Mother tongue crisis in India: A look at challenges and solutions


Imagine the year 2040. By then our India would have become a major economic superpower of the world. Poverty, malnutrition and backwardness would have been eradicated to a great extent. About 60 percent of the country will have been urbanized.

Language is related to history, culture and traditions. The tradition of inter-communication in Indian languages ​​is very old and has been happening for hundreds of years. This was happening even at a time when the languages ​​prevalent today were in their original form. The message of Shri Krishna contained in Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta reached every corner of the world only because of its translation in many languages. In those days the language of inter-communication was Sanskrit, so now this responsibility lies with Hindi. When we have a language, we have no idea what its power is. But when a language disappears and those things fall into someone’s hands after centuries, then everyone is worried as to what is there in it? What is this script, what is the language, what is the content, what is the subject? Today, if something is found written on stones, the archeology department keeps searching for years to find out what has been written.

Growing influence of Indian languages

Today there is a need to widely encourage dialogue among Indian languages. Communication between Indian languages ​​has been going on for hundreds of years and they have also developed simultaneously. For example, there is so much similarity between Bengali and Maithili that it is difficult to differentiate between them, similarly it is the same between Awadhi and Braj language and Hindi and Urdu. In a research conducted on the language of Hindi and Urdu dailies, it was seen that only 23 percent of the words in them were different. The contribution of Marathi, Bengali and South Indian languages ​​in the development of Hindi journalism cannot be ignored. Today the growing influence of Indian languages ​​can be seen all over India. We can call linguistic journalism the soul of India. Today people are increasingly getting attracted towards newspapers of their own language. Therefore the circulation of linguistic newspapers is increasing rapidly. Newspapers are being published in different dialects. Radio and television are broadcasting their programs in regional languages. Not only this, even on the smartphones through which we stay in touch with social media, special care is taken of Indian languages.

Till some time ago, one had to wait for four days for village news, whereas today news is easily received through WhatsApp and email. Today newspapers are being published from districts, towns and localities. It has become easier to send newspaper pages by email. Earlier, there was more dependence on English language newspapers, whose Indian readers are only 15 percent. Now that newspapers are being published in different dialects and languages, information empowerment is increasing. Now media cells of various embassies and foreign agencies are also taking advantage of regional and linguistic media for news. On the other hand, every newspaper is reaching remote readers through its e-paper. We all know that internet has no boundaries, hence regional newspapers are being read even on foreign soil on the same day they are published.

language crisis

Imagine the year 2040. By then our India would have become a major economic superpower of the world. Poverty, malnutrition and backwardness would have been eradicated to a great extent. About 60 percent of the country will have been urbanized. The entire country would have adopted the digital way of life. Now think in which language most of the citizens of that India would be doing all the major tasks of their life? Which language will be being used in every major field like education, administration, business, research, journalism etc. in the entire country? Will that country be India or only India? What will be the status of our 22 major and more than 1600 minor languages-dialects included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution in that India? At present, the way the trend of English is increasing rapidly, will Hindi or other Indian languages ​​get a place among it?

Koichiro Matsuura, former Director-General of UNESCO, said, “The death of a language is the destruction of the heritage, traditions and expressions of the community that speaks it.” It is estimated that there are about 6000 languages ​​in the world. Linguists predict that only 200 of these languages ​​will survive by the end of the 21st century. These will include hundreds of languages ​​of India. According to UNESCO, 196 of the tribal languages ​​of India are still critically endangered languages. India tops this global list of endangered languages. UNESCO’s Language Atlas lists 2500 out of 6000 languages ​​as endangered. There are at least 1416 unscripted mother tongues in India, estimated in 1957. All of them are in trouble at this time.

At the behest of UNESCO, the world’s best linguists have set 9 criteria to measure the liveliness and endangeredness of any language. The first criterion is the transmission of that language from one generation to the next. Other important criteria are whether work is being done in that language in modern areas of knowledge and science or not. How much is that language adopting new technology and modern mediums? How much and at what level is documentation of the various forms of that language? What are the policies and attitudes of important institutions of that society regarding that language? The last but most important criterion in this is… what is the attitude and sentiment of that language community towards their language? Weigh any Indian language on any of these criteria and you will immediately understand whether the signs of the future point towards crisis or development. The Indian character is not the same as the Israeli character, which has made Hebrew, dead for 2000 years, one of the best global languages ​​of scientific research, innovation and modern knowledge creation. On the basis of which Israel, with a population of 40 lakhs, has won more than a dozen Nobel Prizes in Science. Despite the hostility of all the Islamic countries, it is present on the world stage invincible with its full identity, threat and power.

intercommunication and translation

Language is man’s best asset. All human civilizations have developed through language. Remember…there can be primitive societies, but there cannot be primitive languages. Shaheed Bhagat Singh had written at the age of 15 that, “Punjab cannot progress without Punjabi language.” Gandhiji had clearly said in 1938 that, “The medium of instruction should be changed immediately at every stage by giving their official place to the regional languages.” Mahatma Gandhi also believed that getting rid of the attachment to the English language was one of the most important objectives of independence. Languages ​​contribute to the formation of national character. We have considered words as Brahman. Mahatma Gandhi published ‘Harijan’ in English, but to make it reach the masses, he also published it in Gujarati and Hindi. If we want to understand the inter-communication between Indian languages, then we should read about Father Wallace, who wrote 70 books in Gujarati, and Sayajirao Gaekwad, who established many schools, colleges and universities in Gujarat. Despite the wide difference between the languages ​​of North and South India, there has been mutual communication and translation between them.

Language brings harmony

India is like a small Europe. There are diverse languages ​​here and only language brings harmony. Linguistic diversity and multilingual society is the need of the hour and people of all languages ​​have left footprints of their achievements in the world. Today we live in a multilingual world. People all over the world migrate from one place to another in search of better opportunities. Where their languages ​​and culture are completely different from the language and culture of the new area. Therefore, they need a language that can integrate both the cultures, for which those immigrants definitely need to have knowledge of more than one language. Even in states like West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, an educated person knows at least three languages. People here know Hindi as a contact language in addition to their mother tongue. Along with this, these people also learn English language to maintain contacts at the international level.

communicate with oneself

Every person in India is basically multilingual. In a multilingual country like India, we cannot function with the help of just one language. To convey our message to other people and to communicate with them, we have to move from one language to another. For example, ‘Hindustani Juban’ is a mixed form of both Hindi and Urdu languages. The sweetness and ease of communication in the Indian language is worth seeing. India has always talked about Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam and this is the feeling behind taking all languages ​​together. Where language dies, culture also dies with it. We should give importance to all languages, understand them and accept that Hindi is the medium of their communication. Remember, through language we communicate not only with the world, but also with ourselves.

-Pro. (Dr.) Sanjay Dwivedi

(The author Makhanlal Chaturvedi is a professor at National Journalism and Communication University, Bhopal.)

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