two decades to get engaged, developing over thousands of pages of materials, and provide trainings of Latino-greek writing to hundreds of Wakhiindividuals, it proved less effective rather failed for mass education. The answer doesn’t existcomplicatedly in rocket sciences but rather simply because there is a contrasting situation in intellectual domains between common people’s learning and adoption of the letters and that of researchers and scholars. in other words, there remains high contrast of level of understanding. The point here is whether we, being native speakers , are supposed to enrich the knowledge-rich international researchers and scholars engaged with or have their specializations in them? Or is it not incumbent upon us (being natie speakers) to have our strong concerns and practical initiations for our young and upcoming generations through Anglicized tradition already in practice among the youth and other semi-literate community members of different indigenous languages within gilgit-Baltistan and across the borders?
In conclusion, the Government of Gilgit-baltistan need to be serious about such subtle matters pertaining to preservation and promotion of indigenous languages .Becoming part of school syllabi for the first time of the indigenous languages in their history will be blessing only ifBalti, Burushaski, D̃umaaki, Khowar, S̃hina, Wakhi, and other unritten languages are Anglicized for mass education so that the young and coming generations, along with English in their educational insitutions, could and should learn their mother tongues with a great interest, high pride and zeal, and we must not overburden them with either Arabicized or Latino-Greek, which will ultimately become curse and disaster to the indigenous languages survival in decades ahead if the current and upcoming generations get alienated or take less or no interest due to the orthographic challenges. Likewise, it’salso recommended the governments in Central Asia and china to foster Anglicized tradition for promotion of the unwritten, vulnerable and endangered languages (such as Pamiri languages) by keeping in view also the overlapping language relationships across the borders.

Note: Copyright is with the author of this article. The author has diverse academic background having his Master’s in Persian language and Literature; M. Phil in Central Asian, Chinese and Russian Studies with specialization in socio-cultural anthropology; PhD coursework in Asian studies, specifically in archeology, comparative world religions; study of a dozen languages at varying scales within Indo-European languages families in addition to basics of Arabic and Turkic and Burushaski); conducted over three decades 40 fieldwork around different themes within applied side of development, socio-cultural and legal anthropology and languages in the northern Pakistan, southwestern China, northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan in addition with his voluntary services to some civil society organizations of the region.
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