FLI started the standardization work for the languages spoken in its target area (Northern Pakistan) with initiation of steps to standardize the spelling system of Khowar language. The three-day workshop, jointly held with the Mother tongue Initiative for Education and Research (MIER) and the Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Khowar (ATK)  took off in Chitral town today taking up the introduction of spell checking on digital devices for the language. Availability of spellchecker to the writers of the language will facilitate writing of Khowar language on digital devices providing consistency in the writing system and unified orthography. Some known Khowar writers, researchers and activists named Prof Mumtaz Hussain,  Javed Iqbal, Afsar Ali Khan and Farid Ahmad Raza were among those attending the activity. FLI is being represented by its executive director, Fakhruddin Akhunzada in the event.

The lesser known languages of the region face issues like chaotic spelling system where the writers find no standardized phrasing to follow while writing their manuscripts which hinders the evolution of writing system by confusing the readers and new writers. To make the writing system orderly, reaching an agreement on a unified writing system is of high importance which will lay foundation of a smooth evolution. For the purpose the on-going initiative has been started. During this first step, around twenty thousand words of Khowar have been collected from various printed/ published materials which will be standardized to be used in future on digital devices.  Later on, the inflicted form of the words will be added and the number of words will be raised to forty thousands.

The Khowar Language was first used to write a century ago, and so far, hundreds of books and journals have been published in language. The language is also part of government school curriculum and is taught up to the grade 5 in government schools in the province. More than half a million people speak Khowar in Chitral, Gilgit-Baltistan and Swat as their native language.

FLI took up the 22nd language, Kalkoti, to work on, by initiating the developing steps first with identifying the issues the language is facing. The three day long intervention, called Issues in Language Development (ILD) workshop just concluded in Kalkot area of Upper Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In total, 13 people from the community attended the activity. The purpose of the workshop was to lay the foundation of development work for the Kalkoti language by identifying the primary issues which may come in way of its documentation in future. The participants showed great interest to serve their language by taking part in all the sessions and contributed in successful implementation of first activity. They resolved to preserve and promote their native language and pass on to their young generations.

Kalkoti, a Dardic language is spoken by more than 6500 people in Kalkot village of Dir Kohistan. Although merely verbal and not in written form, the language is vigorous as all age groups of the community uses their native language for oral communication. However, due to close proximity, most of the community people are bilingual using Pashto side by side, the largest language of the province which has threatened the language as many linguists fear of a language shift in future.

Therefore, by expanding its services, FLI has reached out to Kalkoti before it’s too late. More interventions will be carried out to strengthen the language by involving the community people and by providing language development training to them. It’s hoped that the language will soon be turned into a written form to facilitate the educated people including youth from the community to use their language also for written communication and publications.

So far, FLI has formally provided various development services to 21 languages spoken in the northern Pakistan focusing on enabling the community researchers so that they could work for their languages. It makes us glad that the Kalkoti language finds itself ready to get developed and ask for documentation. We assure the Kalkoti language researchers of a full cooperation with technical help and available resources in future.

The Indus Kohistani (IK) language in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa finds four more activists from the community who are zealous to strengthen its literacy segment. The young activists, who attended FLI’s ‘Planning for the Future of my Language’ program developed plan to maximize the use of their language for reading and writing. This program was organized in Bisham town of Shangla district. The participants developed strategy to enhance writing and reading in their language by motivating young people on using social media. They created chatting groups, discussion pages, sent invitations and started developing contents in their language. They also pledged to try to collect cultural items for the purpose of book publishing.

The Indus Kohistani language is spoken in Jijal, Pattan, Seo, Duber-Kandia valleys and other villages of Kohistan region. About half a million people speak this language as their mother tongue. The community activists and researchers are striving hard to develop reading material in the language. The young generation of the community has started using their language for communication on social media. A group of IK speakers are running a multilingual educational program in the area, providing the language with minimum academic material.

FLI has been supporting all initiatives the IK community took to strengthen the language. We are utilizing available resources to include the language in KP schools’ curriculum like other four languages of the province. We are working with IK community researchers side by side, especially to enhance writing and reading in IK. FLI has recently published two books in the Indus Kohistani language to contribute to strengthening the language.

FLI held a five day activity to support the writing system development in Shekhani language in Chitral last week. Average 12 people who represented more than three dialects of the language participated in the event. The participants reached a consensus for developing spelling guide, rules, characters etc. to introduce a standardized writing system for the language.

The Kataviri language which is locally called Shekhani, Bashgaliwar or Nooristani in Chitral is spoken by a good number of people both in Chitral and Nooristan, Afghanistan. Linguists use the word Shekhani both for Kataviri and Kamviri languages. The speakers of this language claim to be third largest language group in Chitral after placing the Khowar and Palula groups correspondingly.  Its speakers, especially those in Nooristan have made attempts to produce literature in the language but they could not follow any standardized way of writing. Actually, the standardized orthography for Kati was never developed. Many obstacles are blocking the process. In Chitral for instance, the language has many dialects as the speakers of this language live in scattered villages, many of them are geographically distant.

What motivated FLI to initiate work on Kati is the strength of its speakers who keep using their language for maximum items. They have maintained Buzkashi, a Central Asian sport in Chitral which is played on horses and a calf carcass is scored Goal. Also, the educated folk from the community is desirous of working for their language and culture.

Earlier the organization ocnducted a survey to find out the strength of the language in 2019, under FLI’s famous tool, SUM, the sustainable use model. In this survey, the Shekhani or Kati language turned out to be strong in Identity and Spoken scales but lagged behind in literacy which led FLI to plan another activity of language documentation, held in Islamabad during first quarter of last year. Participants of this workshop included students, teachers, and activists who were committed to continue learning about language strengthening. FLI was asked by the educated members of Kati community to help them develop the writing system as they were desirous of using their language for writing their creativity, poetry etc. This Writers’ Workshop comprising of five day activities was held in Shekhandeh, in Bamburet valley of Chitral. In average, 12 people including university students, teachers, writers, etc. attended the activity. They identified vowels and consonants first time in their language, they discovered unique sounds, placed characters to represent them, they developed a spelling guide and a method of how to deal with borrowed and guest words. FLI will keep supporting Kati speakers as long as they feel the need to enhance their capacities in language development.

The members of this community migrated in late 19th century to the hilly villages of Gobor, Shekhandeh, Rumbur, Badogar, Urtsun etc. in Chitral from nearby Afghan province Nooristan. The language is typically surrounded by Khowar and somewhere by Pashto in Chitral, therefore, the children of Kati community become bilingual at early age. So for, the community has maintained the language and has grown to over ten thousands in number.

Authored by its trainees, FLI published three new books in Shina, Palula and Indus Kohistani languages. The book in Shina language is a set of folktales and folksongs of Shina language collected and produced by FLI’s trainee, Amir Haider. While the books in Palula and Indus Kohistani were authored by Naseem Haider and Gul Muhammad respectively. Both of these conversation books are aimed at expanding the introduction of their languages to non-speakers by providing routine conversation in the target languages with translation in Urdu and English.

The book in Shina language was the first FLI got the opportunity to publish in the language. Shina, the largest language in the Dardic group is spoken by over two million people. Shina is a very vital language with a strong heritage of oral literature, including folktales, legends history, poetry and song. There is increasing interest in reading and writing Shina and preserving their oral heritage in print.

Palula is related to Shina, and is widely used and understood in communities living between Lowari and the small town Drosh of southern Chitral. A written form of the language has been developed and is being used in a small but growing body of local literature and educational materials.  The community has a rich heritage in the form of oral history, traditions and sayings.

Indus Kohistani is the major language of the west bank of the Indus River, spoken in villages like Jijal, Pattan, Seo, Kandia etc. More than 300,000 people speak this language. Literature in the language is being developed by educated community members and oral traditions are being printed. Like Palula this community has also arranged a preschool educational program beginning the education in children’s mother tongue, Indus Kohistani.

FLI has been supporting literature development in local languages to strengthen literacy in the languages, and recent books in the languages are hoped to serve the purpose. The organization makes arrangements for printing of books which are produced by its trainees to encourage the research and enhance the literature development work in the languages of northern Pakistan. Hereby, FLI felicitates all its three trainees over their new publications and assures them of continue support in the future.

 

Are you interested to know what we achieved last year despite having had the challenge of the pandemic? If you are, please go through our annual newsletter 2020. FLI’s annual newsletter comes out today, the February 26. Interestingly, this was the day sharply one year back when first Pakistani tested positive followed by a chaotic year. Let’s celebrate the day as we did not stop and kept going amid the pandemic situation and got what we have here in our newsletter for you. Please click here to know what we achieved last year and share it with all those who are interested in indigenous language things.

FLI Annual Newsletter 2020

Yadgha speakers of Lotkuh valley in Chitral arranged a poetry program on Phatak day in Garamchashma town of Lotkuh valley. A group of Khowar poets from Upper and Lower Chitral districts joined them in the historic event which was held for the promotion of Yadgha language and encouragement of Yadgha poets. The event provided first ever opportunity to Yadgha poets to come up with their creations, and introduced the participants to new poets from Yadgha language. Earlier, the poets from Yadgha community used to present their poems in Khowar who have recently switched to their native language due to increasing awareness regarding the importance of using mother tongue in the area by Yadgha language researchers and activists. Seven poets of Yadgha language presented their work in their language and got appreciation from the audience. Later on, the Yadgha songs were also part of the music program arranged after the poetry session. The session was organized by Yadgha Development Network, a partner of FLI in the community.

Phatak, a religious festival is celebrated on February 01, each year by Yadgha speakers in the valley. People in Chitral and Gilgit Baltistan usually celebrate Phatak on March 21 every year, as first day of Persian Solar Hijri calendar but people of Lotkuh valley also celebrate Phatak on 1st February to commemorate the work of Pir Nasir Khisro, the eleven century saint who, the local people believe came to this region in mid 11th century for preaching Ismaili sect of Islam. They cook traditional food (Shenek) and take to the Pir’s abbacy situated near Garamchashma town, to hand over the food to protectors of the place. The management of abbacy (Khanqah) then distributes the sacred food among followers of Pir and reads out his sayings to them. The elders of the community, on the occasion congratulate each other and offer prayers for wealth and health of the community. Young people on the day, after leaving the place go to their playgrounds for entertainment and women visit each other’s houses. This year, they added another activity of holding Yadgha poetry at the end of the day which was supported by FLI. More than 50 people from Yadgha language community were present to enjoy the first every poetry session, held in their mother tongue.

The Yadgha language, also called Lutkuhiwar or Yudga is spoken in the Lutkoh Valley, about 46 km west of Chitral. This valley is connected with Zibak, Afghanistan, through the Daruh pass that is at about 1480 meters above sea level.  There are an estimated 6,150 Yidgha speakers, who are the minority in a majority Khowar-speaking region. 

 

Anjuman Taraqqi-e-Khowar (ATK), a literary organization in Chitral has established its chapter (Halqa) in Islamabad last week. Twenty two people of Khowar language community mostly language researchers, poets and students were among the participants. Office bearers of ATK from Chitral, Shahzada Tanvirulmulk, Shazhazda Faham and Mr. Zahurulhaq were also present on the occasion. The purpose of establishment of the organization’s chapter in the capital city is to bring together Khowar speakers living in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and to organize the work of individuals under the ATK umbrella.

The formation of language development bodies in the major cities for organizing the migrant people who come from the ethnolinguistic communities of northern Pakistan is of great importance as there are many people who intend to contribute to their language and culture and to maintain them. The individuals who seek support while producing literature but are unable to find experienced people due to living far from their native place can benefit from the companionship of learned people around. This will keep the migrant Khows in cities together and focused on promotion of their language. The body will also provide the opportunity to interact with and learn from each other.

Anjuman Taraqqi Khowar, founded by the literary people of Chitral in 1956 is one of the oldest literary organizations of northern Pakistan. The purpose of the establishment of ATK was to provide a platform to Chitrali poets and men of letters so that they could work for the promotion of Khowar language and literature. Apart from doing literary work domestically, the ATK has hosted two international conferences: “the 2nd and 3rd International Hindukush Cultural Conferences”, in 1990 and 1995 respectively, in Chitral.

FLI held a three day workshop for strengthening of writing system in Gawarbati language in Arandu village, situated  alongside Afghan border in southern Chitral this week. In total 12 people, including government school teachers, language researchers and activists attended the sessions held under FLI’s Orthography and Writers’ Workshop series. This event was designed by FLI to support community based partner organizations working for development and promotion of their respective languages. The idea of this event came up from the community as for this particular event, FLI let its partners to devise plans for their language based on need they felt and share with FLI for financial and technical support. The event was facilitated by FLI’s external facilitators.

Gawarbati (gwt), a Dardic language is spoken in southern part of Chitral valley. FLI’s first intervention of language documentation for this language took place in 2016 in which a writing system was placed and also some researchers from the community were trained in basic language documentation. Alongside, some initial publications were brought out in the language and ten folktales were recorded with Urdu translation. Since then, this indigenous language is being worked on by those who got trained by FLI.

This was among three events FLI designed for its partners in northern Pakistan, under which the partners were allowed to come up with their own proposals. Earlier, an event in Palula, also spoken in Chitral was supported by FLI and second in Indus Kohistan.

Read the news in Urdu

A five day Capacity Building workshop FLI held for Pashto group concluded yesterday in Peshawar. Ten scholars of Pashto language who came from various departments attended the program. The participants are going to contribute to standardizing the schools’ curriculum in Pashto language. This was the fourth and last edition of Reviewers Capacity Building which was designed and held by FLI. Earlier, the program was held for Khowar, Hindko and Saraiki groups in their respective areas.
Our languages face issues in their writing system which hinders their development. Therefore, one of the jobs FLI executes is to standardize the orthography of our regional languages aiming to strengthen the literacy in our languages. The said program was initiated for this purpose that was to improve the curriculum development. The participants of the program expressed that the training was helpful in learning how to standardize the curriculum development.
The Deputy Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, KP Mr Abdul Akram attended the concluding session of the program and appreciated the FLI’s contribution. The Executive Director of FLI thanked the cooperation of Education Department-KP, DCTE, and all those who played their role in successful accomplishment of this initiative.
FLI, for the last 18 years has been striving to strengthen the languages spoken in the region. During this period, engaging with the relevant departments of the governments has been the most important activity of the organization for sustainable language development work. It is hoped that this journey will continue.