Friday, September 20, 2019
Somehow a stereo-type is emerging in the way the BJP Government under Modiji is dealing with its language policy. Soon after winning the elections in 2014 Hindi was proposed as the language of the social media and the Government went ahead with posting its circulars in Hindi in the social media. As if not to have learned why such a move is unpopular with the non-Hindi States – and not just with the non-BJP parties, the same policy was sought to be promoted again now after winning the elections the second time. The Home Minister stirred a hornet’s nest and went back but not without dropping hints that he and his government would not lose another chance to come up with the same policy viz-a-viz Hindi.
This is causing me a lot of concern, not just as a BJP and Modi supporter (why my government is doing this?), but as a parent who had a monumental task of helping her two children get the best education and successfully they did without speaking a single word in Hindi! They went up to the maximum studies available in their respective fields and now I am a satisfied parent for where they reached, but Hindi had no place at all in their growth and success. This must give the reader the first awareness that language is a different domain and education well planned in a language that gets them access to what makes them satisfied intellectually and financially must be provided to them. I managed it for my kids, and the Government is expected to come to the aid of all the parents of this country to get what the parents and their wards want, and not what the Government wants them to have.
The language of education and learning a language belong to the domain of education and cannot be meddled with for political and even national reasons. In fact a well educated person is a national asset and as such the medium in which he or she is educated cannot be dictated by the government but decided by the parents and their wards. Government is only a facilitator.
Basically there are issues with the way most of us (including the honourable Home Minister) think about education. It is easy to say – study this language or that language. Only a parent, that too, a middle class parent who knows the value of education and invests his / her life and money in educating the wards, is aware of the limitations in the learning capabilities of children. First let us accept the fact that not all kids are good at learning languages. Even if one has no first-hand experience in understanding it, let one is not out of sync with the latest research findings on language learning.
A research by Florida Atlantic University “challenges the belief, held in and out of scientific circles that children are linguistic sponges who quickly absorb the language or languages they hear and become proficient speakers of both languages.” This issue is alive in multi-cultural societies such as the USA and Canada where the mother tongue is something other than English and the kids have to adapt to speaking English outside their home circles. While this inevitable bilingualism is being frowned upon as a stress by those societies, in India where every child can have access to study in the language of its native tongue, three language formula is being forced, of which Hindi is being pushed with Government patronage.
Researchers further state that only that language that continues to be heard by the children in their surroundings will be learned well and such language is a ‘majority language’. Any language that is not widely spoken around the kids is a ‘minority language’ – and it will soon be forgotten. “Research demonstrates that we need to reshape our views of early bilingualism: children are born ready to learn the language or languages of their environments without confusion or delay (Werker & Byers-Heinlein, 2008). To promote successful bilingual development, parents raising bilingual children should ensure that their children have ample opportunities to hear and speak both of their languages. As children get older, interacting with monolingual speakers (especially other children) is important for motivating ongoing language use, especially for minority languages not widely spoken in the community (Pearson, 2008).”
By this study it is known that if all the Indians must become proficient in Hindi as the Home Minister wants, there must be a Hindi speaking environment everywhere in India and not vice versa. In other words, only when one keeps hearing Hindi all around, can one become reasonably proficient in conversational Hindi. This can be best fulfilled by Hindi movies and Hindi tele serials but not through curriculum at school. What a ‘Kolaveri di’ song did to the whole of India must be done by Hindi songs and dance sequences on a regular basis. But should we need all this?
What is implied here is that the Home Minister and any policy maker in future in favour of Hindi must know that such an attempt is unscientific and bound to be a failure. In return they would only get their political opponents muster strength which would further require them to press the Governor of the State into service to diffuse the opponents!
So it is essential to know some basics on limitations in language learning. Not many children are good at learning languages. Exposure to bilingualism or tri-lingualism at school does not ensure understanding the language at all times in later life. Tiny tots listen to what is spoken around them and pick up immediately – a faculty aided by Broca's area in the brain. But as they grow old, limitations do occur says a Study. That means learning a language a little later is also a difficult task for a child. Though it is possible for some people to learn many languages even at later times due to the level of activity of their Broca’s area, not all can accomplish it.
This fact can checked with any parent of school going children. In fact the students who excel in science and Maths do badly in language studies. For them the language skills necessary for their interest in science and Maths are enough. They know very well that language is for communication and expression. Many students excel in conversation than in reading and writing a language. Only a parent or a teacher knows how language study is a drudgery for many a student.
So my request to the Home Minister and the BJP party in general is to think of other ways to integrate the nation. The need for a link language is of course there and already guaranteed that English would continue as long as the States prefer so.
· There is no use telling that English is a foreign language, for Hindi is also a foreign language for many in India. In this age of global collaborations and English speaking countries in the favourite list of many as destinations for education and job opportunities, discouraging English study is anti-people.
· There is no use in branding English as a colonial hang-over, for Hindi is also a hang-over of the Muslim Era. Needless to say that Hindi has more ‘foreign’ elements from Islamic influence in comparison to many South Indian languages that have no foreign component. The presence of Hindi in most north Indian States can also attributed to Islamic rule of those States compared to least or nil influence of Islamic rule in Southern States.
Even when non-natives ruled southern States, they did not impose their languages. The Nayaks and Vijayanagara kings and Pallavas far back in time didn’t impose their languages among Tamils. In fact Grantha script is proof of ruling Pallavas’ attempt to speak Tamil the way native speakers spoke. Therefore to say that a single language – despite that being foreign to a people - can integrate the nation is untenable.
To say that a particular language which is foreign to 60% of the people of India, must be learned by all for national integration and to get a global identity, shows that there is much to be learnt by the powers-that-be in many spheres.
· National integration happens by the identity as an Indian and not by what we speak. Even the National Anthem is not in Hindi but reflects the idea of people from different parts of India aroused by the single name ‘Bharat’. The idea of Bharat integrates, and not the language.
· The next most important integrator is the culture of this country and that culture has a language which is not Hindi, but Sanskrit. This culture eulogises the heroes of this land namely, Rama, Krishna, Skanda et al and deities such as Durga whose etymological meanings can be traced to Sanskrit only. Even an old language such as Tamil has 30% words that are Sanskrit. Sanskrit which is the basis of worship is still in vogue in olden temples of Tamilnadu that account for nearly 90% of olden temples in the country. Knowledge of Sanskrit can very well help the people to understand what they chant and that could further help in strengthening the cultural roots of the country.
One must remember that Tamils had come out of the Dravida-Maya at least as far as temple worship is concerned. I myself was a witness to the worship of the DMK first family in the temple of Budha (TiruveNkadu) many years ago where they conducted the Puja in Sanskrit. It is high time venues to learn Sanskrit are introduced across the country. National integration is a definite outcome and Sanskrit would get a global identity as the language of Bharat.
· Also Read Imposing Hindi in Social Media
· And don’t skip this blog wherein I have given at the end, the report on ‘Apa-Brahmasa’ being the root language of almost all the languages of India. Cartoon controversy on Hindi agitation in Tamilnadu and what people must know. This is to show that a lot more is needed to researched in the language unity of Indian past. Importance to Hindi which is of recent origin is bound to eclipse and erase some important facts and features about a unitary language of a distant past.