Learn Newari on your phone

December 25, 2017 10:08 AM Nasana Bajracharya

One of the growing and evident concerns among the Newar community is that many youngsters nowadays have a hard time understanding, speaking and especially writing Newari language. Some understand the language but are unable to make a proper two-way conversation. And even those who do speak Newari, they do not know how to write the language. 

Nepali or English language has become more common choices as a medium of conversation among youngsters. And the lack of use of Nepal Bhasa font in social media has not helped in the language’s promotion either. But to change this and help in the learning as well as promotion of Newari language, a new language application was launched on December 16. 

‘Nepal Lipi—Type Newa’ is a mobile application that helps users type a word or a sentence in Prachilit Lipi, one of the scripts used to write Newari language. However, one cannot directly type the word in English keyboard; you need to have Devanagari font to type your word, which is then converted into Prachilit Lipi using Newa unicode. The app also has tutorial videos that teach users how to write Newari language; starting from vowels and alphabets.

The app gives its users a red canvas (default background) to write on. Users will have the freedom to change the background color and the font color too. The written word(s) can be resized as well as rescaled on x and y axes. One can also choose to type over an image of their choice and stickers as well as emoticons can also be used to get even more creative. Once you are satisfied, you can press save and the canvas gets saved in your phone memory as an image file. The image file can then be uploaded to any social networking sites to update/post your views, thoughts and comments like any other image file.

The application was developed by Pawan Raja Maharjan while it was conceptualized and illustrated by Ananda K Maharjan. Pawan started developing the app about one month ago using Android Studio, but Ananda said the application had been a topic of discussion for more than two years. He sat down with Nepal Lipi Guthi team several times and finalized the font ‘Aakha’, used in the app.

They first made a small video showing how to type in Nepal Bhasa while converting words typed in Nepali, and it got a good response. It took another set of meetings with sticker designers before he started integrating the font and stickers in the app to spread the word. 

Pawan and Ananda shared that they were also the beneficiaries of the app. They said they were not fluent in writing Newari, but learnt to write the language better while developing the font and videos. They are working on ways to make the typing and user experience even better. Ananda also shared that he was planning to introduce a similar app in Ranjana Lipi and was currently taking classes for the same. 

Like Viber and WhatsApp, the app comes with stickers of some popular phrases in ‘Newa Stickers’ and other Newari characters in integrated sets namely ‘Bauchao Maicha’, ‘Maicha Wo Baucha’, ‘Bhaju Mayaju’, ‘Intu Mintu’ and ‘Yomha Bhaju’. “Ever since I learned about the app, I had been eagerly waiting for its release. The best thing about the app is that is in Newari language and I can customize it with Newari stickers,” Prashanna Ratna Tuladhar, a BIM (7th semester) student at Prime College, shared his experience about using the app. 

Operation in-charge at Civil Bank Limited, Bouddha and app user, Maheshwor Dongol, said, “Apart from being able to customize photos and trolls in Newari, I believe the app will help us to promote Newari language in social media, and help those who want to learn the language. This app can be used both online and offline, and if they add more scripts to the app, we can create better prospects to promote Newari language.” 

Meanwhile, Prashanna added, “Since not everybody knows how to read what I have written, I use the app only among a limited number of friends and family members who understand the language.” The concern is genuine as many young minds lack the environment at their home and school premises to speak in their mother tongue.

Given the situation, many tend to forget the words and lose the confidence to make a conversation in Newari. Also there is an inclination among parents to get their children admitted to boarding schools, where English speaking is being a mandatory requirement. Though their goal is to see their children succeed, the system has resulted in a decreased number of Newari-speaking population. In such a scenario, the app seems more promising in appealing the population who wish to learn and be able to make conversations in Newari language. 

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