The man who awakened the HC

Probir Bidhan

Probir Bidhan

Syed Manzoorul Islam is a professor at the Department of English at Dhaka University. He is also established as a novelist and story teller. He spoke to Probir Kumar Sarker soon after the High Court rule over Bangla Language in February this year. Responding to an article by Islam, the court came down on the radio stations and television channels for distorting Bangla.

face to face: Syed Manzoorul Islam

“We can communicate better only in Bangla”

Prof Islam, who expressing his concern recently wrote an article on the ongoing “destruction” of Bangla, says he did not want to create a debate over the alarming use of distorted Bangla, but wanted to see people realise the situation. He says the current status of Bangla reflects its vulnerability due to reckless use and having minimal monitoring.

An English department teacher at Dhaka University, Prof Islam, an eminent writer, says, “You can say or write anything you want. But just try not to use foreign words which have Bangla replacements. It’d help you realise and know more about Bangla, resulting in better communication skills.”

syed manzoorul islam
syed manzoorul islam

The High Court on February 16, the day Prof Islam’s article was published on Prothom Alo, directed the FM radio stations and television channels authorities not to use distorted pronunciation in Bangla broadcasts. It sparked criticisms from different quarters who favour a change in the language but was welcomed by the puritans—senior writers and literates—who think a standard of Bangla must be maintained.

In the writing, Prof Islam cited three examples of a transforming and distorted Bangla—especially by the radio jockeys (RJ), who in most times speak in Banglish (Bangla+English) and use the Bangla words in a distorted manner. He mentioned that it happens because of the marketing strategies of the station authorities regarding different products.

The court’s ruling, also seeking stern action against the ‘polluters’ of Bangla – the mother tongue of the people of Bangladesh and some parts of India – was unexpected to many quarters, mainly because of the interim ‘ban’ that has been imposed.

In the recent days, there have been a number of talk shows, opinions, articles and blogs on the TV, radio, newspapers and internet in support and against the order. Many people have raised question about the legality of the court’s passing an order on such a sensitive issue which they claim to be a bit more personal.

In the writing, Prof Islam cited three examples of a transforming and distorted Bangla—especially by the radio jockeys (RJ), who in most times speak in Banglish (Bangla+English) and use the Bangla words in a distorted manner. He mentioned that it happens because of the marketing strategies of the station authorities regarding different products.

He also portrayed a grim picture of amateurish communication by a wider spectrum of people in the current days as they speak and even write in mixed languages. They often can’t make others understand what they want to say. The two other examples Islam gave were that of an expert’s views on the stock market situation, aired on a private television channel, and a university student using Banglish words spoke to him.

বাংলা বর্ণমালা

The eminent writer is concerned over the use of Banglish by young RJs who address their audiences as “listeners” and use huge number of English words apparently to attract people. “After the court order, one RJ called me over phone and wanted to know why I wrote against them.” She also defended herself saying that the listeners like the new style. Prof Islam said he then asked the girl if they usually meet all the “ill wishes” of their listeners, for example, giving them drugs if they wanted.

“The young generation in Bangladesh is now the possible victim of product culture. It is derived from the FM culture that teaches the young generation forget their language and accept what is being fed,” he said out of frustration.

It doesn’t matter using English nouns which are yet to get a Bangla version; for example, stapler, photocopy, pizza, burger, modem, fax and others. But the use of verbs in English during conversations in Bangla irks him. “If we’ve proper word/s in Bangla for an English word, why shouldn’t we use that? Why shouldn’t we follow the sentence making techniques?”

The High Court, which itself has no Bangla name, on that day, also ordered the government to form an experts’ committee headed by Bangla Academy Chairman Prof Anisuzzaman to find ways to stop its distortion in radio and TV programmes.

The High Court itself delivers verdicts in most cases in English, thanks to over 800 laws that are yet to be interpreted from English to Bangla.

The court asked the committee submit its recommendations to the HC by March 20 regarding ways to prevent distortion, destruction, and use of wrong words. The court also intends to take legal action against those responsible for distorting the mother language and to cancel the licences of the radio and TV channels airing such programmes.

The 16-strong committee was, however, formed by the education ministry on March 28 and it was asked to submit its recommendations as soon as possible. The 15 members of the committee are academicians, experts in Bangla language and literature, poets, literatures, and representatives of the education and information ministries. At its first meet the committee agreed to form a guideline on Bangla pronunciation.

Regarding the HC’s reaction over his article, Prof Islam declined to comment saying that it would not be wise to talk about it when the issue is under the court’s jurisdiction. He, however, expressed his concern over the fate of the next generation, who someday might not use Bangla words and sentences as they either don’t understand it at all or keep it aside due to carelessness and lack of proper education system.

He anticipates that the children of the present days might face serious problems in the future due to their limited knowledge about the mother tongue unless they are properly groomed by teachers, and supervised by parents to continue practising Bangla every day.

The teachers mainly those at the primary schools can play vital role in this effect, Prof Islam thinks. But they must be offered better salaries as an inspiration to contribute more. The society too, alongside the state, can promote correct use of Bangla words and phasing out English in Bangla conversation, the academician suggests.

Actually, it doesn’t even matter whether you’re sometimes using foreign words while speaking, but you’ve to know Bangla properly. It’d prevent people from borrowing words from English or other languages, notably Hindi—the second most influential foreign language in Bangladesh in the age of globalisation, without a second thought, Prof Islam says.

But now people are using English words and sometimes Hindi as they don’t know the possible Bangla words to replace those. May be sometimes they are not speaking in that way intentionally, but it means they aren’t used to use Bangla vastly. It frustrates the DU English professor, who is well-known as a Bangla novelist.

Prof Islam has identified several crucial reasons behind the alarming level of distortion in Bangla which the countrymen achieved as a state language through a series movement 60 years back.

He thinks people are adopting foreign words especially from English for their regular use because of their weakness and inability, flaws in the education system, negligence within families, spread of television, and the fall in reading tendency and increased dependency in watching television.

The original article by Syed Manzoorul Islam

211 Responses to “The man who awakened the HC”

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    Pure idiots is what I say….current modern mainstream Bangla of Bangladesh is a language of mixed words from English, Farsi, Urdu/Hindi….Bangladesh’s Bangla isn’t even pure Bangla…I swear stupidity increases everyday among the Bangladeshi high court.

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