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A Necessary Guide
to Mother Tongues
By Sushruta, Khushi, Sayak, Shankhanila, Subhronil,
Megha, Smita, Sabina, Ayshi, Rohit, Sneha
Gustavo Firmat once said...
“The fact that I am writing to you in English already
falsifies what I wanted to tell you.
My subject: how to explain to you that I don't
belong to English though I belong nowhere else.”
1. Language
What, after all, is a language?
According to Henry Sweet, an English
phonetician and language scholar:
“Language is the expression of ideas
by means of speech-sounds combined
into words. Words are combined into
sentences, this combination answering
to that of ideas into thoughts.”
But this is one of the many definitions. No one
can define language definitively.
It is estimated that there
are approximately 7,000
LANGUAGES in use
around the world.
Source: World Economic Forum
But did you know that
(at least) 43% of them are
ENDANGERED?
(...and dying at the rate of one language every few weeks.)
Source: UNESCO
Take a look yourself...
50%-90% of languages
will be EXTINCT by 2100.
(Gone, forever.)
Source: The Cambridge handbook of endangered languages
Only 7% of languages are
recorded in published
materials.
(In a world where 7 billion people speak 7,000 languages.)
Source: Whose Knowledge?, Summary Report, 2018
The internet speaks
only a few hundred
languages.
More than
60% of the
net is in
English.
Source: Web Technology Surveys
Meet Ganesh Devy.
In 2010, Devy was asked to document
Indian languages for the People’s
Linguistic Survey of India.
What he discovered was beyond
anyone’s imagination.
There are 780 documented
languages in India. Devy
suspects there are at least
100 more. Indian
government recognises
only 122 languages.
600 Indian languages are
dying. In last 50 years, India
has lost 250 languages. It
may lose 400 more in next
50 years.
Source: Reuters
2. Scripts
What are scripts?
According to Joshua J. Mark of Ancient History
Encyclopedia:
“Script is any particular system of
writing or the written means of human
communication.”
Very simply put, it is the tools with which a
language is written. The letters, alphabets…
you get it.
There are 7,000 languages,
but only 130-140 scripts.
85% of those scripts are
endangered.
Source: Endangered Alphabets
Meet Maung Nyeu.
On his first two days of school, in a
village above Chittagong, Muang was
hit with a cane. But he wasn’t naughty.
He simply did not understand anything
the teacher said or wrote.
Although 98% Bangladeshis speak Bengali as the first
language, Maung grew up with Marma, a Sino-Tibetan
language from the Chittagong Hill Tract region.
Hill Tract languages like Marma, Mro & Chakma are
endangered. Very few people can write their scripts.
Bangladesh government does not recognise them.
But Maung was determined.
Now a Harvard doctorate, Maung began
teaching Marma. He started with barely
five students. Now, more than three
thousand children come to his courses.
Teaming up with Tim Brookes of
Endangered Alphabets Project, Maung
recorded stories from the CHT region
and translated them into Mro, Marma
and Chakma.
He also built the Padamu Residential
Education Center to promote vernacular
education.
These are our words, shaped
By our hands, our tools,
Our history. Lose them
And we lose ourselves.
Alphabets Anthem
Tim Brookes, Endangered Alphabets Project
3. Silver Lining
When talking about language preservation, it
is important to consider the following areas:
➔ Language lifespan
Can we actually forget our native
language?
➔ What happens when a language
dies?
No, really, what does happen?
➔ International Mother Language
Day
What is it, and when is it?
It’s important to promote vernacular education,
because...
It’s possible to forget
your first language,
even as an adult.
Source: BBC
What happens when a language dies?
If you have to lose the
way that your family
has been speaking,
that’s not so fine.
That’s losing who you
are.
Bob Holman, poet
A unique way of
looking at the
world disappears.
Every language is a
unique worldview.
Ganesh Devy, linguist
We lose cultures, entire
civilizations, but also, we
lose people. We lose
perspectives, ideas,
opinions, most importantly,
we lose a unique way of
being human.
Trevor English, writer
On February 21, 1952, unarmed
students gathered in the University
of Dhaka and demanded that
Bengali be recognised as an official
language. In return, the police open
fired and killed several students.
This triggered the Bengali
Language Movement,
which led to the creation
of Bangladesh.
February 21st is celebrated as Language Movement Day in Bangladesh.
In honour of the language martyrs, the UN observes
February 21st as International Mother Language Day.
International Mother Language Day
is a moment for all of us to raise the
flag for the importance of mother
tongue to all educational efforts, to
enhance the quality of learning and
to reach the unreached.
Irina Bokova, former
UNESCO Director-General
Sadly, India DOES NOT celebrate the
International Mother Language Day.
(Despite having the second-largest Bengali-speaking population in the world.)
Indian government DOES celebrate Hindi Day
every year (despite it being spoken by less than 50% of the population).
Before we leave...
NELSON MANDELA
“If you talk to a man in a language
he understands, that goes to his
head. If you talk to
him in his language,
that goes to his heart.”
THE END
(thank you for listening)

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A necessary guide to mother tongues

  • 1. A Necessary Guide to Mother Tongues By Sushruta, Khushi, Sayak, Shankhanila, Subhronil, Megha, Smita, Sabina, Ayshi, Rohit, Sneha
  • 2. Gustavo Firmat once said... “The fact that I am writing to you in English already falsifies what I wanted to tell you. My subject: how to explain to you that I don't belong to English though I belong nowhere else.”
  • 3. 1. Language What, after all, is a language? According to Henry Sweet, an English phonetician and language scholar: “Language is the expression of ideas by means of speech-sounds combined into words. Words are combined into sentences, this combination answering to that of ideas into thoughts.” But this is one of the many definitions. No one can define language definitively.
  • 4. It is estimated that there are approximately 7,000 LANGUAGES in use around the world. Source: World Economic Forum
  • 5. But did you know that (at least) 43% of them are ENDANGERED? (...and dying at the rate of one language every few weeks.) Source: UNESCO
  • 6. Take a look yourself...
  • 7. 50%-90% of languages will be EXTINCT by 2100. (Gone, forever.) Source: The Cambridge handbook of endangered languages
  • 8. Only 7% of languages are recorded in published materials. (In a world where 7 billion people speak 7,000 languages.) Source: Whose Knowledge?, Summary Report, 2018
  • 9. The internet speaks only a few hundred languages. More than 60% of the net is in English. Source: Web Technology Surveys
  • 10. Meet Ganesh Devy. In 2010, Devy was asked to document Indian languages for the People’s Linguistic Survey of India. What he discovered was beyond anyone’s imagination.
  • 11. There are 780 documented languages in India. Devy suspects there are at least 100 more. Indian government recognises only 122 languages. 600 Indian languages are dying. In last 50 years, India has lost 250 languages. It may lose 400 more in next 50 years. Source: Reuters
  • 12. 2. Scripts What are scripts? According to Joshua J. Mark of Ancient History Encyclopedia: “Script is any particular system of writing or the written means of human communication.” Very simply put, it is the tools with which a language is written. The letters, alphabets… you get it.
  • 13. There are 7,000 languages, but only 130-140 scripts. 85% of those scripts are endangered. Source: Endangered Alphabets
  • 14. Meet Maung Nyeu. On his first two days of school, in a village above Chittagong, Muang was hit with a cane. But he wasn’t naughty. He simply did not understand anything the teacher said or wrote.
  • 15. Although 98% Bangladeshis speak Bengali as the first language, Maung grew up with Marma, a Sino-Tibetan language from the Chittagong Hill Tract region. Hill Tract languages like Marma, Mro & Chakma are endangered. Very few people can write their scripts. Bangladesh government does not recognise them.
  • 16. But Maung was determined. Now a Harvard doctorate, Maung began teaching Marma. He started with barely five students. Now, more than three thousand children come to his courses. Teaming up with Tim Brookes of Endangered Alphabets Project, Maung recorded stories from the CHT region and translated them into Mro, Marma and Chakma. He also built the Padamu Residential Education Center to promote vernacular education.
  • 17. These are our words, shaped By our hands, our tools, Our history. Lose them And we lose ourselves. Alphabets Anthem Tim Brookes, Endangered Alphabets Project
  • 18. 3. Silver Lining When talking about language preservation, it is important to consider the following areas: ➔ Language lifespan Can we actually forget our native language? ➔ What happens when a language dies? No, really, what does happen? ➔ International Mother Language Day What is it, and when is it?
  • 19. It’s important to promote vernacular education, because... It’s possible to forget your first language, even as an adult. Source: BBC
  • 20. What happens when a language dies? If you have to lose the way that your family has been speaking, that’s not so fine. That’s losing who you are. Bob Holman, poet A unique way of looking at the world disappears. Every language is a unique worldview. Ganesh Devy, linguist We lose cultures, entire civilizations, but also, we lose people. We lose perspectives, ideas, opinions, most importantly, we lose a unique way of being human. Trevor English, writer
  • 21. On February 21, 1952, unarmed students gathered in the University of Dhaka and demanded that Bengali be recognised as an official language. In return, the police open fired and killed several students. This triggered the Bengali Language Movement, which led to the creation of Bangladesh.
  • 22. February 21st is celebrated as Language Movement Day in Bangladesh. In honour of the language martyrs, the UN observes February 21st as International Mother Language Day.
  • 23. International Mother Language Day is a moment for all of us to raise the flag for the importance of mother tongue to all educational efforts, to enhance the quality of learning and to reach the unreached. Irina Bokova, former UNESCO Director-General
  • 24. Sadly, India DOES NOT celebrate the International Mother Language Day. (Despite having the second-largest Bengali-speaking population in the world.) Indian government DOES celebrate Hindi Day every year (despite it being spoken by less than 50% of the population).
  • 25. Before we leave... NELSON MANDELA “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” THE END (thank you for listening)