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Sylheti Language Society

GOALS: To discuss the grammar of the *Sylheti language, developing lessons and teaching materials by practice teaching to other members of the society. Members are encouraged to each eventually teach (or co-teach) at least one lesson (but attendance to just learn and experience the Sylheti language is fine). This provides the opportunity to learn the Sylheti language and gain language teaching skills.

HISTORY: After an invitation from the director of the Surma Community Centre, Camden, during Endangered Languages Week presentations at SOAS in 2012, the SOAS Sylheti Project was created. For the past three years, SOAS linguistics students have participated in this extracurricular project to document Sylheti spoken by users of the Surma Centre. The SOAS MA Fieldmethods course has also worked with Sylheti speakers to document Sylheti grammar. Besides other sub-projects, the SOAS Sylheti Project is compiling a dictionary.

In order to involve Sylheti-speaking SOAS students (and Sylheti-speaking Londoners), the Sylheti Language Society was created. This Language Society hopes to be a collaborative teaching and learning experience to give a different analytic forum to Sylheti to be discussed as a language, not 'improper Bengali' (as it's called in most Bengali language courses where in London 6-8 out of 10 students are Sylheti origin). Teaching Sylheti is also an experience to put on a C.V. which may lead to translation/interpretation work here in the U.K.

*Sylheti is an Indo-Aryan language with Tibeto-Burman areal influences, spoken by a minority in northern Bangladesh and southern Assam, India, where it is often considered to be a mere 'dialect' of Bengali, or 'slang'. However, it is a language, with 400,000 speakers in the UK, who, for lack of documentation and teaching materials among other reasons, simply call it 'Bengali'.

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