Forwarded message posted for discussion:
Hindi, English and the future of India
By M. V. Kamath
FREE PRESS JOURNAL
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Inaugurating a seminar on Mahatma
Gandhi and the role of Hindi in the
National Movement in Delhi last month
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
bitterly asked why the nation has not
been able to make Hindi an official
language even after 56 years of
Independence. "It is a bitter truth
that even now Hindi has not been able
to achieve that desired position.
What happened that we have not been
able to make it an effective language
of communication? Why have we failed
in the endeavour?" he asked. And he
added: "Hindi ki baat bahut hoti hai.
Lekin Hindi me baat kam hoti hai"
(There is much talk about Hindi. But
there is less talk in Hindi".
The Prime Minister wanted to know why
when the entire world accepted
Gandhiji's thought and philosophy,
his pleas for adoption of Hindi as a
national language was not that heeded
by his countrymen. Vajpayee referred
to the anti- Hindi agitation in the
South way back in the sixties but
added: "The real fight is not between
Hindi and the regional languages nor
between Hindi and English but between
Indian and English mentality". With
all due respect to Vajpayee it has to
be said that he is way off the mark.
He is correct in saying that the
fight is not between Hindi and the
regional languages. Hindi films are
popular throughout the length and
breadth of the country. There are
more private schools teaching Hindi
in Chennai than probably anywhere
else. The Tamilians, like other non-
Hindi speaking people know the value
of Hindi to ignore it. But if
scarcely anyone shows much interest
in Hindi publicly, it is because the
Hindi belt in India just does not
appreciate the truth that it has a
responsibility to meet the
sensibilities of the people down
south adequately.
The presumption in the north is that
since Hindi has been accepted as the
national language it is the bounden
duty of all people whose mother
tongue is not Hindi to make special
efforts to learn it. Which is all
very well; but there is an element of
arrogance about this. When the
Constituent Assembly was discussing
the matter of national language it
was agreed that the educational
system must follow a three-language
formula.
Southern schools were to study
English, the local language (Tamil,
Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Tulu) and
Hindi. The schools in the Hindi belt
were expected to teach English, Hindi
of course, and a third language which
could be anyone of the five
`Dravidian' languages. There is
hardly a single school in the Hindi
belt that makes a serious effort to
teach any of these languages. The
`third' language invariably turned
out to be Sanskrit. What kind of
mentality does that betray? Has
Vajpayee given it any thought? Has he
ever sought to convince the schools
in the Hindi belt the absolute,
imperative necessity of teaching
children any one of the five
Dravidian languages so that they can
build rapport with their
contemporaries down south? Can
Vajpayee, for instance, himself say a
few words in Telugu or Kannada or
Tamil to connect with the people? He
cannot.
None of the Prime Ministers from the
North, whether it was Jawaharlal
Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi,
Lal Bahadur Shastri, I. K. Gujral,
Chandrashekar, V. P. Singh or Charan
Singh was proficient in saying as
much as `thank you' in any of the
Dravidian languages. What kind of
mentality does it betray? Was it a
fight, as the Prime Minister said,
between Indian and English
mentalities or is it simply a case of
Hindi arrogance? `Learning languages
is a two-way traffic. If it is
incumbent, for whatever reason, on
the part of the people south of the
Vindhyas to learn Hindi, it is
courtesy, if nothing else, for people
north of the mountain ranges to learn
one of the Dravidian languages. When
people down south realise that those
up north are making a serious effort
to communicate with them, it gives
the whole subject a major lift. It
brings people together and that is
the prelude to establishing Hindi as
a national language not only legally,
but in the hearts of people.
The people down south are expected to
make an effort to learn Hindi. No
effort is expected on the part of
students in the north to learn a non-
Hindi language. Patriotism implies
that people speaking Hindi make a
special effort to learn one of the
great languages of the south. It may
be remembered that Tamil is not only
more ancient than Hindi, it is older
even than Sanskrit. It richly
deserves to be respected.
Fancy the kind of unity that will
come about if Vajpayee can
communicate with a Karunanidhi or a
Jayalalithaa in Tamil or Advani can
address a mass meeting in Karnataka
in Kannada! Have they ever thought
about that? Next comes the role of
English in India. We may hate the
British f o r exploiting our riches,
we may decry their imperialism, but
they gave us English as a gift and it
has made us competitive in the world
of science. If today so many firms in
the US and UK are outsourcing their
IT jobs to India it is because
Indians are highly proficient in
English Indeed more people speak
English in India than Britons in
Britain or Americans in the United
States of America. In this regard we
have a definite advantage over China.
We can beat China if not on the
technical expertise front, certainly
on the language front. And we have to
continue patronising English which
has now become for all intents and
purposes, an Indian language, much
more so than even Urdu. We should be
proud of the fact that currently
Britain wants Indian teachers to
teach English to English students.
That surely is sweet revenge against
British imperialism! The fact of the
matter is that English is on the way
to becoming a truly international
language, a truth accepted even by
the European Union.
In India it has become absolutely
essential that our children are
taught English, considering that by
the year 2020 India will have 231
million people in the age group 15-24
years who will need gainful
employment. IT information Technology
has to be the lever and that means
English will have to be the
instrument for accessing jobs. It is
not that information technology can
provide all the jobs but I will
provide a large portion of jobs and
that fact cannot be ignored.
This does not mean that we have to
ignore Indian languages, be it Hindi,
Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi
or the five Dravidian languages. They
have their allotted place in our
hearts and they must remain there. It
would be a poor nation if it forgets
its own linguistic culture. It is
significant that Indian language
newspapers are doing very well and
have increased circulation, which is
as it should be. We forget our mother
tongues at our peril. But that said
there can be no underestimation of
the importance of English in the
contemporary world.
It will be remembered how at one
stage Gujarat sought to downgrade
English in the educational system in
the spirit of linguistic jingoism. It
turned out to be a futile exercise
and Gujarat paid for it dearly when
advertisers specifically pointed out
that students from Gujarat
universities need not apply for jobs.
That was an eye-opener. That same
spirit of linguistic jingoism had
moved West Bengal as well when the
teaching of English in schools was
given less importance.
The excuse given was that when the
Leftist government had come to power
a quarter of a century ago, its aim
was universal education. Now a
spokesman of the West Bengal
Government says that things have
changed and "with just a few lakh
students remaining out of school we
can afford to teach English at the
primary levels". From now on English
would be taught in government-run
schools from Classs I. A revolution
is now taking place in West Bengal.
As Chief Minister Buddhadeb
Bhattacharya put it, teaching of
English at the primary level has
become necessary for the state's
progress. He must have taken his
lesson from British Prime Minister
Tony Blair who had suggested that
"with languages, the earlier you
start, the easier they are". And
Class I is where the teaching of
English should begin. But this is
talking from a strictly practical
point of view.
To get jobs, knowledge of English is
a must. To be competitive it is even
more important. Indian economy has
hit the fast track, the latest
figures indicating that in the last
quarter, growth has been 8.4 per
cent. If we have to stay the course,
we have to be better than anybody
else in the Service or IT Sector.
According to one study India has
already more than 200 million middle
class people armed with computers and
low-cost communications. What can
they possibly do without an adequate
knowledge of English? That knowledge
opens up better opportunities to the
study of engineering and other
technical subjects, and creation of
skilled labour. On a scale of 1 to 10
(ten being the highest) Indian
skilled labour stands as high as 7.4,
higher than the U.S. at 7.2 and only
slightly lower than Germany with 7.5.
As for availability of qualified
engineers is concerned India is at
the top with a score of 8.5, beating
Brazil (7.5), U.S. (7.4) and Germany
(6.6).
With our Huge population and
availability of English-teaching
schools we can take on the world-
which is exactly what we should do,
especially because, with a little
effort, we can. As the reader would
by now have noticed, there are two
aspects to the language controversy
in India, namely, the place of
English and the importance of making
Hindi the national language. There is
no way we can ignore English. This
has nothing to do with mentalities,
as Vajpayee would want us to believe.
English has to be learnt, and learnt
well, out of sheer necessity.
Indeed we should even reach a stage
when Indians would be the teachers of
English in the English-speaking
world. As for Hindi being visibly and
audibly seem as India's national
language, Vajpayee must see to it
that south Indian languages are
taught in north Indian schools
compulsorily. It should be obligatory
and no excuses should be entertained.
In the circumstances Vajpayee has an
obligation to meet and one hopes he
will bravely meet it in his second
term as Prime Minister. Insist on
Dravidian languages being taught in
north Indian schools. Only then will
the Prime Minister see how fast Hindi
will get accepted as the national
language of the country. Quick action
is better than low complaining.
End of forwarded message
Jai Maharaj
http://www.mantra.com/jai
Om Shanti
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Forwarded message posted for discussion: Hindi, English and the future of India

Hello...Jahari!
Hindi, English and the future of India

Hindi as well as other Indian languages will die out unless some realistic steps are taken soon.
They all need to be written in simplest possible Roman transliteration.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
They all need to be written in simplest possible Roman (whatever).

Rome folded a long time ago. Forget Rome.
Jai Maharaj
http://www.mantra.com/jai
Om Shanti
They all need to be written in simplest possible Roman(whatever).

Rome folded a long time ago. Forget Rome. Jai Maharaj http://www.mantra.com/jai Om Shanti

Pretty hard to do. It is rubbed in our face constantly.

Izzy
Pretty hard to do. It is rubbed in our face constantly. Izzy

Rub it off, then use a sanitizing solution.
Jai Maharaj
http://www.mantra.com/jai
Om Shanti
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Hindi as well as other Indian languages will die out unless some realistic steps are taken soon. They all need to be written in simplest possible Roman transliteration.

The poster forgot to say why he believes
this conclusion is true (or will become true.)
It is not immediately apparent how a language
or culture experiences "needs."

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs (Ottawa, Canada)
Hindi, English and the future of India

Hindi as well as other Indian languages will die out unless some realistic steps are taken soon.

no one can help people who insist they will progress by refusing to speak and write their own mother tongue. They will get what they deserve - money and so on, and when their kids grow up, they will be strangers to the parents, just like western kids.
They all need to be written in simplest possible Roman transliteration.

this is another fantasy.
Hindi as well as other Indian languages will die out ... all need to be written in simplest possible Roman transliteration.

The poster forgot to say why he believes this conclusion is true (or will become true.) It is not immediately apparent how a language or culture experiences "needs."

And yet we frequently encounter the comment in AUE that the English language "needs" an epicene pronoun, or a contraction for "am I not."
Metaphor is everywhere.

Bob Lieblich
Everywhere
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