Home Letters Caribbean universities should preserve and teach Caribbean Bhojpuri languages
Universities in the Caribbean contain language units, centres or departments, some of which teach Hindi, the traditional language of about one million persons of Asian Indian descent in the region.
However, the Hindi that is taught is standard Hindi. None of the local varieties unique to the Caribbean are taught. University curricula should include subjects such as Sarnami Hindustani, Trinidad Bhojpuri, or Guyanese Bhojpuri, the last of which is an important part of Guyanese culture and heritage, which should be preserved and taught.
Guyanese Bhojpuri is a Creole language spoken in Guyana mainly by the elderly descendants of Indian indentured labourers who came to the former British colony between 1838 and 1917. Guyana Bhojpuri has been studied by numerous scholars, such as Surendra Gambhir, Rajiv Mohabir, Rakesh Rampertab and Rajendra Saywack. This initiative is crucial, especially as Guyana is commemorating 185 years since the first arrival of Indians to the country.
Teaching Guyanese Bhojpuri ensures the survival of an important aspect of the Indo-Guyanese identity, once stifled by the colonialists. Including it as university courses will foster a living connection to Guyana’s history and the struggles and triumphs of its people.
Structured lessons in Guyanese Bhojpuri would ensure that future generations can understand and appreciate this fundamental part of the country’s heritage. It has its own unique vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, distinguishing it from other languages spoken in Guyana.
A fluent generation will enrich the linguistic diversity of Guyana while promoting multilingualism and cultural continuity. Speaking and understanding Guyanese Bhojpuri would be a source of pride for members of the Indian diaspora, and it may even strengthen their sense of identity and belonging. Including it in the curriculum would be an additional step towards celebrating Guyana’s cultural diversity.
If you know anyone who still speaks Trinidad or Guyanese Bhojpuri, please contact me at [email protected] or WhatsApp: +1-868-756-4961.
Dr Kumar Mahabir,
Trinidad and Tobago,