Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A linguisitically disoriented nation?

Read Seth Mydans's Dili Journal to find out how East Timor is coping with a switch to Portuguese as the official language as it tries to get rid of its colonial tinge (read as Indonesian influence). Nobody seems to be bothered that Portugal was the first to colonise East Timor - I guess it's the lesser evil of the two. The problem arises from the the belief that Tetum - the other language spoken there - is seen as "thin and undeveloped". This move to purge Bahasa Indonesian has caused great chaos in the lives of 800,000 East Timorese of which only five per cent speak Portuguese. Thankfully, India didn't prove to be such a linguistic bigot in 1947 like East Timor.

I wonder how smooth the switch from the Arabic script to the Roman one was in Turkey? Or for that matter, closer home in Manipur, from the Bengali script to Meitei? Do these switches achieve any good other than making a political point? The above article quotes the example of Azerbaijan where a simple change in the alphabet, from Cyrillic to Roman, has created a new class of illiterates.


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