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Fading Languages…

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India is a land of diversity and equally diverse is its languages and dialects of the land. Though only 22 languages has been constitutionally recognised to be included in Schedule 8 of Constitution of India but it doesn’t undermine several other prominent languages which are being spoken by crores of people daily. But, unfortunately, legacy of British had valued English over native languages and dialects. Colonisation of mind that person knowing western language is more intellect, smart market oriented is something created by the globalised world to feed to their workforce requirement. Yes, there exists argument that knowing English is behind India’s software and service industries’ boom. I do accept that, I am also writing here in English, but undermining and devaluing native languages is the problem.

I feel ashamed not because I am not fluent in spoken English or sometimes do vocabulary error while writing but because neither I know well to communicate and write in my mother tongue ‘Angika’ nor father tongue ‘Bhojpuri’. Deciphering ‘Khortha Language’, local language of the place of my resident, is beyond my intellectual capacity.

If we look into facts and figures of linguistic diversity of India we will know that many of our ancient local languages and dialects are now extinct, many are on the verge of extinct and lots more are now endangered. Close to 800 languages and dialects exist across India, according to the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, an independent study conducted by Bhasha Research Centre and nearly 300 languages have gone extinct in the country since the time of independence. A loss of around 30% of languages that were thriving before independence. Bhasha’s language count includes all those in currency, irrespective of the number of users.

However if we go for Census of India surveys we will find that close to 1,600 languages were in use in 1961, 108 in 1971 and 122 in 2011. The drastic reduction in number of recorded languages between 1961 and 1971 is because languages those were spoken by less than 10,000 people were excluded from surveys after 1961. This shows reluctances of government in documentation and protection of our native languages and dialects. As per UNESCO there are 197 endangered languages in India, with 42 classified as Critically Endangered.

A modern intellectual will surely ask why so emphasis on insignificant languages which are now not more than obsolete. Dear Friend, Language is not just a media of communication but it defines a whole of culture and life. Many religion and civilisations thrive on these languages. It binds community and promotes kinship. The language is our identity. Even just analysis of tone of your words could well decipher from which part of the country you belong to. Just imagine what role a language could play.

There are also majoritarianism opinion that Hindi should be made a national language and people from southern part of India must use Hindi Language in day to day official purpose instead of English. I stand with your opinion in replacing English with Indian language but for imposing Hindi on them I will protest against it. The Hindi language which is in use nowadays is more of recent origin which hardly dates back before 19th Century. Culturally this language could not be traced with any land of the country. And language defines culture. Language of southern India could be well traced back by 2500 years, how could Hindi replace such strong historical languages.

Tribal civilisation intrinsically woven around tribal languages are treasure of knowledge of nature’s cure and well being. We had already lost cents of tribal languages and information associated with those languages in stories, couplets, songs etc. and this is irreparable loss to us. Need of the hour is to recognise our inherent strength in our dialects and languages and make effort to protect, preserve and promote them without hesitation. The least we could do is to speak in our native language with our friends and family and never make language a medium to judge someone’s intellect and intelligence. This will be one of the worst form of discrimination practiced in society.

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