India was never a monolingual society: Chamu Krishna Shastry


Q. The Union government has appointed you as the head of the high level committee for the promotion of Indian languages. How do you see this evolution?

A: Education, language and culture cannot be separated. They are intimately linked. Language is indeed the foundation of the development of any nation or civilization. It becomes the basis of the ideas, the philosophy, the feeling of belonging and the intellectual progress of a people. It is the language that helps shape the life of a man or a nation chitta Where manas. The character or nature of a person is influenced by the language they speak.

The language is essentially the bearer of cultural aspects from one generation to the next. When you introduce the language into your daily use, you also introduce the culture into the use.

Q. It is fashionable to say that a language is secular but it clearly is not, is it?

A: Absolutely. These new concepts, ideas or narratives such as “language is secular no matter which one you use” continue to be reinforced by elements of division with the aim of disrupting and disintegrating society. Our teachers have always taught us “unity in diversity”, but these elements of division, foreign or national, only emphasize diversity but never speak of unity. Diversity without unity or harmony is a recipe for disaster.

Q. You have four decades of experience in promoting Sanskrit for which the state has awarded you a Padma Shri. How do you plan to use this vast experience in your new responsibility to promote all Indian languages?

A: One way to preserve endangered languages ​​is to record them and preserve them with digital archives so that even if they do disappear, there is a chance for future generations to revive them. Although this registration should be done for all languages, it is not enough. Any language needs speakers and users in order not only to survive, but to stay alive and vibrant. We need both those who can express themselves in a language and those who can read and write the script. Now the challenge is that we have a large population growing up with English as the language of instruction. It is the language they use for work and for study. They may know how to converse in other languages, but many cannot read the script let alone the ability to write in it.

This happens because in schools English is rapidly replacing local languages ​​or the mother tongue as the primary language or medium of instruction. As one ages, one’s fluency and fluency in English increases while it decreases in one’s own language, which also shapes one’s thinking accordingly. Thus, in order to promote Indian languages, it is also important that the language of instruction is also the mother tongue or the regional language. Only then can Indian languages ​​be preserved and developed fully.

Q. Now, a visible consequence of the generation of Indians, especially in the cities, who grow up in English and lose touch with their own language is that their children’s mother tongue will be English, as we see so many parents talk to their toddlers in English. This would mean the total extinction of Indian languages ​​in a few years.

A: Nowadays, parents speak to their children in English to better prepare them for the school system where this language is the language of instruction. They don’t want their children to be left behind. But it is a false assumption on their part to think that conversing with them in Indian languages ​​will somehow affect their ability to be good at English. In our family, we don’t speak any other language than Sanskrit. My son grew up like this. Today, he knows Marathi, Kannada, Tamil, Sanskrit, English and Hindi well.

India has never been a monolingual society. Before the introduction of English, our employees spoke several languages. When people from one region traveled to another region by caravan on business or tirtha yatras, they did not have translators. There was a desire to learn other languages. Moreover, the foundation of Indian languages ​​is more or less the same, whether it is grammar, sentence structure or inspiration. It’s not like learning a completely new language.

We have never used the grammatical translation method to learn a new language. It was not widely used until after the arrival of the British, as they were more comfortable with it for learning Indian languages. This became the norm when their education system was put in place. This must change. We have to start teaching our languages ​​directly, using the same language. Every Indian should aspire to learn more languages ​​from other parts of the country. It must become a norm again.

It cannot be done by central government alone. State governments also have a vital role to play. Society as a whole must also rise to the challenge. Teachers also have a great responsibility. We will need a collective effort.

Q. The national education policy is now ready and being implemented. To what extent would this prove to be conducive to the promotion of Indian languages?

A: It will be very helpful. In 10-20 years, we can expect a big change. The NEP recommended that regional languages ​​become the language of instruction. He’s talking about hiring regional language teachers. Even in higher education, attempts are made to provide technical education in Indian languages. So there is a lot going on on that front. But a huge exercise needs to be done in the translation of documentary resources. State governments must also play an important role. As I said, this will not only happen if an entity is interested in this project. Everyone from governments to society, translators and teachers must come together to realize this dream of promoting Indian languages.

Q: So what can we do to promote Indian languages?

A: See, there are seven pillars that are necessary and important for the preservation and promotion of any language.

First, we need more and more speakers and those who use the language. We must not only keep it, but also promote it.

Second, we need multiple media through which the language is used, whether in education, entertainment, communication, business, administration, media, broadcasting, etc.

Third, we need contemporary literature to be written in this language in small numbers or in large numbers. Imagine if a scientist who writes in English makes the effort to translate this material into their regional language, even if it’s one page per day. We will have a book by the end of the year. If 10,000 people were to do this in their respective fields, in a decade we would have such a vast literature. It’s not difficult. But we have to give it a shot.

Fourth, it is important that new words are frequently coined to refer to contemporary concepts and ideas. Just as new cells are constantly being generated in our body, it is essential for the liveliness of a language that new words are constantly added to the vocabulary.

Fifth, the adaptation of technology to promote the interests of the language. We’re talking about a digital divide, but the point is, if we don’t use technology, it will lead to a language divide – languages ​​that don’t use technology will disappear.

Sixth, society will have to assume responsibilities which include ordinary people, parents, businessmen and all stakeholders.

Seventh, a language also needs the patronage of the state and here not only the central government but also the state governments, as it is their primary responsibility to promote the languages ​​of their region.


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