Word Count: 856
Time to read: 3 min 25 sec
India has a rich culture. A country of 1 billion, diverse and deeply rooted in their heritage. From the native Hindu, Muslims and Christians formed a distinct identity of food, dressing style culture and languages. Languages also form a part of this vast country where I live.
Despite the immense diversification of the country. The no. of languages in India is still the fourth-highest according to Wikipedia. So, there are a lot of languages in the world still spoken. This came to me as a surprise as I thought that we have the largest number of spoken languages!
As an Indian, I know three languages with fluency in one – no points for guessing. The other two – Hindi I can read and write with some degree of fluency. The other is Marathi which is the state language of Maharashtra where I live. Hindi and Marathi have a similar script, so it is no surprise that some Maharashtrians know good Hindi.
My mother tongue is not English. For most non-Christians, any Christian for that matter is good in English. Truth be told, Indian Christians are naturally pre-disposed towards this language since we start speaking it from a very young age. Of course, there are exceptions to this fact.
What most people don’t realise is that the core of Indian Christians here speak Konkani as their mother tongue. There are four major native origins of Indian Christians – the Goan Christians speak pure Konkani. Mangalorean Christians and East Indian Christians speak similar Konkani. There may be a slight difference I am not sure. Mangalorean Christians were originally Goans who migrated outside of the state.
It is due to this reason why Goans and Mangaloreans have similar surnames. You will find ‘D’Souza’, Picardo, etc. in both.
The majority of the Christians are Roman Catholics.
When it comes to learning the queen’s language, most people want to learn from the Christians themselves. The greater influence of the queen’s language is because of our colonial past.
The Conundrum! Does the language barrier exist in India? Let me take an example of Europe: The big three – France, the UK and Germany. What are the chances of a person encountering someone who speaks English as he moves from the UK to France and Germany? There may be 50% chances that he or she does.
That chance is greater in India. With over 25+ states, a typical Indian knows at least 2 to 3 languages. This is not uncommon. The conundrum begins when the languages aren’t spoken fluently. This in contrast to my earlier example of Europe where you will rarely encounter people who do not speak native languages fluently.
After parents, the education system is the next best thing to keep languages alive. Their next best responsibility is to ensure everyone learns the language fluently.
The way people speak today is a mix and mash-up for different words from different languages. Hindi is mixed with English like a topping on a pizza! Marathi has a few mixed-up words with English but has remained consistent most of the time. For other languages, I can’t say much due to obvious reasons!
Languages aren’t taught the way they should in the Indian education system. There is a focus on rote learning, subjects are outdated and not changed with the times. Newer subjects are rarely introduced from time to time. In a class consisting of around 60+ students, giving personal attention to every student is beyond the capacity of the class teacher.
The government is attempting to change our outdated education system, but this isn’t something I would like to talk about here.
Language for some forms a distinct identity understood by only a few.
How can language survive the unknown onslaught? When I was a child, mom was impressed with some of her cousins speaking the perfect queen’s language. The results are for you to see.
I don’t blame mom for not keeping me abreast with my mother tongue. I have no regrets. I can understand and speak a little Konkani but it is never the language of choice.
What can you do if English is a second language? Stress the importance to teach your child his or her mother tongue first.
It is the responsibility of the parents first to see their distinct language survives. The government would only do formalities and politics over it.
Languages are dying only because parents aren’t pushing their children to learn at some point in their lives. The government could secondly build scope for such languages to survive.
According to Wikipedia, there are 191 languages of India that are classified as vulnerable or endangered. I have read them for the first time but was not aware there are so many. Another report mentions 600 languages are potentially endangered.
Look at our planet. We have so many languages, dialect…so many individuals. What you speak is the only way we remember our past to have a bright future. Our children will ask us one day, “where were you when our languages were dying?” We will answer, “I was learning some other language because I found my mother tongue boring!”