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Interview with

Mujahid Torwali

Rare Language Specialist - Torwali (Indo-Iranian)

Name: Mujahid Torwali
Nationality or Ethnicity: Pakistani, Torwali
Where do you live?: Currently in Sydney doing my PhD
Representative of rare language: Torwali

Member since:


1. What’s your story? How did you get exposed to this rare language?

My journey with my mother tongue ’Torwali’ began when I was in my mother’s lap. Torwali is the language of my childhood as I am a native speaker from the Torwali community in Swat valley, North, Pakistan. Growing up in this region, Torwali was the language spoken at home and in the community. My passion for preserving and promoting the language was ignited when I was in school, I realized that Torwali really should be the language of education as we were getting even the primary education in languages other than Torwali. In my teenage, I was worried that my mother tongue will disappear once it couldn’t compete the challenges it faces in the modern world. My formal education and subsequent work as a language an independent researcher and the work I have done with IBT, a civil society organization, further deepened my commitment to this cause. Through my academic and professional endeavours, I aim to document, revive, and promote Torwali to ensure it remains vibrant for future generations.

I am the first Torwal with an official second name ‘Torwali’

2. How would you describe the efforts being made, at the civil, social, and governmental languages, to preserve this language?

Efforts to preserve the Torwali language are diverse and complex. Historically, researchers in the 19th century began documenting the language primarily for missionary purposes, but these efforts were short-lived and did not endure over time. The first survey was done by Jhon Biddulph in 1980 and the second linguistic work was done by Grierson in 1929. Currently individuals like me are interested to documents and preserve the language but they don’t have enough support from local and international communities. A civil society level, organizations like IBT have been instrumental in documenting the language, developing orthography, and creating educational materials, I was one of the founding members of IBT. Social initiatives include community-driven projects to celebrate and promote Torwali culture through festivals, folk music, and traditional arts. Governmental support, although limited, has seen some positive steps such as recognizing the language in regional dialogues and supporting mother tongue-based literacy programs. However, there is a need for more comprehensive policies and resources to effectively support these efforts.

Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT), with whom I have long been a researcher, have been conducting studies of Torwali and produced a trilingual Torwali, Urdu, English dictionary to which I contributed, I also authored as Torwali Urdu-English Daily Usage Conversation Guide (Mujahid 2015), other IBT publications include several works of poetry, a collection of folk stories, primary school resources (maths, science, literature) and an autobiography of Jinnah

3. How often do you get the chance to use this language in your daily life?

Most of the times as even I dream in Torwali but currently Living in Sydney, I have fewer opportunities to use Torwali in daily conversations compared to when I was in Swat. However, I make a conscious effort to speak Torwali with my son, Azaan, and stay connected with my community back home through digital platforms. Additionally, my research work and interactions with fellow linguists provide opportunities to discuss and promote the language.

4. How do you aim to preserve this language? What efforts are required?

Preserving the Torwali language requires a combination of documentation, education, and community engagement along with the support from the state. My aim is to continue documenting the language through research and publications, developing educational resources like textbooks and dictionaries, and integrating Torwali into the local education system. The political leaders and the community representative should raise their voices in the parliament and nationally assembly of Pakistan for the minority languages. Efforts also include promoting cultural activities that highlight the language and collaborating with local and international organizations to gain support. Sustained advocacy and funding are crucial to ensure these initiatives have a lasting impact.

5. What is your message to young people who wish to learn this language?

So far, I did not see any interesting case where people need to learn the Torwali language as in Pakistan we have this issue of colonised mindset where everyone wants to learn English. But if someone wants to learn, I am always available with all the required resources to teach them. To young people who wish to learn Torwali, I would say: Embrace the journey of learning your heritage language with pride and curiosity. Your efforts to learn and use Torwali contribute to preserving a unique cultural identity and history. Engage with elders and community members, participate in cultural activities, and utilize available resources to enhance your language skills. Remember, every word you learn, and share helps keep the language alive for future generations. The more languages you speak the more successful and the more talented you are.

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