Saturday, March 1, 2008

'Ji Newa' essay competition

On January, a facebook group 'Ji Newa' held an essay competition on the topic 'How to protect Newari language'. I took part and came third. Won 50$ :).
Here is the essay.

It is said that the language is a window to a human’s soul. Language brings people together by allowing them to communicate, to express their love and happiness and to share their sorrow. So when a language is not used any more, it narrows the scope of humanity. When a language dies, the culture associated with that language suffocates too.

According to wikipedia, more than 800,000 Nepalese speak Newari as their mother language. Newari language binds into one thread more than 1.25 millions of Newars living in Nepal. This language sits at the heart of one of the most diverse and rich Newari culture in the world. However, more and more Newars are not using the language any more. There is no doubt that the language needs to be saved from extinction to save the culture itself. Let us see what we can do to save this language.

The first and foremost thing we can do to save language is actually use it. I know so many Newars who rarely speak in Newari even though they can speak the language fluently. There is no way to save a language if nobody uses it. Also what is the point of saving a language if nobody uses it? It’s understandable that we cannot only speak in Newari, because not everyone understands this language, but if two people who can speak Newari, they should definitely speak in this language.

When parents don’t speak in their mother language, a child will not learn it either. We have to speak with our children in Newari. We should tell them to read and learn Newari literature. Newari should be taught in schools too. Children nowadays spend so much time in school. And the trend being that more and more schools use English as teaching medium, children don’t get much chance to talk in their mother language. So a class in Newari might help transfer the knowledge of this language to next generation.

Language is not only spoken, it’s also written. So to save a language, we have to save all the literature written in this language. We have been blessed with so many brilliant Newar littérateurs. So many great poems and stories have been written in Newari. These need to be collected and properly documented. Writers who write in Newari should be encourages and rewarded. There are numerous Newari folk tales that my mother used to tell me at the bed time. These need to be saved and preserved in writings. A library for Newari literatures might be a very good idea. What we need here is quantity of quality language. To do so, we have to publish Newari magazines. Make TV shows and Movies in the Newari language. Newari film ‘Rajamati’ was such a hit when it came out. Movies like this can provide a great aid on saving a language.

There hasn’t been much academic work done in Newari language. We should start doing this. Translating the Newari literatures in Nepali and even English can help gather interest from many people who don’t speak Newari. We must understand that a language is all about people. More people taking interest in language can guarantee the future use of this language. That’s why we should encourage people to work in this language. This essay competition is a fine example of how we can make people interested in this language. Activities such as these remind people that they are losing something that they should hold dear to their heart.

Preserving only the written Newari is however not enough. Language is a tool of communication and way of getting attention of others. When we speak, it’s not only the words that matter, but the tone of it, the body language, the expression of face and eye make a huge difference too. In almost all languages, the same words spoken with different tone and expression are interpreted differently, sometimes giving almost opposite meaning. That’s why we have to document spoken language. Recording the audio or even better a video of our grandfathers and grandmother speaking in Newari is absolutely essential.

As with everything, making use of information technology can be really helpful here. There are numerous ways in which we can use IT to save Newari language. We can localize popular software in Newari language. Microsoft’s windows operating system now comes in so many local languages. It has already been localized in Nepali language, so there should be no reason why it can’t be translated in Newari. One more thing we can do is make websites dedicated to Newari language. A Website where people can read Newari articles and also submit their own work. This will allow the Newars all over the world to make contribution to saving the language.

Every Newa can and has to do his part on saving this language. Nobody is asking for much. All we have to do is actually use this language as much as we can. WE have to teach our children to speak in Newari. However I would like to point out that it’s not only Newars who are responsible for saving Newari. Nepali is such a great country because of its ethnic diversity and its rich culture diversity. So saving each culture and language is a responsibility that falls to the shoulder of all Nepali people and not only the Newari community.


Bnes said...

Hats off Amit
Good Job!!

Razeno said...

Hope to read new entries in your blog.

Deepesh Khatri said...

Nice article
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