[aka Torwālī, Turvali, Dardu]

Classification: Indo-European




Reversing Language Loss through an Identity Based Educational Planning: The Case of Torwali language

Educational planning in the indigenous minority linguistic communities needs a holistic approach wherein it is ensured that the people of the particular speech community or communities can integrate development of their language(s) with the general development of their communities. In Northern Pakistan over two dozens languages are spoken by the various ethno-linguistic communities. In a half of dozen of these speech communities work on the development of their languages started early 2002 which led to incorporating these languages in mother tongue based early childhood multilingual education programs in the respective communities. This paper presents an overview of one of these initiatives; the mother tongue based early childhood multilingual education in the Torwali language that is an Indo-Aryan language spoken in the upper beautiful parts of the Swat Valley in northwestern frontier province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan. The paper is an endeavor to look into this program which accompanied mother tongue education planning with an strengthening of identity; and and overall social development of the Torwali speech community.   Reversing Language Loss through an Identity Based Educational Planning—The Case of Torwali Torwali language: Introduction and Background According to Ethnologue (Hess, 2016) there are around 7,097 languages currently spoken in the world. Linguists estimate that by the end of this century, more than half of these 7000 plus spoken languages will go extinct resulting in loss of valuable scientific and cultural information. UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger , categorizes 2,473 languages into five levels of endangerment: Vulnerable – not spoken by children outside the home; Definitely Endangered – children no longer learn the language as mother tongue in the home; Severely Endangered – language is spoken by grandparents and older generations, while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves; Critically Endangered – the youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently; and Extinct. One of the 27 highly endangered languages of Pakistan listed in the same Atlas, is the language called Torwali, which because of not having written tradition and the fast “language shift” towards the predominant language Pashto in the areas, is rated definitely endangered. Torwali is a Dardic language of Indo-Aryan family mainly spoken in the Bahrain and Chail areas of District Swat in Northern Pakistan. The level of its endangerment can also be assessed by its small community of speakers which is approximately 80,000 (Wayne, 2001). A recent survey by Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT), however, found that a majority of 60 % of the respondents of the Torwali people count themselves more than 120,000 (Respondents, 2014). Close to half its speakers have migrated permanently to the bigger cities of Pakistan where their language is either being replaced by the national language Urdu, or by other languages of wider communication such as Pashto or Punjabi. The language Torwali is said to have originated from the pre-Muslim Dardic communities of Pakistan (Alian & Inam-ur-Rahim, 2002). The people or community speaking this language is called Torwalik or Torwal (Grierson, 1929). Like other Dardic communities the Torwalik have no idea of their origin, most of them relate themselves to either Arabs or Pashtuns. This can be due to the fact that no credible research has been done on the history of the Dardic people.

Zubair Torwali


Jan. 1, 2017