Facebook’s recognition of Chakma as our second language and Bangladesh’s road to inclusiveness

When I was growing up, I had a high amount of fascination towards the Indian people. I’ve seen them switching flawlessly between Hindi, some other types of Hindi (to my young, incomprehensive mind) and Bengali in television and films- and for a long time, I thought it was Bollywood requirement. My mum found out, laughed at me for a few seconds, then explained to me how unlike Bangladesh, India has a lot of languages (22 to be specific) running around. 

It took me 10 years after that incident to find out those other siblings of Bengali we don’t talk about. A few years more to know that we have around 18 more languages spoken around the country that most of us haven’t even heard of.

Baby steps on the way to progress

In the past few years, the situation seems to have elevated a little bit in the national level. We got pre-primary and primary books in Chakma, Marma and Mro language, we got Mro fables on print in the book fair just this year.

Facebook's recognition of Chakma as a second language and Bangladesh's road to inclusiveness

Read more: The story of Non-Bangalis in Bangladesh and the book that rescues them

Also not very long ago, two students took it upon themselves to contact Google and Microsoft so that they upgrade their system enough to use Chakma language for operating websites. They also developed an operation called ‘Easy Chakma Keyboard”, which helps the user write in Chakma alphabet (in Gboard) on iPhones, Android and Windows devices.

Another student has developed a Santali Wikipedia page which ended up being a collaborative project of Santals from Nepal, India along with Bangladesh.

The newest addition

The newest addition to our crown of progress has been added just a few days ago, as the same students who worked behind the “Easy Chakma Keyboard” started to contact Facebook for the past year and the authority finally included Chakma as the other language from Bangladesh.

“Facebook did not notify us about the latest update in which Chakma language has been added to its language and region option. We have noticed it ourselves recently,”

Jyoti Chakma also added.
Facebook's recognition of Chakma as a second language and Bangladesh's road to inclusiveness

Now, the entire Chakma population from around the world can express themselves in their own tongue- thanks to Facebook and the GBoard in Chakma. 

Jyoti also stated that their next step is to introduce Chakma language to Google translator.

Even though most of these initiatives are private-funded, personal projects, they seem to point at how we are growing to be a bit more inclusive of our own culture day by day. After all, since the movement to establish the reputation of our own mother tongue started Bangladesh’s journey, it’s only fair to include all Bangladeshi’s mother tongue to it.

Things to consider while learning a new language

All of us at some point in our lives do consider learning a new language. Maybe it’s because you want to study abroad or to boost up your resume or simply because of your K-pop fandom. Whatever the reason may be, the idea of becoming bilingual or a multilingual speaker does have its perks. But nothing in life comes that easy. I came across many people who worked every day to be fluent in their target language. So, before you start learning do consider these things that can help you along the road.

Say goodbye to Google translator:

Things to consider while learning a new language

“It is a bad idea to use it, especially for us Bengali speaking people. Every language has its own complexities, be it for grammatical structure or word stock, and Google translator, as a system, cannot comprehend it all. I found bizarre Spanish translations, but in Bengali, it’s even worse” says Nusrat Maati a former student of Institute of modern languages (IML).

Try using a pocket dictionary or a dictionary app instead. It helps to get the proper translation along with a variety of examples. Apps like Duolingo, FluentU, Memrise are great for practice because of their interactive features. So, don’t be lazy and install away.

Try to accept the language barriers:

Things to consider while learning a new language

It’s crucial to bear in mind that each language has its own attributes. Things get super easy when we find similarities but can get twice as much hard when there aren’t any. So don’t get overwhelmed when you see new things that are absent in your native language.

French and Spanish languages are generally gender based. Every object is either masculine or feminine which makes it hard for a non-native speaker to differentiate between them. It can get quite frustrating at the beginning for some.

Watch Movies, TV shows, Talk shows, and YouTube Tutorials:

Things to consider while learning a new language

Developing your listening ability at the beginning is the right way to go. Many language learning methods focus on very strict listening activities. To make your listening activities fun try watching shows or movies with subtitles. Also, like always YouTube can offer you many basic language tutorials.

“Watching movies did help me a lot. It automatically helped me enrich my vocabulary, learned how native speakers communicate and helped to develop a better accent. Plus, it was a good source of entertainment too” says Marjuka Afzal currently doing her diploma at Alliance Franceas De Dhaka.

Be committed:

Things to consider while learning a new language

Commitment is very important. Never take your language classes for granted. If you want to learn properly make sure you don’t miss out on classes on a regular basis. And if you are leaning at home don’t take long gaps in between. Dedicate 2/4 hours weekly for practice.

“Continuity should be the primary concern. I remember missing out on quite a few classes back to back on sentence making and grammatical structure. Later when I went back after a gap I was not able to catch up.” Says another student of IML Noor Uddin Saikat.

Don’t just memorize without context:

bookworms HiFi Public

Even if you get long verb lists from class or the Internet. Don’t just memorize random words at once because language is a matter of processing. Start with the very basic daily used words and try making sentences with them.

“When we learned new German words, we primarily were given pictures. Started with naming the things in the classroom, or grocery shopping list, or a trip to the airport. We hardly ever needed to memorize” says Trishna Mutsuddy a former student of Gothe institute.

Communication is a must:

Things to consider while learning a new language

No matter how many lessons you take or how many audiobooks you practice. None of this will do you any good unless you converse with people. If you are already taking classes in your target language, talk among your classmates. If you are learning on your own, find someone who is a better speaker than you. One hour of conversational practice with a person helps you more than doing five classes.

It will take hours and hours of awkward and embarrassing conversations before you learn to speak without errors. “I remember once our Spanish instructor asked my age. And I accidentally said that I was 109 years old” says a Yoga teacher Shahnaz Sultana.

According to Jaime Cossa, a language Instructor at IML, the ability to master a language differs from person to person. For an average person, it can take 6 months to a year to do very basic communication. But it wholly depends on your motivation and the effort you put to it. If you are willing to make this commitment there are many places in the city from where you can get a degree. For each level, it may cost you around 8-10 thousand Taka minimum depending on the place and course you take. However, if you don’t have the time for that, consider learning at home. Purchase audiobooks, dictionaries and use all the online sources you find that can help you along the way. It may seem like a lengthy process now but the benefits you get afterwards are countless.