Thoughts & Ideas

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

On Language



There has been some discussion amongst my friends on status of Hindi in our cultural, social, and political life.

In my opinion any language is a means of communication and,as such, it would amount to petty politicking if one language is considered superior or inferior to another.

Having said that, there are some important reasons for supporting one’s mother tongue. First, for transmission of culture and values in society telling of stories plays a very important role and stories are best told and understood in the mother tongue. However, the way the role of transmission of stories has been taken over by TV I am not sure what kind of culture or values we are conveying to the coming generations. Second, and an equally important reason for supporting the mother tongue is that quality of understanding is best if the medium of instruction is the mother tongue.

Moreover, any language is culture specific. It is extremely difficult to convey some particular thoughts and feelings in translations. That is one reason, that it is much more difficult to either translate or appreciate poetry in translation.

The way English has been evolving in India over the last 150 years, and specially over the last 70 years, it has now become very much an Indian language, specially the version or if I may say, the dialect most spoken and understood in India.

Not very long ago, Hindi (which was nothing but Urdu written in the Devnagari script) was a foreign language for vast masses of people. Like a friend remarked, if one spoke in Hindi in his social circles where Angika was the mother tongue, the person was made fun of!

Babu Rajendra Prasad mentions in his Autobiography (written in Hindi) that he learnt Hindi at the age of 25-26, after he started practicing as a lawyer. It seems he was even unfamiliar with the Devnagari script till then. His formal education was in Persian and English and that were the two languages he knew initially (apart from Bhojpuri). He thereafter picked up Bengali during his school and college days in Calcutta.

Lastly, I wish we could get over the fetish of putting all the blame for all our short-comings, real or imagined, on a particular person or ideology.

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