Decided to write on this topic today, because my previous article on this topic titled “Should Indians bother to learn Indian languages” was much appreciated on Facebook. If you’re interested in this topic, please read my earlier article as well, because this is a continuation, and I won’t be repeating the earlier ideas.
I like to write on this topic because I think of myself as an amateur linguist and love learning new languages and am familiar with seven languages: English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, French and Italian. However, I clarify that I’m “familiar” and not “proficient” because I can’t read/write in all of them, and as for French and Italian, my abilities are very poor right now due to losing touch. In addition, all the ideas I’ll put forward are just my opinions and can be disputed. You are welcome to question them or give me any additional insights.
That being said, I’d like to first start with English. It’s a no-brainer that it’s important to know English to ensure your employability. I’m in no way suggesting that it should be replaced by another language. But, I think the tendency that many privileged Indians have to look down upon or make fun of people who don’t speak English as well as they do, should change. Because, probably the only reason that their English is worse might be because they belong to a disadvantaged background, or because they come from an area where there are fewer English speakers.
Instead of doing this, we could channel our energies on learning our own mother tongue/any other Indian language well. By “well”, I mean proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing. If you are already proficient in all three respects, spend more time reading up the literature in that language. This is important because language and culture are interlinked, and if one diminishes, the other also goes down. However, I agree that there are always elements of culture we need to change to become more progressive, and am not referring to those (dowry, caste, female foeticide etc.). I’m referring to enriching components like literature, arts and music (e.g folk songs) that must be preserved. So, instead of making fun of someone else’s English, try learning your own mother tongue/any other Indian language better.
Apart from preserving culture, this is good because it will enhance your thinking abilities and problem-solving skills. Research has demonstrated that people who are bilingual have better problem-solving skills than people who know only one language, in the same manner, people who are trilingual have better skills than those who are bilingual and so on and so forth. It’s come in handy for me because though I’ve got a knack for getting into problems, am also very good at solving them because I’m familiar with many languages 🙂 😉
Lastly, I want to talk about the evolution of language. It’s interesting that we’re told to follow rigid rules of language like grammar and spelling, but we also know that languages evolved over time! If rigidity is the way to go, how did languages evolve?! That’s why I advocate that you must often break rules and get “poetic” whenever you can (as long as it does not cost you marks in exams).
Lastly, I’d like to state that I’m posting this article without much review and checking – with a large portion probably written in Indian English. I don’t understand why people have problems with Indian English, when they don’t have problems with American English! When so many Indians move to the US to study or work, they willingly adopt American spellings, in the same manner, they could accept Indian English. If we can acknowledge American English and Australian English, why not Indian English? After all, the population of India is much greater than the population of Australia and the US put together 🙂 😉