Friday, September 20, 2019

Leave the language to us Amit Shah ji.

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 Universitychallenges 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.


Ganesh said...

Excellent analysis

Easy Talk said...

Jeyashree Mam Exactly told,hindi is a foreign language in our country,and it should not be implied as a second language.Hindi or any irrespective language could be learnt of interest but not by force

Unknown said...

Excellent article on Language issue. While I fully agree with the writer. Hindi is not our language at all. It is imposed on us by the invader barbaric Mughals. At the time my government is removing the names oof Mughals from the road, playground and monuments,thinking we remove the stigma, why my government promotes Hindi which is a shameful language we got from the invaders. Instead we should take pride in promoting Sanskrit as a national language because it is an ancient language, our rishis and GOD understand this language. In sanskrit many treasures of science, engineering, medicine astronomy etc are availabnle in plenty and the countries like Germany, Russia are learning Sanskrit to decode the information and patenting the findings. We Indians are only talking but did nothing to revive that language. Instead we try to adopt, promote a slavery language. Hope good sense prevails on our rulers and the people. English also a foreigh language trust on us by the invader British, no doubt. Fortunately oor unfortunately the whole world adopted the language English. It became global language. China, Russia, Japan promotes English to its citizens to connect with the outside world but not imposing on thier citizen. They have their curriculam in all branches of field in thier national language but do we have? We depend oon English for our specialised field of education. So why Hindi. Leave it to citizen whether he should learn Hindi or not. For that matter donot impose any language on the citizens. Let them know select what they want but provide oppurtunity to learn any language they wish to learn. I get the feel, tomorrow, the government will start dictating what to eat, when to wake up, go to sl;eep, when to make love etc. It is ridiculous. Hope my government will think deeply and come oout with a better solution to integrate India (Bharath) instead of breaking India (Bharath)

Unknown said...

Very well narrated

Unknown said...

Very well narrated madam.
Gives clear approach towards role of languages in current scinario.

Unknown said...

Some people never learn.

Never impose a language on others. People will learn a language when they need it. In Goa, people speak 4-6 languages fluently (Konkani, Marathi, Hindi, some Kannada, English & Russian). This is because people know that these languages are useful for communicating and earning a livelihood. We have also learnt English because it is useful.

On the other side, I see emotional reaction from people whenever any comment on language is made. A study once noted that speakers of Hindi, Tamil and Bengali are very reluctant to learn a new language while other language speakers are less bothered !!!

Raghu said...

Good to see you after a long gap, Ma'am. I feel Amit Shah has created an unnecessary opportunity for language fanatics to grab attention, at a time when people were slowly forgetting them.

I look forward to seeing your opinion on the Keezhadi survey findings, the way it is juxtaposed against ASI and, indirectely, BJP.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Thanks everyone for sharing your views here.

On @Unknown's comment about Goans speaking 4-6 languages, the basic cause is NEED. In any tourist location we find people conversant in the languages of the most visiting tourists. My point is, or rather the version of the researchers is that the conversation in a particular language must exist in the surroundings for that language to be alive and kicking. Tell me how often we can hear Hindi in our surroundings in Chennai, leave alone the mofussil towns. Rather we have many Telugus around us and we are able to understand what they speak though they speak Telugu at home and Tamil outside. So anyone settling down in any place would automatically pick up the language spoken around him / her.

It is not possible to make one proficient in conversation by teaching the language at school.Any parent would agree with me the drudgery our kids are put into in their school years. Just for getting marks kids would mug up lang and once they are out of school it ends. In a place like Chennai, even the Hindi teachers are not good at conversational Hindi.

They say that they are introducing one south Indian language compulsory in schools of north India. You think kinds would develop proficiency in that language? It is an imposition that kids have to undergo for no fault of theirs. They would forget the language after leaving school. Unless a language is regularly heard around them, they cant retain memory of it, studies have established this.

Another issue already written in my other blog

'South Indians going to North India somehow pick up Hindi to speak to them. But North Indians coming to South India won’t pick up the language of the region. They form a coterie within themselves, speak their own language and make us feel that we have erred in not being able to talk to them in their language. This is very common in colleges and work places in Tamilnadu." Even i felt irritated by this behavior of north Indians many times. It does give a sense of second class citizens for ordinary Tamil folks.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Thanks Mr Raghu for the comment and for being the regular reader of my blog.

I am very much in and into writing books and that is why the long gap. Soon I will be making an announcement of 3 books, the first one already released on 5th Sep on Vairamuthu controversy on Andal. E-book and audio book version of the print edition are getting ready and I will do a blog on that shortly.

The 2nd one is a critique on Nilesh Oak's Mahabharata date wherein I have established the dates of Mahabharata events as given by Vyasa. I am sure it would stay on for ever.

The 3rd one is on solving two unresolved issues in Ramanuja's life - 1. the identity of the Muslim invader who ransacked Melkote and Tonnur and 2. the identity of the Chola king who persecuted Ramanuja.

These will be followed by many other researches. Announcement and excerpts will be blogged here. So stay tuned. And in between if any issue comes such as the one on language, I will write my views.

On Keezhadi, I have tweeted my views. Keezhadi, Porunthal and Kodumanal were potter's settlements - who had migrated from Dvaraka. They were Vel-Ko of sangam literature. Potter's signs are their special identities and can be traced to Indus signs. Written Tamil was not derived from such signs nor from Tamil Brahmi. Keep checking "My papers in" in the side bar. I am uploading research papers there.

I dont think the BJP was in any way hampering the Keezhadi findings. Please don't fall into propaganda of anti- BJP forces. Ultimately everyone has to abide by scientific findings and BJP is the foremost party in supporting that. They may be a little confused in the language issue now but I am sure they will understand the futility of raking up one-language for whole of India.

Kala Narasimha said...

You have very rightly pointed out that hindi cannot be forced on the people

Already parents and children are grappling with academic pressure.
Children do not have much time for leisure activities.

Also I very much agree with you on the point of north Indians not bothering to learn south indian languages.

This is very obvious in colleges.they expect the south indian students to adjust to them and reply in hindi.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Thanks Mrs Kala Narasimhan for sharing your views which have been experienced by me.

mythra81 said...

hindi with a strong sanskrit base is supposed to be the national language as most indian languages share this commonality but instead the popular media did not encourage this except for news broadcasts and so called hindu religious shows as this would have easily been congenial to those opposed to the imposition of hindi as much of the vocabulary of words are found even in conversational tamil......but to pander to the muslim electorate even after partition they kept on with their urduic hindi even though most indian muslims were in fact illiterate in urdu and only spoke their local languages like their hindu neighbours....most absurd is urdu being made the official language in jammu kashmir which has its own set of languages....same with pakistan where most people speak other languages [many of which are still sanskrit/prakrit based] but have urdu imposed on them....anyways many fancy urdu words from arabic are in fact corrupted tamil/malayalam words since arabic itself is a mongrel language with both prakrit and dravidian influences though not so apparent on the surface

Unknown said...


Good to see that you have agreed that people learn a language out of need. Yes, spoken language is picked when there is enough scope for speaking. But then, we have picked up English and speak in it although there is very less scope for spoken English in most rural areas. We learnt it because it was useful and we were coerced in some ways.

Hindi has spread mainly because of Hindi cinema and TV serials. The Raj-Bhasha drive actually never worked. Same will happen if Hindi is imposed.

Yes, I broadly agree that many Hindi speakers do not try to learn Tamil / Kannada /Malayalam etc. One of the issues is - they think these are "inferior languages" with no history. Once a haryanvi told the same to me about Telegu. I just pointed out that Telegu is at least 2000 yr old classical language unlike Hindi which is of a very recent origin.

Regarding the expectation of Hindi speakers that others should learn Hindi - yes, it exists. Some of them want that others should learn Hindi because they don't have the brainpower to to learn another language ... or they want to rule others. On the other side, I have seen too many Tamil / Telegu / Bengali guys to suddenly switch over to their mother tongues and make a mockery of the main group which in most places a multi-lingual one. I know because my workplace is a melting pot of India where almost all major languages are spoken.

Until we respect others, we cannot demand respect.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

@ Unknown
Nicely put.

Got a feedback from a woman of Andhra origin settled in chennai after marriage. She thinks that there is no scope for her children to learn reading and writing of their mother tongue. Apart from the medium of language, the 2nd language choice should be given to parents / kids. It must be left to them to choose to their mother tongue or any language they think is good for the kids.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Response from a reader, Mr Muralidharan,

Well researched and very candid presentation of facts. It is aptly put, government should be the facilitator for education and leave the matter of how and what their wards should learn to the parents and the wards respectively. Hindi as a language is highly polluted. Hindi scripts in entertainment industry is not the unadulterated Hindi spoken in Bananas, Lucknow, etc. Hindi had a tinge of Marathi in Maharashtra, tinge of Gujarati spoken in Gujarat, so on and so forth. As you rightly pointed out that the Home Minister has unnecessarily stirred a hornet's nest, untimely, but to divert the attention of Dravida party who are sloganeering for abrogation of Article 370 and batting for Kashmiri leaders. He was successful in toning down their voice against government. Another point is Hindi is only Raj Bhasha, and not Rashtra Bhasha. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful well thought out article. This should reach the Education policy makers like NCERT, CBSE, and National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi.

nomadic said...

One correction pallavas we're tamils ,their ruling names tondaimans and kaduvarayar are present mostly among tamils

Jayasree Saranathan said...


Pallavas claimed ancestry from Aswatthama only. Please check Kasakkudi and Amaravathy pillar inscription. Moreover Pallava is not a Tamil name. It is Sanskrit meaning 'twig'. You will read this name description in the inscriptions I mentioned.