International Mother Language Institute: Potential that Remains Largely unexplored

By Sheikh Iraj

Ever since the birth of Bangladesh, we have been commemorating the sacrifices made on February 21 by offering our heartfelt love and homage to the language martyrs. And Since 2000, February 21 had become of day of significance for all nations across the world. At the 30th General session of the UNESCO held on November 17, 1999, Ekushey February was declared as International Mother Language Day. Our ardour for our mother tongue is quite unique, which separates us from rest of the world in a very distinctive way. No other nation in the history of mankind has endured as much hardship for their mother tongue as we have. With the vision of preserving and enriching our language, the International Mother Language Institute started its official journey from March 15, 2001. The institute was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

From a cultural prospective, the importance of such an institute is very significant. It came with a lot of promise. It was supposed to be an institute consisting of modern facilities for research on Bangla, as well as other languages. Arranging national and international seminars, preservation of near-extinct languages were the main objectives of the institute. But sadly, not a single seminar was held, nor have any research work been conducted in this institute after its inauguration. Though it should be mentioned that in 2001 when BNP (Bangladesh National Party) came to power suddenly all activities of the institute was stopped. Political animosity was the main reason behind this. In 2010, when AL came to power they restarted everything all over again. To inquire about its present activities and future plans, this reporter paid a visit to the International Mother Language Institute in Shegun Bagicha recently. While entering the compound of the institute, one can see magnificent artwork, as the institute underwent some much needed facelift. But once the month of February is over, everything won’t remain as it is now, as has happened before. Speaking with this reporter, Deputy Director of the institute Jahangir Hossain cited the shortage of manpower as the prime reason behind the sluggish approach of the institute. “We need nearly a hundred employees and right now there are only nine of us. And out of the nine members, only three are officers. We have already submitted necessary papers to the education ministry, and we have been assured that very soon the required budget will be passed”

Allegations are rife that some of the employees got paid without doing anything. The institute is going to host an international language fair from Feburay 21 to 23. India will also participate at the fair. The institute has planned to host such kind of event throughout the rest of the year. A proposal for a Bangla website that can function as translator from Bangla to other language has also been submitted for approval.

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