The Ladder of Languages!
Many years back a friend of mine visited some of the countries of Europe. At that time, present grand and powerful European Union had not come into existence but talks were underway to form such a union that could assure the general growth and prosperity of the region. However, some 5-6 countries had entered an agreement and developed treaties that had resulted in many facilities to the citizens of these countries. Now, their citizens were able to trade freely and easily, could get benefitted from the transport facilities of each other and many more like these. So this friend of mine bought a train ticket that could be used in all of these six countries. He faced first surprise when he saw the ticket as on it, each and everything was written in all the six languages of the united countries. Though it might have been difficult for them to do so but it showed the respect of the nations to each other. Of these nations, there were was a small and comparatively weak country as well but its language was also given the equal importance like the languages of other countries. This was the first and foremost essential requirement that guaranteed the long-lasting existence of this treaty and agreement as it was based on mutual respect.
Second surprise he faced was during the course of the journey. On the way, he met people belonging to different nationalities and different from each other in many respects but now they had realized the importance of living together for the betterment of each other and thus avoided anything that could hurt the feelings of the second person or nation. In the meantime, good human qualities had come up to the surface. Now people understood each other better, helped each other and tried their best to exhibit their good qualities. There, one was able to witness the true picture of a civilized and educated society.
Though my friend was weak at the languages spoken there and they didn’t understand English so well but more or less, he was lucky enough to dig out some inner feelings of people about each other. Of his findings, he shared an interesting and thought-provoking one with me. All the people agreed that when they were away from each other, there reached only negative information about a nation, its culture or its language. But now, when they interacted with each other and came close to each other, they discovered that there were many things that were commonly shared. They realized that majority of the negative interpretations about others were based on either biases aiming to benefit a specific class of society or were just rumors, without containing even a tinge of reality.
And the most interesting discovery was that, that they all shared and valued such treasured values as humanity, respect for each other and understanding and recognizing the importance of each other and these factors are needed more than anything else to keep the people united and bound to each other.
At times I ponder at the conditions of my country keeping in mind the above scenario and I feel both sad and happy. Sad for that, that even after shedding the blood of each other for more than 20 years and facing the worst difficulties of world, we have still not truly realized the importance of developing a society where we should be more considerate about others’ feelings, languages, values and beliefs. I feel jubilant and contented for a fact that my countrymen, who may be different from each other in their languages, beliefs and ideas, share a lot many things in common and differences among them are so minute and ignorable that they can easily come together and form one of the most strong and united nations of the world.
Many years before a report of United Nations grasped my attention. This was a report about the languages that were at the verge of extinction. A language was mentioned in this report that was spoken then only by eleven of its members and they were all also aged or old and with their demise, the language was also going to come to its end. The thing that surprised me was that, the language of eleven people was given due importance and respect in the area and it was not that their language was really grand or had any other extraordinary quality but the sole reason behind this gentle treatment was to honor those eleven people who spoke that language and who had their emotions attached with the language.
In our country, we have two major languages, Dari and Pashto and several local languages like Hazaragi, Uzbeki, Turkmeni, Pashayi, Nuristani, Balochi and many more. It is for sure that these languages differ from each other on different grounds like accent, history, literature and vastness but it should be kept in mind that they are also very close to each other. Other day, a foreigner who had studied Turkish in University and had some knowledge and understanding of Dari surprised me by telling that Afghanistan was one of the few countries in the world where people spoke so many different languages but people mostly understood and could interact in almost all the languages. This is a bright prospect for bringing the people of this country very close to each other.
Making comparisons between languages is a pernicious act resulting in strife between the people of different languages. No doubt a language may be better than the other or a language may not be as vast as the other but it should not be forgotten that we need to respect and give importance to the feelings of people who speak those languages but not the language itself. When we will praise the other’s language and ignore its shortcomings, same will be done to our language by others and resultant would be a feeling of intimacy and friendship to each other, otherwise, we would only make the others hostile and give them a chance to make us hostile, risking the general harmony of the society.
I have always experienced a rather fascinating and joyful reaction from others when I spoke to them in their language. On the other hand, same were my feelings when someone interacted with me in my mother tongue. I have seen people getting closer to each other and being more helpful and kind by the ladder of language. Majority of my students get surprised and rather happy when I greet them or talk to them in their language.
We had enough tragic experience in past when we ignored the importance of each other’s languages and thus got away from each other and fell into differences. It is the call of time to respect and praise each other’s languages, extend efforts to learn each other’s languages, ignore the shortcomings of languages and stop making comparisons between the languages. We need to visit different areas and regions of our country and meet different people and I hope that we would end up with a surprising conclusion that we have very less differences and share a lot of similarities and the most common thing that we share would be the respect for humanity that is the essence of our creation and existence.
Mahmood Hassan Quraishi is a permanent writer of the Daily Afghanistan Express.