POST TIME: 21 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Feb 21 stirs emotion in foreign hearts
Mir Arshadul Hoque

Feb 21 stirs emotion in foreign hearts

Many former colonies were forced to use the occupant’s language and gradually adopted it as their own. But Bengalis are exceptional in this respect as they willingly lay down their lives to preserve their mother tongue. This was noted by Fartun Abdullahi Salad, who is not a native Bengali, but a resident of faraway Somalia. She is now learning Bangla in Institute of Modern Language (IML) of Dhaka University(DU). She was sharing her feelings with The Independent on the eve of 21 February, which is being obsrved throughout the world as International Mother Language Day. Like Fartun, 12 foreign students are learning Bangla in IML of DU. They have come here for different purposes such as education, business, research and jobs.

“No one can force anyone to use their language. I heard about 21 February after coming to Bangladesh. I came to know about those heroes who sacrificed their lives for the language of their ancestors,” said Montgumarly Phimba, who is from Malawi. Another student at IML, Octavian Retegan, has come from Romania. “I love Bangladeshi people and their language. I’d like to show respect to those heroes,” he said.

“When one can sacrifice his/her life for mother tongue, it’s imaginable how deep passion ran. I’m learning Bangla as I want to feel the voice of the people,” said Ashley Retegon, who has come from all the way from the US.

Kim Ke Yeon from South Korea is also learning Bangla at IML. “I understand the passion of 21 February. When we were under the Japanese regime, we had to use the Japanese language. I know that once Pakistan tried to force Bengali people into using Urdu instead of Bangla. I respect the fight of the Bengali people to ascertain their right for their language. So, I have an emotional connection with Bangladesh and 21 February,” he said. All these students will perform the song “Amar bhaier rokte rangano ekushe February” and other Bangla numbers today. They will also recite Bangla poems in a programme organised by the Bangla department of DU on the premises of the Arts Faculty to show their love and respect for the Bangla language.

Some foreign students are also learning Bangla in the BRAC Institute of Language (BIL) of  BRAC university and in the Bangla Language Institute (BLI) of Independent University , Bangladesh, (IUB), even though their number is not very high.

 Foreign students face difficulties

 Not many foreign students learn Bangla in Bangladesh as they face difficulties in getting admitted to IML and similar institutes.

Rupa Chakrabarty, assistant professor of the Bangla department in DU and chairperson of the IML Bangla chapter, said most foreign students are discouraged by the complex admission process and the unwelcoming approach shown by the authorities concerned. “I have received nearly 100 mails from foreign students, who are interested in learning Bangla for different purposes. But when I explain to them the admission procedure, they lose their interest,” she added.

For getting admission to IML, a foreign student has to get a ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) from Bangladesh. For this, the student must wait for clearance from the embassy, the foreign ministry, the education ministry, and the DU authorities. Sometimes this whole process takes one year.

“Once we had nearly 40 foreign students in IML who were learning Bangla. But after the mutiny in Pilkhana headquarters of Bangladesh Rifles, the authorities have tightened the admission process for foreign students. This has contributed to the loss of a significant number of students,” said Chakrabarty.

“For this complexity in admission, foreign students are going to India to learn Bangla. That’s not good news for us,” she added. Sharmi Barua, a teacher of IML’s Bangla chapter, echoed Rupa Chakrabarty. “We’re losing our foreign students because of the long admission process. While other countries are providing facilities for foreign students, we’re only de-motivating them.” Dhaka University vice-chancellor Prof. Akhtaruzzaman said: “We’ll try to reduce the complexity in the admission process for foreign students in future. We must also spread Bangla through our missions in different countries.”