Mon, Jun 18, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Bangladesh tribals fear linguistic ‘genocide’

Bangladeshi children carry bags on their heads in Teknaf, Bangladesh on June 15.

Photo: AFP

Bangladesh can justly claim to be a nation born of language, but its status as a cradle of linguistic diversity is under threat from nationalist pride and economic growth.

Of the more than 30 recognized languages spoken in Bangladesh, experts say 20 are now on the verge of extinction.

Many languages are inherently vulnerable, having no script and relying instead on a rich but fragile oral tradition of folk songs and story telling.

Bangla, or Bengali, is the undisputed heavyweight in Bangladesh’s linguistic arena, spoken by 95 percent of the population and the sole passport to a decent education and career.

National pride in the Bangla language runs deep and is cemented with the blood of the “language martyrs” — students shot dead by police on Feb. 21, 1952, when Bangladesh was still East Pakistan.

The students were protesting the Pakistani government’s Urdu-only policy and demanding that Bangla be recognised as an official language. The deaths triggered the start of a nationalist struggle that finally ended with the creation of Bangladesh after victory in the 1971 independence war with Pakistan.

But now Bangla’s dominance in schools, the workplace and cultural life in general is threatening those rights in Bangladesh itself.











1. cradle n.

發源地 (fa1 yuan2 di4)

例: Fossil records indicate that Africa was the

cradle of early human evolution.


2. script n.

文字 (wen2 zi4)

例: The oracle script, or Jiaguwen, is considered

the oldest script in China.


3. passport n.

通行證 (tong1 xing2 zheng4)

例: Many students opt for business studies simply

because it sounds like a passport to a good job.



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