Urdu is our national language. It is over 300 years old and is a mixture of a number of languages such as Arabic, Persian, and Turkish among others. It played a very important role in the freedom struggle of Pakistan as it gave us our national identity. But I have to say with regret that this identity of ours is gradually fading away, and is being replaced by the English language. While it is true that English is a universal language, and every one must know how to speak it, but one must have full command on one’s own language first.
Language is a medium in which we express our ideas, emotions and feelings. But the tragedy is that today’s youth are faced with a dilemma, a confusion of the mind for they has two languages in front of them: Urdu and English, and yet they cannot express themselves fully in either language. This you will notice in your every day life, that whenever anyone starts speaking in Urdu most of the people are ‘bound’ to include words of English during the course of the conversation. And if they were speaking in English they would use a word or two of Urdu as well. The other day I was watching a show on television in which the male host asked his female co-host to say two lines completely in Urdu, but it was shocking that she was unable to do so, as she started the sentence with “Well…” On the third try however, with much difficulty she managed two lines completely in Urdu.
If one observes carefully one would be surprised at the condition of Urdu that is prevalent in our younger generation. In a small time survey I found out that 8 out of 10 teenagers did not know counting in Urdu after 20. In yet another survey I found out that the majority of students’ least favorite subject was Urdu. When asked the reason for it, the answer I got was that Urdu was too dull and difficult, with its never ending paraphrasing, difficult words and grammar. Well naturally when you open your books a week before the exams you will find it difficult, and as far as it being dull, I would like to quote G.K Chesterson who said “There is no such thing on this earth as an uninteresting subject, the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person”.
Long before the partition, there came a time when Urdu was on the verge of extinction. The British and Hindus wanted to wipe out Urdu forever, so that the Muslims would have no identity of their own. But the Muslims worked day and night to protect their language. But today there are no British or Hindus, it is very much ourselves who are tarnishing the image of our language.
Indeed it is part of our study syllabus; it is used in media and entertainment, there are books, magazines and newspapers published in Urdu, but we do not really respect our language or value it. You will see that the first book parents give to their child to read would be in English not Urdu and all their life they will encourage their child to improve their English and to read good books in English. And when the report card comes the parents scold their children for having done poorly in English as compared to Urdu.
It is clear that English remains the more dominant and favorite language of the two. But we have to understand one thing: English is NOT our language. Even if we excel in it we will not become British or American, we will still remain Pakistanis. Nevertheless we must safeguard our language. It is high time that we changed our attitudes and started giving Urdu the importance and place it deserves and feel proud of our rich heritage!