The Forum for Language Initiatives (FLI) held a five day orthography workshop for the Yidgha language community in Chitral from September 29 to October 03, 2015. Twelve persons (both men and women) including teachers, local researchers, language activists, and writers from the language community attended the workshop, which aimed at training them in how to document their mother tongue, Yidgha.
Yidgha is spoken in Lotkuh, a valley lying some 46 km west of Chitral town, and is one of the 23 languages of Pakistan that UNESCO has declared as ‘on the verge of extinction’ for being just oral languages and undocumented.
This workshop was part of a project FLI has initiated to document four endangered languages in Chitral and Swat so as to preserve them from elimination with financial assistance from USAID’s Small Grants and Ambassador’s Fund Program (SGAFP-USAID). The workshop was focused on discovering the unique sounds in Yidgha and developing a writing system for this language that is losing ground even in its home region. The workshop will be followed by additional activities including the publishing of a book of folktales in Yidgha. This allows the Yidgha language researchers to be provided with further trainings under the project, as well as furthering the impact of documentation efforts. Mr. Naseem Haider and Farid Ahmed Raza facilitated the workshop.
Though Yidgha was previously just a verbal dialect, this workshop has provided an opportunity to document the sounds of the language in written form. Participants have now received the training necessary to take their keen interest in preserving and promoting their mother tongue and channel it into tangible activities, including being able to finally write in their mother tongue. Hopefully, there will soon be stories, poems, and anecdotes also published in the Yidgha language. The combination of these community members’ commitment and their newfound training may be a huge factor in saving the Yidgha language from fading into history.