A review of three recent books on language-mixing and literacy, published in Composition Studies 42.1.
Colonialism, politics of language and partition of Bengal (New Age Special Issue)
Nurul Kabir, editor of New Age and popular public intellectual in Bangladesh, with an extended polemical take on the history of the partition of Bengal and the politics of language policy in the split.
New stage of the mass education project meant to ensure Bangladesh meets the MDGs initiated. On first glance Bangladesh is poised to meet the goal of gender and representational parity in educational enrollments. But in actuality this drive has not really aimed for functional literacy skills (few can actually read at all) and even then dropout-numbers are really high.
Dr. Tanzimmuddin Khan, a professor at the University of Dhaka, on the redefining of higher education in Bangladesh from a common good to a private investment.
The middle and the upper middle classes have abandoned the vernacular languages in preference to English, which has become a necessity now, Akhtar said at an event recently.
“It is a tragedy. The educational system, the globalisation and liberalization has corporatised the society,” he said.“English has become crucial to connect to the rest of the world. But what is happening is that children from the middle and the upper-middle classes are learning English at the cost of vernacular languages. So, where will they go?” he asked.
“The middle and upper middle classes have abdicated the vernacular languages, and these classes are mainly responsible for the literature and aesthetics of a language. The vernacular languages are now being given to the slum dwellers. It would be unfair to demand from the lower classes (who struggle for food) to make a contribution to the development of literature.”
According to Akhtar, destroying a language is akin to causing death of history and tradition. “Language is a vessel that carries history, culture and tradition. You kill a language, you kill history, your culture, you kill tradition, and that is what is happening.”He contended that Urdu had suffered because of the two-naton [sic] theory that led to the partition of India in 1947.“Urdu, the language of nationalists, has been enveloped in a shroud, and that is unfair.”
There’s an interesting story about the use of film subtitling for developing reading skills in India; a recent project, Same Language Subtitling (by PlanetRead), won The International Prize as part of the Library of Congress Literacy Award. The core idea behind the project is that “regularly watching films in which the songs are subtitled in the language they speak, millions of villagers and slum-dwellers with weak reading skills effectively get reading practice.” It received the award because “It is simple to implement and easy to replicate, reaching 200 million low-literacy TV viewers. Same Language Subtitling is notable as a highly motivational approach for getting low-literacy adults to read, particularly where access to books is difficult.” Click here for more.