As a student learning about mass communication and language, I've spent the past year studying how language can shape our world. During this time, I've worked on research projects with friends, looking at how language is used in different popular media outlets like newspapers and TV. These projects have helped me understand how language can either include or exclude people and can sometimes be sensitive or hurtful to different groups based on things like gender, class, or where they come from. This has made me more conscious of how important language is.
Recently I came across a theory called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, a theory that argues that the language we use can shape the way we see the world, our culture, reality, and what we think. So, language is not just a tool for talking to each other; it's like a window that shows us how we understand the world. This is more than just having different languages; it means that different languages can create different social worlds.
Considering the fact that different languages possess different words and concepts which are alien to other languages. So while translating a language it is necessary to understand the words and its conception. Without deep understanding of words and concepts can lead to poor translation and misunderstanding. These misunderstandings not only affect our cognitions but can also create serious conflict in society.
For instance, recently in Pakhtunkhwa, Bannu region, some clerics turned against a government college professor named Sheer Ali for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution to his students. The issue is not highlighted in mainstream media however on social media many are discussing it. Yesterday he was forced to ask for a public apology for teaching it. The standpoint of the opposing view is that since Evolution Theory is against Islam it should not be taught to the students in college. This conflict does not fundamentally concern the compatibility of Islam with the Theory of Evolution; because there is no such a debate over it. However, it looks more like a problem of language limitation and deficit translation.
In Pashto and Urdu, languages commonly spoken in Pakistan, both "theory" and "ideology" are represented by the same word, "Nazriya." However, “theory” and “ideology” are not the same concepts. They may overlap in certain places but it is crucial to differentiate between these two concepts. Darwin's theory is a scientific construct grounded in research and evidence, which offers an explanation of how living organisms evolve over time.
In contrast, "ideology" refers to a set of beliefs followed by a group, often in politics or religion. But the confusion happened because both of these concepts got mixed up in one word when translated into Urdu. This creates a fear that perhaps Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is an alternative ideology which will compel the people to adopt a different way of life. While in reality Darwin’s theory is a scientific theory based on scientific research and can be debased if in future evidence against it were discovered scientifically.
But the translation of “theory” into “Nazriya” which confuses its meaning with ideology creates a situation of tension and conflict. Such misconceptions are not only limited to classroom and learnings of students but its consequences reach far beyond. It's a reflection of a broader problem, one that affects science and scientific theories across our society. A nation who can believe Agha Waqar’s water kit to run an engine obviously is not against science.
But the problem is not having enough language. We need a proper enough language to share ideas and knowledge more accurately. And most importantly while connecting different languages, we need to grasp the meanings behind the words.