Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dhivehi and International Mother Language Day


On 21 February, the world will be celebrating the 10th International Mother Language Day. The Day is an especially promising opportunity to recall what is at stake for Dhivehi.

The threat:

Dhivehi is among the 350 odd languages in the world with over 100,000 native speakers. And like the vast majority of those languages, Dhivehi also faces significant threats to its survival. According to experts, some telltale signs of a language under threat include youngsters preferring to speak in other languages and mixing it with other languages. These two signs are clearly visible with regard to Dhivehi. To counter this however, Dhivehi has an important survival advantage: Its status as the official language of Maldives.

Disappearing from bookshelves and CD stores:

In the 90s it was common to see young office girls reading Binma Waheed and Nahla's stories. Not anymore. Dhivehi novels have all but disappeared from offices and even bookshops. The leading publisher in the Maldives, Novelty, no longer publishes Dhivehi novels because they are not profitable.

The story is similar with Dhivehi music. Nearly 90% of songs stocked by music shops are English and Hindi CDs. The classical Dhivehi songs of the 70s and 80s have all but disappeared except in the series of 'E-Handhaan' CDs produced by Voice of Maldives.

The disdain shown by the current generation of Maldivians to Dhivehi literature is also reflected in student attitudes towards teaching Dhivehi at school. For nearly all students their most hated subject is the compulsorily taught Dhivehi language.

Why Dhivehi matters:

So the question is should we allow Dhivehi die a slow a death? Definitely not. Dhivehi language is absolutely vital to the identity of Maldivians as a people and Maldives as a country, because it is the only feature we all share and which few others have. It is a strategic factor in our advances towards sustainable development and the harmonious coordination of our affairs.

Far from being a field reserved for writers, Dhivehi lies at the heart of all social, economic and cultural life. Dhivehi does matter to all of us. It matters when we want to promote cultural diversity, and fight illiteracy, and it matters for quality education, including teaching in the first years of schooling. It matters in the fight for greater social inclusion, for creativity, economic development and safeguarding indigenous knowledge.

What can be done to develop and preserve Dhivehi

Make Dhivehi more computer friendly:

  • Develop a spell checker program. For this the National Center must first develop guidelines for breaking down sentences into distinct words.
  • Develop more fonts for different uses, for example large sizes for use on bill boards; mobile phone fonts etc.

Make Dhivehi more student friendly:

  • Eliminate advanced literary forms such as 'raivaru' from school syllabi and make the lessons more interesting.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Waheed, sir. I mean Dr. WahEEEEEEd! I thought you are a little more sensible than this. Sir, with all due respect, I think you need to learn a thing or two about the economics of maintaining a unique language and script for only 300,000 people.

Let me give you a list of things we ought to do away with.
1. our army (so many countries around the world who are much bigger than us dont have armies)
2. language
3. script (thaan)
4. The idea of forcibly imposing Islam on people (making Islam a constitutional requirement)
5. Living in 195 islands (for a people of 300,000 the max number we can have is 3 islands).

salam
Raajjetherey soru

Anonymous said...

Dr. waheed i think the best way to promote our language (DHIVEHI)would be about writing the importance of it in ENGLISH on your blog as u did. Thanks for your parodoxical approach towards the belittling of our mother tongue.

Mike Abraham said...

i totally agree with your point.. i as a former student wished on a way to get a way from those advanced aspects of dhivehi like raivaru...

i mean do we need those??
is it necessary for us to obtain our pass grade in dhivehi?
wel, some mite want to do that.. bt let that be a subject called dhivehi literature and give them the all those terminologies..
i believe it happens likewise in ENglish language..
for those who are interested in english and poems and stuff has a choice to choose literature..

Abdullah Waheed's Blog said...

To Anon 1:22 AM.
Actually i prefer to write in Dhivehi, but am not able to do that on the web becasue of technical difficulties. Almost all of my printed articles in magazines and newspapers are in Dhivehi. The suggestion to make Dhivehi more computer friendly is based on personal experience.

naaz said...

If novelty is no longer publishing dhivehi books, then who is? Maldivians who wish to write in dhivehi, have no way of getting their books published, can we all have our own publishing houses? This is the reason that I have 5 novels written in Dhivehi, three of which national awards thrown away, because there is noone interested in publishing it and I dont have the time to run around for sponsors and go through the obstacles of getting a dhivehi book published in our language.
I wonder about the plight of other dhivehi writers in this plight too.

naaz said...

If novelty is no longer publishing dhivehi books, then who is? Maldivians who wish to write in dhivehi, have no way of getting their books published, can we all have our own publishing houses? This is the reason that I have 5 novels written in Dhivehi, three of which won national awards thrown away, because there is noone interested in publishing it and I dont have the time to run around for sponsors and go through the obstacles of getting a dhivehi book published in our language.
I wonder about the plight of other dhivehi writers ..so much for promting the mother language!!.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Waheed, sir. I want to add one item to my previous list of things that we should abolish.

6. Having a majlis comprising of 70 odd members. (it shouldnt be more than 20 in our case)


so the final list would go something like this. Sir, I know you wont agree with me on this. But i honestly dont believe that we could continue to spend on the way we are spending on frivolous things now. This country is going bankrupt. if we want this country to be a viable, sovereign nation that doesnt have to go around the world begging for aid, this is the only way to go.

1. our army (so many countries around the world who are much bigger than us dont have armies)
2. language
3. script (thaan)
4. The idea of forcibly imposing Islam on people (making Islam a constitutional requirement)
5. Living in 195 islands (for a people of 300,000 the max number we can have is 3 islands).
6. Having a majlis comprising of 70 odd members. (it shouldn't be more than 20 in our case)
rajjetherye soru

faisal said...

Dhivehi as a language has not evolved as fast as its users have. Maldivians of all ages have seen significant developments in all areas, but are stuck with a way to express them due to the lack of words in Dhivehi- hence the mix of dhivehi with english. Dhivehi needs to be modernized. It is not unpatriotic and nor will we lose our identity as Dhivhin.
BTW who will come up with a more socially acceptable alternative to 'Kaley' (you)?

Anonymous said...

An official of Gaumee Marukaz said our language,Dhivehi will be extinct in 300 years. I suggest,we should prepare for this day.

Anonymous said...

Dhivehi is doomed.It is a pathetic, poor language,nay a dialect of old Singhalese. We are trying to save what cannot be saved.Can we save the dinosaurs?Let the Government declare that our official language as from 2010 January 1st will be English.

Anonymous said...

To faisal @ 9:33 pm, i totally agree.
BTW,here are some alternatives to Kaley (you):
-Kalaa
-Thibaa
-Theena
-Theethi
-Thilhai
-Thi Alhaa
-Thi Ethigandu
-Thi golaa

Anonymous said...

Dr. Waheed, I have a facebook group dedicated to the dhivehi language - http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5752994038. i am a linguistics student and it saddens me that dhivehi is dying. My question to you sir, is, is there a specific Dhivehi Language Day or does it come under International Mother Language Day? and if there isn't, could we please create a Dhivehi Language Day to honour and respect this beautiful language?

Abdullah Waheed's Blog said...

to anon 11.39. I don't think there is a Dhivehi day separately. it's a good idea to lobby for one.

Anonymous said...

i also don't think a day is actually long enough, a week would be better, as we can have several exhibits and other educational things at venues likes schools and dharubaaruge which is open to public.

how do we go about lobbying for such a week?

Bryce said...

I agree that the Dhivehi language should be preserved. Did you that Dhivehi has a Wiki Browser? Check it out: ދިވެހިބަސް wiki browser

lafwa said...

hello sir! I am lafwa! studying in Sri lanka i am doing a project about Maldivian Language! First i had to find a problem then make a solution for it and then to design an ad campaign! I considered that Maldivian Language has been disappearing day by day! I have done surveys too!! But i need more information about this problem because you will know better than me!! Please help me!