Since few days we are reading in the papers the feud over the languages. Why this fiasco?
It started with the declaration of removing English from the official status. Then it turned on to other languages in the school curricula. Earlier it was removal of back breaking loads of books.
One judge wanted Tamil to be introduced in the court. Then I looked at the statue of Manu. He was looking worried and was sitting in the chariot like the statue of Thinker, a sculpture by Auguste Rodin. Already there are 28 versions of this statue and still not entirely clear. Manu was worried about the Smriti he had codified in Sanskrit. “Have we reached The Gates of Hell”, that was in his mind (
The world’s most widely spoken languages by number of native speakers and as a second language, according to figures from UNESCO (The United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), are: Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, German and French.
We must be proud that two Indian languages are in this list, Hindi and Bengali.
If one in the HRD is interested to browse over the web, he will be flabbergasted to see various sites.
Language is the human ability to acquire and use complex systems of communication, and a language is any specific example of such a system. The scientific study of language is called linguistics.
Excerpts from Reuters September 7, 2013. An interview with Mr. Ganesh Devy
“India speaks 780 languages, 220 lost in last 50 years – survey
That India has a fascinating diversity of languages unlike anywhere else in the world, with 780 languages reported in our volumes and maybe another 100 or so which we were not able to report. So it is like having about 900 living languages in a country, which is very exciting news.
Languages cannot be preserved by making dictionaries or grammars. Languages live if people who speak the languages continue to live. So we need to look after the well being of the people who use those languages, which means we need a micro-level planning of development where language is taken as one factor.
There is a volume on sign language.
Because deaf people speak … initially in a non-verbal symbolic system. And so if that symbolic system exists and is in practice, it was necessary for us to take note of it. It is very much a language.
When a language imbibes words from outside, it grows. Languages grow by taking words from other languages. Every language is from beginning to the end, a polluted language. The threat will come. Hindi has its roots – there are 126 languages surrounding the Hindi belt… Because they are feeder languages, they feed into Hindi; they are the roots for Hindi.
English is the sky. The sky will not harm the tree, but if you chop the roots, a mighty tree can fall. This happened with Latin, and should not happen with Hindi. Our attitude of neglect towards smaller languages is a threat to larger languages.”
From a larger analysis we see that the fight for the language is only for political gains. This helped some to play a power game for their own gain. Nothing happened for the language. It remained firm and it has its charm and fragrance as before. Pouring tar over the language boards spoiled the place only. If India were ruled by the French, we would have studied French. If Germany, then German. It so happened to be under British, English is the official language. The Mughals brought Persian, Arabic and Urdu into India.
“What do Max Muller, William Jones and Megasthenes have in common? All three are among the long line of prominent Indologists and their studies are still recognized as authentic references on the vast subject of Indology and Sanskrit. Even today, across the world, individuals have dedicated their lives to the subject. One such is Hartmut Scharfe, Professor Emeritus, Department of Indo-European Studies, University of California, and Los Angeles.
(For details browse The Hindu 4/10/14 A Man of many Languages Literary review)”
“Max Muller wrote: Muller once wrote that;-
The translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India, and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion, and to show them what the root is, is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last 3,000 years.
India has been conquered once, but India must be conquered again, and that second conquest should be a conquest by education. (”
When I learnt Hindi and Sanskrit apart from Malayalam, my tongue being Tamil, in a village school in Kerala I never felt it as a burden. In those days foreign languages were taught only in convents in Simla and Darjeeling and only very few could enjoy the benefit. An enterprising fellow from Kerala called out from his tent on the top of The Everest in two languages Tea and Chiya when Hillary and Tensing reached there gasping for breath.
Now we are talking about globalization and industrial revolution. Some fight here and send their wards to foreign land to learn and earn. Why this disparity?
Look at the octave of music: SA Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni SA. Write it any language and it will be the same. The pitch and timbre from Sitar and Harmonium may be different. They deliver sweet notes. Why this row and cacophony over the language barrier? One should not forget his mother tongue. Today people are reluctant in using it.
Given an opportunity, I would have learnt many foreign languages. But today I am old by age, but by God’s Grace young by brain. When students are eager to learn different languages, the basic place for learning is the school. Let them learn it. Altogether there should be ten subjects and it is a game of chess. Let there be languages as well. Give an option of ten languages and select any three at least. Examinations are not a scale to test the ability, but something is to be done to pass an academic year. For admission in LKG, it can be round the clock. Without compulsion, nothing will be learnt.
School and college education is not necessary for a person. If he has a right thinking mind, he can become a celebrity and the earning capacity has nothing to do with education. Amassing wealth is a different trick altogether. Under the guidelines of a dedicated teacher, one can shine and he will be cultured. A discipline in life is required for a good growth of oneself and the nation.
India cannot remain with one language. The states were mainly divided on that barrier. Still we are unable to break it. Day by day the tiff is getting stronger. More walls are built. The German wall was made to fall. But we?
If we are not interested in German language, why keep a German Shepherd as watch dog? Status?
If Sanskrit is from Saffron, the costliest spice in the world, why not we taste it? If Arabic is from the land of Dates, why not we taste it? When we can taste Schnapps and Cordials, why not the German language? Perfumes from France are OK for us, but not French. Why? Switzerland has four official languages, German, French, Italian and Romansh. When we like the Swiss bank, why not we like these languages? Every language has its own sweetness and charm. This I could understand when I was trying to translate few Hindi songs with Urdu dialect into Tamil. I was gasping for equivalent words giving the apt meaning in other languages. It is difficult. Love all languages. Then why fight for languages?
Without sweeping and mopping , cleanliness cannot be achieved.
Without compulsion and perseverance, learning cannot be achieved.
By Sundareswaran
Date: 24th November 2014

The last word: I know what the paper meant with the word saffron, but I used the word to give a different meaning.


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