Monday, May 16, 2005

On Being "Saahib-e-ZubaaN"

I posted the following:

after I created a tag on the English Wikipedia to identify users who are "Native Speakers" of Urdu. That drew at least one very appropriate comment, one that leads to a very interesting discussion about the phrase I used in Urdu for native speakers: "Saahib-e-Zubaan-e-Urdu". Here's what I replied to a comment on that post:

This is ... only specifically for users of the English-language edition of the Wikipedia, (a free and open encyclopedia). Just that one version of that one project.

Secondly, we need to get out of the ethnic designation and all the chauvinism associated with it. The purpose of this label and all the others like it that are listed at the link I proivded is to help identify the level of competency of various users with the languages they know. But even if you do want to address the wider issue, and this is as good a time and as good a forum as any to do that, the most appropriate meaning of "Saahib-e-Zabaan" (and, when you think about it, the literal meaning) is about the same as the meaning that the Wikpedia itself has for a "Native Speaker" of any language (not just Urdu, any language):

"if you're a native speaker or have a grasp of the language comparable to a native speaker".

For example, I consider myself just such a native speaker of English. In fact, if you really got down to brass tacks, my competency with English is higher my skill with Urdu. On the other hand, if you stayed with the chauvinistic ethnic classification, I could very well be smug in my links to Lucknow and Allahabad and call myself much more Saahib-e-Zabaan than say, Faiz Ahmed Faiz or Ahmed Faraz--or even Iqbal. (Allah mu'aaf karay for even entertaining the thought!)


PS: Please see: for a discussion of the actual Wikipedia project in Urdu.

1 comment:

she said...

hi faqeer -
am fascinated by urdu in all forms. especially ghazals. and this is a very interesting blog. i hope you wriite more about the poetry and ghazals. though am more acquainted with the usual popular stuff. would love to learn about everything else, too!