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“A national language represents the national identity of a country”
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“A national language represents the national identity of a country”

Asim Nawaz AbbassiNational language is a driving force behind national unity, writes Asim Nawaz Abbassi, 27, of Islamabad in Pakistan, yet in spite of having constitutional status there is no plan to promote the use of Urdu in Pakistan.  English is becoming the symbol of the elite.

Beside a boundary, a name, a flag, or a currency, what makes a country become a respectable and unique nation is its national language.

Indeed, national language is a clear indicator that represents the national identity of a country. Language is a sensitive issue. It’s also part of a nation and a person’s heritage. To understand and penetrate deep into a community, one must be able to speak and understand the language of the community.  Fluency in the national language will surely enable the person to fully understand that community’s particular nuances and cultural aspects.

National language is a driving force behind unity of the nation’s people, and makes them distinct from other nations – provided you give your language respect.  Giving respect to your national language means that it should be one’s primary language, as well as the preferred source of communication at every level. One should know as many languages as one can absorb, but use one’s own language at every level.  History proves that every great leader tried his best to strengthen the national language. China’s revolutionary leader Zedong Mao had a great respect for his own language. Notwithstanding knowing many other languages, he never used them and preferred to use Chinese as his medium of communication. One can gauge the importance of a national language by the fact that Language Movement is considered to have laid the foundation for the separation of one part of Pakistan into Bangladesh.

But unfortunately the case is the opposite with Pakistan compared to most of the other Asian countries like India and Bangladesh.  The 1973 constitution of Pakistan promulgated Urdu to be the national language of Pakistan and set out the required arrangements to be made so that Urdu would be used for official and other purposes within 15 years of its commencement. Nevertheless, after the gap of more than 60 years, no specific arrangements have been made and no clear plan or policy has been devised to attain this constitutional goal. Parliament has not passed any law or formulated any policy to date to ensure the replacement of English by Urdu for official purposes.

Because of the Government’s lack of serious effort, the current generations are far from their national language. We can clearly observe a gradual increase in the number of elite youth whose command over all the required four skills for the Urdu language seems to be on a downward trend.  Instead, English is becoming the symbol of the upper class elite and an inaccurate benchmark by which one’s literacy is judged. The competitive examinations in Pakistan through which the bureaucracy of the country is filtered have a strong bottle neck because they use English to judge candidates’ competitiveness.

It made me astonished and dismayed while listening a lecture to learn that there is no nation in five thousand years that disrespected its own national language, and yet has excelled in economy and development with the help of some language other than its own. I am not against bilingualism, but we should be excellent in our national language. We witness many nations like Germany, China and Iran which love their language and literature and still are more developed and stronger than those which do not do so.

photo credit: Marc Wathieu via photopin cc

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About me:

A thinker, philanthropist and charismatic youth activist, leader and social worker, my goal is to play a role in the future politics of Pakistan.

I have a BS(Hons) in software engineering and a masters in Political Science.  Among other interests I am youth minister for Science & Technology with the National Youth Assembly. I’ve coordinated tree planting programs, written for national newspapers and online websites, participated in TV talk shows and am an associate member of two leading think tanks in Pakistan.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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