The Lan­guage Bar­rier

Slogan - - EDITOR’S DESK - Javed An­sari

While the lan­guage for which TV chan­nels in Pak­istan get broad­cast­ing li­cences is Urdu (and not English or any other lan­guage) it seems more TV pro­grammes these days are switch­ing to Pun­jabi as a dom­i­nant lan­guage. A bit of Pun­jabi here and there cre­ates viewer in­ter­est, es­pe­cially the hu­mour, which of­fers great en­ter­tain­ment and is al­ways wel­come. But it is ex­tended chunks in these pro­grammes that are broad­cast in Pun­jabi – and no other lan­guage – and are thus not un­der­stood or en­joyed by a whole sec­tion of view­ers.

The pro­duc­ers and pre­sen­ters of these pro­gram­mers can do well to at least trans­late the Pun­jabi into more in­tel­li­gi­ble Urdu to en­able a greater num­ber of view­ers to un­der­stand and en­joy what is be­ing said. For ex­am­ple, when Az­izi, the main char­ac­ter in Hasb e Haal on Du­niya TV, jokes in Pun­jabi, he comes across as wholly adorable and his pre­sen­ta­tion style drives one into fits of laugh­ter in any case. How­ever, when he does a spoof on a par­tic­u­lar char­ac­ter in Pun­jabi, things come to a point when they be­come dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand be­cause the Pun­jabi is too dense and be­yond the vo­cab­u­lary range or un­der­stand­ing thresh­old of such view­ers who do not un­der­stand Pun­jabi. One of Az­izi’s favourites is the Queen of Eng­land. He as­sumes the char­ac­ter of the old queen but she is al­ways a Pun­jabi – and one whose char­ac­ter­i­za­tion or hu­mourous lines are dif­fi­cult to fol­low if one does not speak and wholly un­der­stand the lan­guage. Per­haps do­ing the char­ac­ter in any other lan­guage would not of­fer the same depth of hu­mour while Urdu does not of­fer the kind of funny pos­si­bil­i­ties that Pun­jabi does. A good al­ter­na­tive would per­haps then be for the pro­gramme host to trans­late in some way what is orig­i­nally be­ing said.

There are other ex­am­ples as well, such as cer­tain char­ac­ters in Khabar­nak and Mazaq Raat who make quips in Pun­jabi. That must be truly hi­lar­i­ous con­tent, con­sid­er­ing the laugh­ter it evokes from most of the stu­dio au­di­ence but the gig­gles need wider dis­per­sal and that is some­thing the pro­duc­ers and the chan­nels need to think about. Even in se­ri­ous pro­grammes, such as Aa­pas ki Baat on Geo TV, Na­jam Sethi per­haps in­stinc­tively re­sorts to Pun­jabi when he is in his el­e­ment be­cause that is his mother tongue and he is not even aware of it un­til the an­chor, Mu­nib Fa­rooq, prompts him to speak in Urdu.

Con­sid­er­ing that Pun­jabi is a ma­jor lan­guage in Pak­istan and though it is not the na­tional lan­guage but it is still spo­ken and un­der­stood by over sixty per­cent peo­ple, it would be a good idea to have whole TV pro­grammes ex­clu­sively in Pun­jabi. There is also the op­tion for the reg­u­la­tors to al­lot whole slots to the pre­sen­ta­tion of pro­grammes in Pun­jabi. This would al­low all those who love this lan­guage to ex­press them­selves more openly and to pro­mote the par­tic­u­lar qual­ity of hu­mour that every Pun­jabi is so proud of. It would fur­ther help if such pro­grammes could then be ren­dered into other ma­jor Pak­istani lan­guages to ex­pand their en­ter­tain­ment value.

There is also a need to have TV pro­grammes in other lan­guages that are widely spo­ken and un­der­stood in the coun­try. Urdu, as the na­tional lan­guage, may be the uni­fy­ing fac­tor and is cer­tainly the lin­gua franca, but other lan­guages have their own place and are greatly pop­u­lar both in their own ar­eas and across the coun­try. A pro­vi­sion was made when li­cences were given out to pri­vate TV chan­nels to en­cour­age the set­ting up of chan­nels cater­ing to the Sindhi, Pashto, Pun­jabi, Seraiki and Balochi lan­guages. Some of these re­gional chan­nels have be­come quite suc­cess­ful over the years and have good au­di­ence fol­low­ings. How­ever, there is none among these chan­nels that can com­pete with a chan­nel with a na­tional view­er­ship and the eco­nom­ics or the reach of the re­gional chan­nels does not make this an eco­nom­i­cally at­trac­tive propo­si­tion in any event. In such a sce­nario, the best al­ter­na­tive would be to al­lo­cate cer­tain slots on the main chan­nels to the re­gional lan­guages so that they can broad­cast pro­grammes in these lan­guages. At the same time, while there is a need to de­ter Urdu lan­guage pro­grammes from in­cor­po­rat­ing other lan­guages in their con­tent be­yond a cer­tain min­i­mum per­cent­age, when­ever such con­tent does make its in­roads, it should be duly trans­lated so that a wider au­di­ence can en­joy it.

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