Rare Language Specialist - Burushaski (Isolated)
Name: Zeenia Farhad
Nationality or Ethnicity: Pakistani
Where do you live?: Lahore, Pakistan
Rare Language: Brushaski
Language Family: Isolate Root Language
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I belong to Astore from my paternal side where as my maternal side is from Hunza. Both these regions are in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) has a very diverse culture, language being an integral part. There are a magnitude of languages being spoken in GB. My focus is on Brushaski (my mother tongue) language, which is dominantly spoken in Hunza. What makes brushaski an interesting case study is that it is classified as “language isolate”, meaning that this language is one of those few languages whose origins have still not been discovered. It is a unique language with no written script and is passed on to the next generation verbally. Brushaski language is very common amongst my family members and cousins due to which I was exposed to it at a very young age.
2. Do you face difficulties in practising this rare language? How often would you get the chance to practice it?
I have a large clan and due to it, I get to speak this language on a daily basis. After my marriage I moved out of my home town and shifted to Lahore. Even though I don’t get to speak this language with my in laws, my language structure has been perfected over the age and I can converse fluently when I need to.
3. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking such a unique language?
Speaking Brushaski makes me feel part of an ancient and unique culture. This culture is my identity and I am proud of it. It gives me immense joy when I converse in this language, makes me feel like I am home again.
4. Are measures being taken to help preserve this rare language?
Brushaski is a complex language with many grammatical rules. There is no script hence, making documentation very difficult. Currently a lot of research has been done on this language and dictionaries along with an informal script is being created. Various books with brushaski idioms and phrases have been published for people who wish to learn. In Hunza, children’s animated movies are dubbed in Brushaski for the children so that they learn quickly.
5. Do you fear that this language may become moribund, perhaps extinct?
Times are evolving and now English as well as Mandarin are popular in Hunza! Even though there is a very large population that speaks brushaski, unfortunately it’s being diluted with Urdu words as well as other native languages. Even though I believe that this language will not go extinct, I fear that it will mutate into a new modern dialect and loose its uniqueness
6. What is your message to young people who wish to learn this language?
My message to the younger lot is to spend as much time possible with your elders (grandparents) and converse with them. The version of brushaski that they speak is different and more original than what we speak now. By conversing we can improve our vocabulary and become fluent