De-Lurking on the Net

January 6, 2012

Is your mother tongue different to English?

Do you speak Hindi or love your native language but do not not ever write it ?

Last week, in my chat with my colleague, when I said all languages are dying barring English. He said that eventually either English will reign supreme or some variant of it. It sounded very true but I had a feeling that all other languages are the feeders to the main river English, so if English needs to meet the needs of all humanity, it needs all the other languages as well. That means if arctic people wants to call snow in so many words – English should accept those words from their native tongue. But if native tongue is dying and there is no substitute in English, then humanity will be returning to the days when there were no languages.

Earlier this week, I was reading the history of Russian Culture which included coverage of Russian language. The poems, stories of Pushkin are the earliest greatest work in Russian. he is considered founder of  modern Russian literature . Russian did not have any words to describe  manners, emotions etc the time Pushkin was writing and the most literate people in Russia used French around 1800. Pushkin invented Russian words and he introduced their French meaning in brackets for those Russian words. Thus enriching and creating the language much like Bengali was enriched by words  of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay (Author:Vande Matram), the first major writer and Ravindra Nath Tagore (Author: Jan Man Gana), the most influential and translated  Indian writer and poet.

I thought Hindi is older than both Bengali and Russian as the first Hindi poet, Chand Bardai, in the court of Prithviraj Chauhan (1168-1192 CE) composed a eulogy to him, titled Prithviraj Raso, But other than Kirtan &  Bhajan (the religious poems) and  other poems about daily life for a very-2 long time,  Hindi had hardly any literature. English first poet Geoffrey Chaucer happened to be in the late 14th century. So, English came from nowhere and won the acceptance everywhere. Two things could be thought, the technology like the printing press and now internet has been helpful for the language. The British empire particularly in Victorian era established it everywhere, so it has become entrenched across the world. Lately, the US being the most dominant country in terms of trade and power to make it the foremost international language .

I feel particularly appalled that Hindi speakers who grow up fully immersed in Hindi embrace English so much in India and abroad that whatever they write and leave behind for next generations is fully in English. As all modern languages has literature only few hundred years deep, should we not be trying to put Hindi back where it belongs. I saw this comment recently on a Hindi website -

u see we have lots of college students who fancy themselves in Hindi poem writing… they don’t publish it bcoz of lack of opportunity or just bcoz they feel it is just timepass. as they grow up and join jobs the creativity is stifled by the rigors of life.”

Though translations can be done from Hindi to English but English is already very rich to Hindi. Of course, there is a much bigger market in English which is hard to ignore by anyone who wants to be a professional writer or a poet. Nobody suggests to shun that market but I believe that those who grew up in Hindi environment and have job security should not shun Hindi fully. To enrich Hindi, one can always comeback to it by writing down any thoughts  they have in Hindi or a conversation they have with someone or the stories behind the thoughts or conversations. The description of journeys or recalling all the memories they had if putdown on the pages in Hindi will leave Hindi very richer. The translations from English and other languages to your native language like Hindi is must for those who have time and love their native tongue. Just to remind all that the Hindi  language is spoken by 490 million speakers (Data source: Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 15th ed. (2005)) Hindi is at no2 (NATIVE: 370 million) and is ahead of English which is at no 5 (NATIVE: 340 million) (see the top 30 languages of the world ). However English beats Hindi comfortably just by the sheer number of publications it has every year. So, can Hindi be resurrected by its native speakers? If the native speakers do not contribute or leave behind anything to enrich their language who will. I feel surprised when the census is done and most people claim that their mother tongue is different to English but never ever contribute to their mother tongue?

Celebrate this year Hindi World Day on 10th January (हिन्दी विश्व दिवस जो 10 जनवरी ko hai) by reading or writing something in Hindi.

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2 Comments »

  1. Very interesting article. Actually Spanish is the world’s fastest growing language as a FIRST language, but regarding Indians speaking English I would just mentioned that the way many Indians speak English is very beautiful, with different expressions etc. Languages ebb and flow. I think it is clear that many Indian languages will not disappear – but whether they will become 2nd languages to Indians speaking English, or 3rd languages is not clear. But in the end, we cannot and must not blame people who are seeking better economic situations.

    Comment by yepirategunn — September 28, 2012 @ 10:57 am | Reply


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