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The Language Dilemma

BY FIZZA AYUB KHAWAJA (staff writer)

August 1947 marked the end of the British Raj of the Crown in the subcontinent, but the colonial shocks of British rule still implicitly haunt Pakistan. Its worst form of culmination, notoriety in the form of being able to speak English, still reels through the echelons of our society. To people ranging from the prosperous to the laborers, the pinnacle of being well educated is the ability to speak English. Even more so, to speak English with an accent that hides our Pakistani nationality is considered an attribute above all else.

In this process, our own language, Urdu—a beautiful amalgamation of Arabic and Persian—lost its prestige to the niche that the colonists left behind. It seemed as if this symphonic language belonged everywhere except in its own country. While it is now a symbol of unity for Pakistani immigrants, its eloquence is now despised in the country where it should be a crown worth celebrating.

A language descended from the mighty Aryans lost the battle on its own home front. Personally, I was made fun of by my own peers and family for how I dragged my a’s and pronounced my words with a Pakistani accent. I wished I had realized the beauty of my mother tongue’s remnants before they dissipated under the rigorous influence of the societal dilemma of speaking perfect English.

From the narrowed looks that my teachers gave me in middle school to the expectations that my parents had after enrolling me in an English-medium school, the pressure of not being enough increased on my beautiful mother tongue. I wish I could have told my younger self to hold her head high while speaking broken English. I wish I could have told her not to hide away from her peers that had a better grasp on the foreign language. I wish I could have spoken my national language with pride.

Moving on, I can only hope that the cultural imperialism wrought upon this country’s mother tongue simmers down. Whether it will slowly bubble down through growing nationalism or cascade like an avalanche is truly something unpredictable. But alas, hope is the only thing that has kept our mother tongue alive.

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