Preservation Endangered Languages in Badakhshan Afghanistan

University of Central Asia’s Cultural Heritage and Humanities Unit conducted a project with the partnership of Pamirs Eco-Cultural Tourism Association (PECTA) Institute of Humanities of Khorog (IH) and AKF Afghanistan funded by the British Council and AKF UK on the preservation and documentation of Endangered Languages in Badakhshan Afghanistan. The project focused on preserving the most endangered Pamiri languages spoken in Afghanistan (Rushani, Wakhi, Ishkashimi, and Sangilechi). Due to ongoing conflict and instability, these languages have not been studied to the extent of those in Tajikistan, and the majority still lack a written script. They are now considered to be severely endangered (UNESCO 2017). Sangilechi, for instance, has only 1,500 speakers left. CHHU together with its partners, began the project in February 2019 to document and disseminate these ancient languages before they and the inherent cultural knowledge and unique historical wealth are lost forever by developing mobile dictionaries and online platforms.

CHHU and IH initiated the data collection for the dictionaries in spring of 2019. IH designed and implemented a workshop to teach local volunteers in Rushan, Ishkashim, Wakhan and Shughnan to record and collect samples of the languages and correctly translate them into Dari. IH and 45 volunteers travelled to villages across Badakhshan in Afghanistan to meet with individuals who spoke the languages and collect enough information to develop databases. Once completed, a mobile application developer worked with IH to turn the databases into online/offline applications for android, iOS and the web.

CHHU also worked closely with PECTA to collect materials on historical and cultural sites. The information was developed into a tourism pamphlet and a series of tourism masterclasses. The pamphlet along with several short videos will be used to help promote local tourism in Afghan Badakhshan.

In the final phase of the project, CHHU plans to share the applications with the local communities as well as create a Facebook page and a YouTube channel where videos and updates can be shared. CHHU will monitor these pages and share any proposed updates with IH to add to the dictionaries. This will also serve as a platform for individuals outside of the communities to learn and understand the local culture.

UCA Project Coordinator Dawood Pazhman, performs a song at the PECTA Tourism and Cultural Masterclass in Rushan

UCA Project Coordinator Dawood Pazhman, performs a song at the PECTA Tourism and Cultural Masterclass in Rushan

Participants at the PECTA Tourism and Cultural Masterclass in Shughnan brainstorming ideas for potential tourism activities.

Participants at the PECTA Tourism and Cultural Masterclass in Shughnan brainstorming ideas for potential tourism activities.

UCA
British Council
Department for Digital, Culture Media & Sport
Aga Khan Foundation