Experts mull over ways to preserve and protect local languages

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IMPHAL, Feb 21: The International Mother Language Day was observed at the Manipur Press Club today organized by the Research Forum Manipur (REFORM), the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), government of Manipur and the Manipuri department, Manipur University.

In his keynote address, secretary of REFORM, N. Indramani highlighted that UNESCO had declared February 21 as the International Mother Language Day during its 30th Conference in the year 1999 and that this was the third time REFORM is observing the said day.

He further dwelt on the significance of the struggle to oppose the imposition of Urdu as the National Language in the erstwhile East Pakistan and its relevance to the preservation of the Manipuri language.

Among the distinguished speakers, Prof N Rajmohan, Chemistry department, MU, articulated the importance of language in tracing every community’s roots and its impact on interpersonal relations. While he emphasized the role of language in the compilation, distillation and dissemination of knowledge, he rued the lack of reference materials like science dictionaries and encyclopedias in Manipuri language.

RK Tarunjit, jt editor, Marup Chaphung, based in Agartala, Tripura, offered a unique perspective to the state of Meitei language as a minority community in the state of Tripura. He expressed his apprehensions about the rapid decline in the number of native Meitei speakers who have increasingly turned to Bangla as a means of communication. However, efforts are being made to preserve and protect the Meitei language by teaching the language in three schools since 1998 which has now increased to 23 schools. He went on to state that more efforts were needed from the Meitei community in Tripura as well as from the state of Manipur.

An academic pertinent to the event, Prof. Gunendo Singh, Head of the Manipuri Department, MU, traced the influences of other languages, especially Sanskrit and Bangla, in the growth of Meitei language since early 1700s. He also appealed for continuing the efforts to protect, preserve and develop the Meitei language.

Speaking as the chief guest of the occasion, Registrar, MU, Prof N Lokendro Singh highlighted recent efforts being made for the development of Manipuri language such as the recent digitization of Meitei Puyas as well as the activities under the Special Assistance Plan from UGC to Manipur University.

He opined that the Meitei language has witnessed a positive growth in the last few decades in the form of literature, sports and the arts. He illustrated the growth of Meitei language as multi-dimensional using the introduction of Manipuri as an MIL in Delhi and Assam Universities as well as the use of Meitei language in the economic activities in the trade centers of Moreh and Namphalong as examples.

Several speakers lamented that the use of English is inevitable in the globalised world, however, the continued protection and preservation of Manipuri language is as much important. The event was also attended by several people from the literary circle as well as students among others.

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