Spotting misspelling in banners and signboards across the capital city has become more of a fun way to pass time than a matter of concern.
After all, very few people actually do mind or bother about correcting the wrongly spelled words that are already being printed or displayed. To an average capital dweller, the act of correcting spellings in banners and signboards would seem like "Ghar er kheye bon er mosh tarano" (getting engaged in futile work).
Volunteers from Dream Towards Social Empowerment Foundation (DSEF) however, think otherwise.
In February, the month of Language, the DSEF volunteers take a unique and unprecedented initiative of correcting misspelled banners and signboards across the capital. Their initiative has already been started and will continue up until February 21, International Mother Language Day.
An idea born out of respect for language
Mahfuz Hasan Imon, chairman of DSEF, said that ahead of this February, the members and volunteers of the organisation were planning to do something for the sake of the Bangla language.
“Sometimes we forget that we are the proud speakers of Bangla - the language for which our forefathers have shed blood. In the history of mankind, there was no such event where people have shed blood for a language and that’s why the United Nation (UN) has declared February 21 as International Mother Language Day.”
Imon said that from DSEF, they first thought of conducting a month long Bangla language training workshop in English medium schools in Dhaka. But later they scrapped the plan because they didn’t think that such an initiative would bring desired results.
Then Reza Farhad, one of the volunteers with DSEF, came up with the idea of correcting misspelled words in banners and headlines across the capital.
“We have all seen these misspellings across the city. They make us laugh instead of raising concern. But we wanted to change that. We took Farhad’s idea and decided that we would work on it throughout February.”
Not an easy task to complete Imon said that after they decided to launch the initiative of correcting misspelled spellings in banners and signboards across the capital, they divided the whole city into 10 zones.
“To conduct our work systematically, we thought of making these divisions so that our volunteers can concentrate on particular areas.”
These zones are Dhaka University Area, Bangshal-Wari, Dhanmondi-Hazaribagh, Gulshan-Banani, Malibagh-Maghbazaar, Shahbagh-Azimpur, Jatrabari-Motijheel, Khilgaon, Mirpur and Sutrapur.
DSEF has a total of 30 volunteers working for them. “Aside from the volunteers, we have our Facebook page where we are asking for snapshots and locations of the banners and signboards with misspelling from people. After getting those, we ask our respective volunteers in that zone to go there and talk with the owners of the shops and organisations that have the misspelled words.”
Imon said that the first attempt they made of correcting signboard was in the Nilkhet-Azimpur intersection. The CNG filling station which is located there has a spelling mistake in its name ‘Pother Bondhu Filling Station’.
“It was not a regular printed signboard, but rather a polysign board with neon lights. We had a talk with the owner and he was very cooperative. He pledged to us that he would change the signboard with correct spelling in the shortest possible time.”
The Chairman of DSEF said that correcting all the misspelled words across the capital would be a near impossible task in such a short time. “So we thought of targeting the major ones first. For example, we spotted that the big signboard of Nilkhet Bohumukhi Market has a misspelling. It is a signboard of the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC). We had talk with the city corporation and the owners association there to correct the spellings. They have done that.”
DSEF doesn’t have enough funding to correct the spellings or replace a huge number of misspelled signboards on their own. “We mostly raise awareness among the owners of the shops or organizations. In some cases, we are spending money from our fund to correct the spellings.”
Imon added that Chowdhury Serniabat, a media-shy philanthropist has given them some fund to carry out their work. “All of the people who are involved with this are doing it voluntarily.”
Not a temporary plan, rather a permanent one
DSEF isn't just taking this initiative only for this month of February. “We want to do this in February for the next 10 years to correct as many misspelled signboards and banners as possible,” said Imon.
Aside from this campaign, they have also taken another plan to stop the spread of misspelled signboards and banners.
“We have identified the 30 largest signboards and banners makers. We are going to buy the latest edition of the Bangla dictionary from Bangla Academy and we will give that dictionary to each of these 30 signboard and banner making organisations. Our volunteers will also go there and conduct seven day workshops on proper spelling in Bangla.”
Imon hopes that their initiative will be able to raise awareness about proper spelling. “It’s not that hard. All we need is be careful and cautious while spelling.”