Sep 30, 2011

Promoting our Creativity


The role of our national language or any other national language for that matter is to bring citizens of a nation together as one big family – one big family that communicates in one common unifying language. Language is the carrier of a particular culture. But in essence, the purpose of having a language in the first place is to provide for a medium of communication for a particular locality. And of course culture aspects follow thereafter. 

Photo by Penstar
Some agreed and as expected some disagreed. There were workshops where experts congregated to talk about it and scholars debated on it. But everyone agreed our national language needs to be promoted in an era which is mostly dominated by English. Our effort to simplify Dzongkha have raised concerns amongst our scholars and rightly so. However, we must appreciate the fact something is being carried out for the promotion of our national language.

Many students consider Dzongkha a tough subject. For many an urban student, being able to meet the required pass marks in the subject is seen as a feat while for many students in the remote schools, the national language forms one of their favorite subjects. But on the whole learning Dzongkha is seen as a painful exercise. Since there are many difficult words and choekey terms that make learning difficult. 

Now it is time for us to strive hard to make it one simple and enjoyable subject at schools.   
One way to do this is to have student friendly Dzongkha curriculum, one that inculcates zeal for learning our national language and not necessarily enforced under duress. It is time that we write something creative even in our national language such as innovative stories that appeal to students and readers alike. Let’s promote creative writing in our national language because right now we have only a handful of publications in our national language, which are mostly by Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC). 

We are on the right path. DDC officials agree rigsar songs help in the promotion of national language.  Quite true – the point is there are ways and means to promote our national language. There were days when Hindi or English numbers dominated our days, but now we hear dzonkha songs more.

And to promote our language, do we need not coin fancy terms? Many think that in principle simplification process would actually complicate the whole matter. Well, the act would help the general public to understand the language and enjoy the experience better, but there will be some section of people who would be more confused having to learn new terms every day. One of friends in jest tells me “Thank god, we have word for hair in Dzongkha otherwise the experts would call it gu-kye nakpo (the black portion that grows on our heads).”

Right now we feel comfortable in expressing, well most literate Bhutanese people find easier to express themselves well in English, even if the every strain of thoughts is basically conceived in one’s mother tongue- for us when we write in English or Dzongkha, first the thought is conceived in our mother tongue and when we write them down, a translation of a sort takes place at the mental level – it is easier to express in English, it has rich vocabulary (it is believed English has 500,000 words), how much can we claim in Dzongkha? So, the need to coin more words or familiarize on internalize with the ones we have and make do with them?

Dzongkha novels (heard quite a few are in the offing and saw a couple of them) is a laudable effort, whoever has done it – hopefully we could come up with many more novels with innovative and creative storylines, narration techniques – to start with, it is alright to imitate the styles from the others, but slowly we will have our own and unique novels strictly written for Bhutanese. Authorities should encourage such people. They should be recognized for the promotion of coming up with some noble initiatives in the promotion of our national language and the love of language in general.

But now how many of us buy such books? How many of patronize such noble work? How many of us appreciate the effort taken by writers? How many of us are thankful to these people? How many of them are rewarded for championing the change? This is time to reflect.

Even DDC should acknowledge our own writers who take to writing Dzongkha novels and maybe even encourage them with some sponsoring from some agencies, I am sure more and more people will write and more and more people will take to reading Bhutanese works. Interest starts with reading some work, which ultimately culminates in the love of the language.            

Even on the English front, we don’t have many students who find comfortable to express themselves even if it is the medium of instruction for almost their student career, no class teaches to write well, not anywhere, there might be some essay/composition writing classes, but we should strengthen them and make them more prominent features of our school curriculum – I want my daughter to be able to express herself well , maybe write stories followed by stories, even if she fails once in almost every class.

Let’s do something practical – I don’t believe in people who go to the extent of saying Dzongkha alone should be promoted. I believe in the fact that the language needs to be promoted and preserved. Yes it needs to be and it must be - for it carries our culture, traditions and social ethos, we also need to equally promote English – which our wise leaders had chosen to be the medium of instruction in the schools – it is the language of the world; the whole purpose of language is to communicate effectively and to do that at a global scale, we need to learn the language of the world.