What about language?
India — a country of various cultures and beliefs united by a notion of “One Nation”.
Recently I came across this news about languages and few things were annoying my mind. So, here I am without an audience, believing that, after we write our thoughts, we’re left with one less annoying thing to overthink about.
What is language?
It’s a way of expression which helps in communication. It is also a great tool at hand when it comes to living in a free country and an era of globalization. It also creates a sense of trust and closeness among people speaking the same language.
(Could this be one of the reasons why animals of the same species live together?)
Now, coming to the big question — which language should be used OR made standard? (I repeat, these are my views and I will try to be as logical as I can)
Before we answer it, let’s understand what we want to solve by answering this question. The most relevant is — it should make me accessible to others and vice-versa because hey! that’s the whole point of communication. Now that leads to another question — when I say “others” does it mean, the whole world? continent? country? state? OR the community?
Now, ladies and gentlemen, this is where we should take a stand first and before coming back to the question of a standard language.
Talking about Indians — We want to make ourselves accessible across the country. If you think we don’t need that, I think rest of the article wouldn’t make sense to you. In future, if I write about why there is a need for a standard language across India, I will put the link in the end.
We (Indians) learn and use English, mostly when it comes to establishing communication with the world OR the people who don’t know our mother tongue. Note, how we formed this ecosystem — Individuals learn a language to communicate with a larger audience and then the language becomes a bridge to enable communication among the ones who were not primarily intended for.
Of course, we learn our mother tongue when it comes to communication among our communities. And if we feel the need, we learn the 3rd, 4th or 5th languages to connect closely with people from other communities.
So, how do we objectively decide on a language that should become a common medium of our conversation? I categorized it in a set of factors which either prefer supporting local language OR a standard language.
Let dive into these categories and then, I will put forth my opinion about the standard language considering the current situation of India.
Game of numbers
Inherently that’s how democracy works. If a “majority” of the people wants something, others should agree to it (with a sense of justice and balance of effects on others). This in no way, means that majority is always right.
Coming back to this aspect in language, if a majority of people knows a language, game of numbers aspect of it says that maybe it’s a great candidate for a generally accepted language. This way, it not only reduces the cost of making people learn the language, but also can start showing it’s impact sooner than later.
Game of comfort
A crucial aspect of human behavior of doing things only when it is required.
Its quite natural to not invest time in learning a language which is not needed that often. This assumption of “don’t need it that often” is comparable to chicken egg problem like — If there are enough people talking in a language, adopting another language is a pain and thus more people adopt the commonly spoken language, and the cycle continues.
If it is hard to relate — compare yourself with the situation when you’re in your home town v/s when you move to a different state/country. You mindset changes instantly because now you “need” to learn and is no more a matter of standing out OR a luxury.
So, having the environment which inherently has an inertia of sticking to the local language stays in that state of mind and thus promotes local language adoption.
Game of expression
Expressing emotions in your mother tongue v/s in some other language could differ a lot, especially when your vocabulary of the other language is not well pronounced.
This is where the most friction comes from — It is easy to express any view in mother tongue rather than frame it in another language. This is partly the reason why we (Indians) use English words in vocal communication of local languages. We try to balance expressing emotions and effort in finding out the purest form of expression.
Our natural instincts of understanding someone better, when communicating in our mother tongue, gives a huge preference to support local languages.
Game of Superiority
Time and again this game in played in different aspects of our life and history. Superiority is/was defined by caste, creed, color, age, economic condition, etc. All these factors of defining superiority has the following things in common:
- Few people possessing it — A feeling of being part of few and thus assuming it to be “novel”.
- Historical achievements — Historical events (sometimes hypothetical) also drives a sense of superiority irrespective of what current situation we are in.
- Local distribution of power /responsibility — Be it economic, political OR demographic, humans have always fallen in prey of calling something superior only based on how the power/responsibility is distributed in their local environment.
So, this game prefers having local language to be adopted to keep the “superiority” intact.
Game of culture/historical significance
There is a constant fear of losing their cultural attachment when adopting another language. Historically, that has been the case and this fear is absolutely well placed.
On the contrary, if there is a fear, we should not shut ourselves in a closed world, we find solutions to those instead.
For e.g. to keep the cultural significance alive and propagate, we have introduced multi lingual text books so that, not only locals understand and appreciate our culture, but also it goes beyond our closed group. The best example I think of is — Yoga and Greek gods.
This game of cultural insecurity promotes adoption of local languages.
Overall, as you see most of the aspects promote having local languages and thus adoption of a common language has been a challenge.
In my opinion, Sanskrit could be made the standard language along with English across India. Here are few things because of which I am opting for Sanskrit and English:
- Why Sanskrit?
- It is the origin of so many languages and cultures in India.
- It is rich in it vocabulary, so I think once we have a grasp of it’s vocabulary our hurdle of expressing ourselves in non-mother tongue language could be overcomed.
- It is respected across India because of it’s historical significance in religious and scientific aspects.
- Why English?
- It is the de-facto language for most of the world. A lot of global organization list it as a standard language already.
- A lot of scientific discoveries and historical records are already available in this language.
- India already has a fairly established infrastructure to make this language accessible to everyone.
Note that I am not saying that you should not learn your mother tongue, rather, I think learning at least 3 languages is a need of time than a luxury. Here is a short summary why:
- Mother tongue — For interacting with your community, understand your culture better, etc.
- Sanskrit — For interacting with different communities in India, further strengthening our bond as a citizen of India.
- English — To interact on a global scale and not miss on any opportunity just because of inaccessibility.
Do let me know your thoughts on this?