According to a report of Turkey's "Daily Sabah" in February last year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - UNESCO identified 6,700 indigenous languages as the most "endangered languages" among the 7,000 languages of the world! That is these languages are facing the extinction of this organization of the United Nations. The report also says that about 3,000 languages will disappear within the current twenty-first century, which means the disappearance of cultural and linguistic diversity! Another meaning of the extinction of this language is the eternal extinction of the universal and natural traditions of humanity.
According to the United Nations, this extinction of linguistic diversity affects everything from biological life to cultural life.
Note that languages that are no longer spoken since 1950 are listed as "extinct" in "The Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger". And this list includes languages like Cappadocian Greek (Turkey), Gothic, Mozarabic, Old Prussian, Western Mansi, and American Huron-Wendot.
A language is considered "critically endangered" when young speakers become elderly and use the language they learned partially and infrequently. And the language spoken by these elderly people is described as "critically endangered" if not passed onto the next generation. Again, if children do not speak their mother tongue at home, it is "definitely endangered" and if the use of a language is restricted in certain areas, that language is considered "endangered".
A language that has no restrictions and is spoken by all generations is considered safe. And according to this classification, four percent of the world's languages used so far are completely extinct, that is, there are no more people who speak those languages.
Ten percent of currently studied languages are considered "critically endangered", nine percent "critically endangered", 11 percent "certainly endangered" and another 10 percent "vulnerable".
UNESCO is expressing fear that all these languages may disappear in the current century! As a result, the United Nations has been celebrating February 21 every year since 2000 as International Mother Language Day. The report thanked Bangladesh for its contribution in highlighting the importance of linguistic diversity.
Bengali is the first language of 4 percent of the total population of the world i.e. 233.7 million people. Bengali is the mother tongue of 98 percent people of Bangladesh. Bengali is also the national and official language of the country. And Bengali is one of the 23 official languages of India. Bengali is the official language of West Bengal, Tripura and Barak Valley of Assam. Since 2011, Bengali has been used as the second official language of the state of Jharkhand. Apart from this, a significant number of Bengali speaking people live in Bihar, Mizoram, Odisha, Meghalaya in India. In total, there are 340 million Bengali speaking people scattered all over the world including America, Europe and the Middle East.
The hope of the Bengali speaking people - especially the educated and conscious class is that Bengali, the mother tongue, should continue to be practiced among themselves and the next generation. In an effort to realize this expectation, book fairs are organized in different parts of the world with the aim of making book reading a habit.
These book fairs end with various book stalls as well as Bangla plays, Bengali films, topical discussions, poetry recitations, painting etc. However, there is no general discussion about the general strategy related to Bengali language practice, expansion and protection! In this case, it is essential to form a committee consisting of responsible officials from all the Bengali speaking regions including Bangladesh, West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. And since the matter is related to human communication, it is important to include experienced communicators in that committee and formulate and implement a universal strategy for practicing, spreading and protecting the Bengali language based on everyone's opinion!
Those of us who live in developed western countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Canada should start working on this universal strategy. We need to create broad public opinion by discussing the practice, promotion and protection of Bengali language. Also, the recommendations of that discussion should be brought to the attention of the concerned authorities. The work will be like a pressure group.
Books are described as a link between past and future and a bridge between different generations and cultures. And so the habit of reading books should be started from the individual level. Because no one can teach anyone. And so you have to build a library in every house and be educated by self-education. Libraries should enable our children to self-educate freely, guide them through education, instill curiosity and thirst for knowledge, and find riches in their minds. And that should be done by developing the habit of reading books.
Nelson Mandela once said, 'He who only understands, when you speak to him, it reaches his brain, and when you speak his own language, it reaches his heart!' This means that we should speak to our children in their mother tongue Bengali so that our message reaches their hearts.
Let us teach our children that literature is the main part of education. Literary practice alone can activate and enrich his mind. His philosophy, inner dreams, hope-despair, love-dislike, philosophy, religion, science - literature is a combination of all these. Let them also be taught that it is through the practice of literature that each man, according to his own strength and taste, can by his own efforts advance his mind on the path of knowledge in the realm of the soul. If the mind cannot be kept alert and strong, the soul of the nation does not get proper fulfillment; Therefore, the nation that is unhappy is the nation that is lifeless. Only by the touch of joy does the mind and soul of man become alive and fresh. Thus, to deprive the joy of literary practice is to diminish the vitality of the nation. This literary practice is possible only by reading books. And that book should be in the mother tongue i.e. Bengali book.
Also teach children that one of our favorite pastimes is reading. Books awaken the humanity of people! And by reading books and savoring the juice of literature, life can be made great and beautiful! It is possible to achieve more by reading books in own language i.e. Bengali language. But I want a library for literature. And so we have to make the children's life great and beautiful by building a library at home!
Many of us living in the developed world worry about the future of our children! Many parents are afraid of going astray! Reading books can be one of the strategies to prevent them from going astray. In that case, the words of Iranian philosopher and poet Omar Khayyam among the children - wine will run out, bread will run out, Priya's black eyes will become cloudy, but the book, it is eternal youth, if it is a book like a book - should be spread.
And so book fairs should be organized not only in Dhaka, Kolkata, Washington DC and New York City, but also in California, Texas, Florida and Michigan, Canada's Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec, England's London, Birmingham, Lancaster and Bristol, including Bengali-dominated cities of the world. Book fairs should be organized in every divisional city of Bangladesh, if possible in every district city.
More number of book fairs should be organized in different parts of the world to maintain Bengali, the mother tongue of 34 crore Bengalis, in its glory and to strengthen the practice of this language at home through family practice of Bengali in daily life.
The writer is a journalist living in the United States