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End of the Mother Tongue?

Posted: June 29, 2012

“Wanna be my Chamak Challo?” croons the singer as a crowd grooves to its entrancing beat.

“Why this Kolaveri d…” was yet another recent Internet rage…

 “Mujhe aapke Ears me kuch batana hai,” I overheard a Mom telling her four year old….

By now you must have got the drift of what I am trying to say. Tune in to any radio station and one finds a strange language cocktail of Hindi, English and the local language.   Increasingly we use more than one language in our conversations and often the usage is in the same sentence.  New communications devices mean we have new ‘words’ to use that are abbreviated forms of the original ones…

Is this merely a reflection of western influences on our lifestyles or is it the language of modern Indians?

As far as education is concerned, many students have told me that it’s not easy to locate reference books or scientific manuals, information in local languages. They have to turn to publications in English (either print or via the Internet). English is almost a universal mode of communication and enables conversation with people from all walks of life from any country.  Often grooms stress on ‘convent education’ or ‘English speaking’ in their list of ‘preferences’ in their would-be brides.

Earlier, it was Indian words that were incorporated into English and even listed in the Oxford Dictionary. Now its English words have made their way into Indian languages.

I am worried that such a language fusion may spell an impending end of Marathi, Hindi or any other Indian language in their pure form. Most of us prefer to send our children to ‘English medium’ schools instead of Marathi or Kannada medium ones (or any other regional language). We still do speak our ‘mother tongue’ at home but with increasing external influences, our conversations begin in one language and end up in another. Grammar is often forsaken at the altar of simply getting our message across. Thus the family ends up speaking the so-called Minglish (Marathi + English) and I am sure other versions exist in other states.

Increasing urbanisation, intercommunity marriages (where the husband and wife speak different languages), work-related migration to new cities (either in India or abroad) are few reasons for this change. Children’s’ academics demand English proficiency as do requirements for jobs.

As a result our children grow up often able to ‘speak’ their mother tongue but unable to read, write hence unable to enjoy and appreciate its rich literature, their tragic loss I would think. Poets, authors of yesteryears have left a treasure trove of books, poems, plays that may only remain in memories of our grandparents… Such ‘old’ books are often discarded with old newspapers and some may find their way to the road side book sellers – ‘gems’ waiting to be discovered by a discerning reader.

Of course some works have been translated, which is but a poor substitute for the real thing.

When travelling abroad, leaders of many countries always speak in their own language using interpreters as required. I have heard visiting Bonsai masters often speak in Chinese/ Japanese etc during workshops and attendees have to depend on interpreters or the actual ‘demonstration’ to figure out the details.

In this so called ‘flat world’ it’s vital to master a universally understood language but we must nurture our heritage as well. I recently read an article that described ways to save ‘dying’ languages and was happy to find none of our languages mentioned there.

I have nothing against English, far from it. It is the language I think in, write in and the one we use to communicate on Women’s Web… My reservations pertain to the combinations instead of the pure form of the language…

So are we just confused or is it a successful language evolution or just a new norm of the new India? I am simultaneously saddened, enraged, defeated about this possible withering away of our rich languages.

Then you may well ask me… ‘Why this Kolaveri di…”

Archana is a physiotherapist, fitness enthusiast, amateur field botanist and nurtures a few bonsai. Happiest

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