SOCIAL INEQUALITY FOR LANGUAGE IN BANGLADESH: A SURVEY ON MINORITY AND DIALECT USING PEOPLE
According to T. E. Hulme, “Language is by its very nature a communal thing; that is, it expresses never the exact thing but a compromise- that is common to you, me and everybody” (as cited in Wardhaugh, 2010, p. 21). Language is the medium of communication. Sometimes language may fail to interpret the exact thing. If a speaker’s language is understood by the listeners even though he is not using standard form of language, we can think that the speaker can express his emotions or feelings very elaborately. However, society will not accept the language of the speaker if he or she does not use the standard language while speaking. Society has made the discrimination among people for their language. The people who use dialect or their own communal language are discriminated socially. Bangladesh is a developing country of the third world and a bilingual country where Bangla is the mother tongue and English is spoken as second language. In order to cope up with the globalized world, we need to learn English. Our mother language Bangla is also standardized by Bangla Academy. The people who are getting the chance of learning standard Bangla along with English are getting more prestige in society and those who are not getting the privilege are becoming the victims of discrimination. In my research paper, I am going to focus on the social discrimination faced by minority people and the people who use dialect in their language in Bangladesh.
For having strong fluency in English, English medium students think that they are compound bilinguals and superior to Bangla medium students. Imam (2005) states that, many English medium students think they are temporarily living in Bangladesh but their ultimate destination is in abroad as they can speak in English very fluently (p. 478). This kind of mentality of English medium students is creating social discrimination in educational institutions at a great extent. Brain drain is also a cause of this superior mentality of English medium students which ultimately hinders the development of our country. In Bangladesh, marriages of many girls break because of language problems. Hasan (1994) states that, there is a general belief in many parts of Asia along with Bangladesh that the future of every girl is marriage because the society observes an unmarried woman with doubt and disrespect (p. 74). Hence, it is a matter of great regret that some girls are rejected from the marriage lists only for using dialects in their speech. Buchmann & Hannum (2001) reported that, the school choice for children depends on family’s financial condition, size and structure and decision making processes (p. 82). Hence, everything depends on the family. We cannot look down upon a child who uses dialects and cannot speak English fluently because it is not his or her fault. Rules and regulations of society are depriving them. In many places of India, there is caste system. There is an acute difference between the touchable and untouchable people. The untouchable people are deprived socially than the touchable people. However, there is a distinctive scenario in Bangladesh. Although there is no caste system here, social discrimination is a major issue in this country. Words and speeches can bring discrimination in society too.
I have interviewed about an indigenous girl who works in the Shahi’s Beauty parlor, Mohamamdpur branch and faces various problems everyday in her working place because of her minority language accent; Another girl named Shakina Akhter Golap who did not get job in Agrani Girls’ School (Primary Section), Azimpur because she uses dialect in her speech (S. Rahman, personal communication March 30, 2013). I have used the questionnaire which consists of several questions to understand the deep feeling of being discriminated everyday even after giving the best effort in working place and interview room.
4.1 Use of minority language deprives people from better opportunities in society Most of the minority groups in Bangladesh speak “Chakma” language. The people who go to schools or colleges learns Bangla or English language but the deprived people who cannot get the opportunity of being educated become the victim of social discrimination. They cannot use their own language at their working places. Nowadays minority people are getting educated; there are special quotas for them in Public universities. Notwithstanding, do they get the same chances like the Bengalis everywhere? In working place, they are sometimes criticized by the local people of that area. Their bosses are always suspicious about them while giving them any job which is related to communication. Sometimes the clients get disturbed if they cannot communicate with them properly. The minority people can understand what the customers or clients are asking for? However, they cannot answer their questions or communicate with them properly because of language variation. I have seen many situations where we cannot rely on the indigenous people. For example, I have appeared in need based scholarship in my university in spring 2012. The person who comes to gather information about me at my home was an indigenous man. I was not at home when he came. My mother provided him with all the information he needed. When I came back home, my mother said, she is suspecting that this man may do some mistakes while writing the information because he had problem understanding my mother’s language. My mother may be wrong. He might have understood everything clearly. However, I did not get the scholarship. I do not think that he made any mistake while gathering information.
USING OF DIALECTS IN SPEECH BRINGS SOCIAL INEQUALITY
The elite class people use sociolect which differentiates them from other classes in the society. In Bangladesh, there are some places recognized as the living place of elite class people such as Baridhara, Gulshan, Banani, Dhanmondi etc. The people who live here use standard language. Their speech will be different than the speech of the people living in Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Kalyanpur etc. I want to example from a movie named Notting Hill which is a British romantic comedy film set in Notting Hill. The starring are Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Notting Hill is an area of aristocratic people in London, England. The majority of the people who lives here use standard language in their speech. If anyone observes the language used by the people in this movie, they can easily understand the difference between the standard and cockney English. There are many scenes in the play where the vegetable vendors in the markets are using Cockney language but the hero, heroine and other side role actors and actresses are using Standard English.
De facto norms is a criteria of Roger T. Bell of standardizing a language which is the feeling of being the bad speaker of a language and not having the privilege. Many people in Bangladesh think that they are underprivileged for their language. They are not getting good jobs and not getting married to the right person they deserve for their language. In an interview of any job, the organization haunts for a person who can communicate with their clients very properly. If the employee uses any dialect or cannot talk in a standard language, the clients will have a bad conception for the whole company. While haunting for a bride in Bangladesh, the bridegroom’s relatives gives more emphasis on the language of the bride. They talk a lot with the bride while marriage negotiation. I want to share an example from my personal life; I went to the campus of Dhaka University in the year 2005 with my maternal uncle and his wife because their son was going to marry a girl who reads in the Management Information System of Dhaka University. My uncle and aunt want to talk with that girl more and they want to observe the language use of this girl. Does this girl use any dialect consciously or subconsciously while speaking? The girl’s home district is in Laksmipur.
The people from Laksmipur use a different dialect in their speech. My uncle was in fear that if her daughter in law uses dialect in her speech then his friends and relatives can easily recognize her home district? It can be disrespectful to her. Language is very important while marriage and to get reputation in society. When I was a student of HSC level, I did a course named Phonetics and Phonology in a renowned language learning institution of Bangladesh. In our orientation class, our instructor gave us a lecture about the proper use of a language. He showed us how language plays a vital role to get prestige in society? He showed us various clips of the film named “My Fair Lady.” “My Fair Lady” is a film starred by Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn where Audrey Hepburn plays the role of a flower selling girl who uses cockney language in her speech. Cockney language is not talked by elite class people. She is taught the standard language by Rex Harrison which changes her. The elite class people cannot understand about her lower class even her father cannot recognize her. Her facial expression does not change then why anybody of her community does not recognizes her? It is only of her language change which makes her a girl of elite class. Bangladesh is a country of bilingualism without diglossia.
The mother language of Bangladesh is Bangla and the second language is English but the lower class people are not bilinguals. The English medium students are compound bilinguals because they think they have one culture that is English culture. There are many private English medium schools in Bangladesh where the children of elite people can go for education. The people who consist of upper upper class, upper middle class and upper lower class can easily afford to send their children to English medium schools. However, what will happen to the middle and lower class people who are already discriminated by the upper class people in the society? They are discriminated and their children will also face the same situation of social inequality in their lifetime. Sometimes we can observe that the students who come from rural areas become the victim of bullying in schools or universities. The teachers also do not pay any heed to them in class. Teachers show more interest in teaching the smart students who can speak standard language with English code switching. On the contrary, the victim students become frustrated and get bad grades. This is the general scenario in Bangladesh where the minority people and the people who use dialect in their speech faces inequity in society. In order to solve this problem, we have to broaden our mental outlook. We have to help the students who use dialects in their speech rather than bullying them. The English medium students should develop their mentality and help the bangla medium students in educational institutions. Government can arrange some special training for those people who have problems in their speech so that they can recover their problems and not have the feeling of de facto norms.
In conclusion, as I have tried to show in this essay, society is bias to minority people and those people who uses dialects in speech. However, we should never forget that dialect and language of our own community is our identity. From which area of Bangladesh we belong to can be recognized by our language. We should not be ashamed to use dialects. It is high time we recognize the importance of language varieties and save them from extinction. We have to learn standard Bangla and English language to compete with the globalized countries by not forgetting our own identity. At first we have to emphasize on our own culture and language then we can give effort to standardize it.