Preservation and promotion of Torwali language & culture

This campaign was started years back by youth, led by Aftab Ahmad.

Torwali is an endangered indigenous language of the Swat valley in Pakistan. It is among the 28 endangered languages of Pakistan, according to UNESCO.

Torwali is a Dardic language spoken by a community of about 80,000-100,000 in the idyllic valleys of the upper Swat district in north Pakistan. It is one of the Pakistan’s 28 ‘definitely endangered languages’ as categorized by UNSCO in its Atlas of World’s Languages in Danger.

In 2007 a team of community researchers led by the nominee started the work of its ‘preservation and promotion,’ by organizing their efforts in a local civil society organization Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT) or Institute for Education and Development. Since then the organization has been undertaking a number of revitalization initiatives targeting youth and children.


1. Designed a written script for Torwali.
2. Promoted its literacy among the children, youth and elderly women and men.
3. Revitalized the almost extinct culture of Torwali and its music.
4. Established mother tongue (Torwali) based multilingual education for the children of the minority language group, Torwali.
5. Engaged the youth for the promotion of the Torwali language and culture on social media.
6. Writing of books in and on Torwali language.
7. Documenting the oral traditions: poetry, folktales, etc.
8. Compiling dictionaries of Torwali with translation in Urdu and English.
9. Foster an identity based confidence among this marginalized and lesser known community.
10. Built confidence in the students.


A script was designed, based on research by linguists and researchers associated with SIL International.
Second, an alphabet book and primer were developed and printed.
Third, a course for mother tongue based (Torwali) multilingual education was developed.
Fourth, mother tongue based multilingual education schools for children were established.
Fifth, cultural festivals were celebrated.
Sixth, an adult literacy program in Torwali and Urdu for 2,000 women was implemented.
Seventh, two dictionaries (one for students and the other for general readers) were compiled.
Eighth, classic poetry of Torwali was collected and published in book form with Urdu translation.
Ninth, books of folktales and daily usage conversation were written and published.
Tenth, a robust campaign on social media was started.
Eleventh, music concerts were held.
Twelfth, Torwali music was rejuvenated and circulated in the community and among the outsiders.
Thirteenth, newspapers articles and reports were written.


The campaign was (is) innovative, as it has focused on community development through the tools of what the community already has in the form of indigenous language and culture.

It has fostered confidence among the people in their language and culture; and this has enhanced their status among the dominant language groups in Pakistan; and finally the campaign was based on identity based integrated community development.


1. The campaign has so far produced course books for primary school children in their own language and based on their culture.
2. It has given a sense of identity to the local people.
3. It has fostered a sense of pride among the students in their language and culture.
4. It has enhanced confidence among the Torwali diaspora and working class outside the area or Pakistan.
5. The campaign has motivated the youth to get organized and mobilized for their rights.
6. It has developed a knowledge base in the Torwali community for the coming generations.
7. It has provided a source of entertainment among the people.
8. It has developed intra-community peace.
9. The campaign has motivated the activists of the other minority language communities in Pakistan.
10. It has given room to the Torwali language in the discourse in the provincial government initiatives.
11. It has provided new arenas of research for the youth.


1. Designing the script was a challenge.
2. A standard orthography is still a challenge.
3. People's love for English was and is a challenge as they see it as the sole language of development and social status.
4. Government policy based on taking minority languages into consideration is a big challenge.
5. Writing the Torwali language on computers and online is still among the big challenges.
6. Issues in the software for writing this language.
7. Rigidity from some elements regarding the culture as they see it against the religion.
8. Language and culture are not among the top priorities among donors.
9. Lack of funds.
10. Extremism and militancy in the region, which has affected the campaign.
11. Te poverty and ignorance of the people.
12. An unwelcoming terrain,
13. Severe winter and migration from the area.
14. The floods of July 2010 in the area, which has diverted many of the campaign objectives.
15. Lack of local researchers and linguists.


1. Preservation and promotion of endangered languages is a difficult task.
2. Pakistan has yet to shed the colonial mindset.
3. Preservation and promotion of endangered languages is not possible unless it is connected with the overall development of the community.
4. A sense of identity can develop confidence among the people.
5. Children learn better and effectively in and through the language they speak at homes.
6. English is seen as the lever of development in Pakistan.
7. The mainstream media of Pakistan is not in favor of the lesser known languages.
8. Using mother tongues is a better tool to enhance education worldwide.
9. The women better learn other languages through their own languages.
10. Today there are millions of disadvantaged students whose language is not part of their schooling.
11. Drop-outs in schools rise if the language and culture of the children are not included in the course books
12. Children enjoy learning if it is in their own language.