Saturday, September 05, 2015

Tongue tied

I have always wanted to learn multiple foreign languages with Japanese, Spanish, French and German taking the top slots as favourites. Somehow i could never think of the local Indian languages be it southern or those spoken up above the Vindhyas as foreign, even though they are as alien. Jai ho to the concept of linguistic divide and diversified unity.

When i think back as to the reason why, the first thing that comes to mind is the pride and respect that one can command by knowing so many languages. Being the lazybones that i am, i couldn't drag myself beyond a few classes i had enrolled, for i realized my want was much more than learning a few syllables here and there and a know-how to pass a casual comment now and then. A cousin of mine managed to make a career out of her linguistic skills and is now a successful editor for many a Japanese text. I never had such inhibitions as well.

To me learning a language is a much more complicated task. Languages are not just a set of characters with grammar formula. They are the window to the culture of the speakers. By just knowing how to read or write one cannot be called an expert, for its akin to learning the syntax of writing a code. To really know a language one has to mingle with the natives, understand their prose and poetry and way of living. Mere mugging up of few syllables would never quite do justice.

Its from this background that i view the biased approach by the government in promoting selective languages. There is hardly any logical justification to their programs. Take for example, the reservation charts that are pasted on each train compartments. They are either in english or hindi. For a localite from TN with no knowledge of either of those languages, he would be hard pressed to travel even within his own state!! In a linguistically bordered nation, no state government will undertake such suicidal note, to promote any language other than its own. How much ever its sugar coated, the central government will be wasting good money after bad in trying to create the infrastructure for promoting the language of its choice. Instead of insisting or force feeding the states into submission by adopting rigid stance, one should encourage the pluralism that is India. We are defined as the land of multiple languages and cultures and heritage. As it is there are so many dialects that have vanished without patronage. Such a brazen act of foolishness would only distort the ever singing fabric of unity in this great country.

Learning multiple tongues is like wearing fancy hats. Its a fashion statement at the best that advertises ones potential to learn. But mother tongue is that head on which rests the other languages. You can't trade your head for a hat. Doesnt make sense ever.

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