Saturday, June 16, 2007

Language, Mother Tongue and the Tongue of the World in Multilingual India

Language is the medium of expression, an expression of thought, it communicates message. Hold on, it is much more. Language is not merely an expression of thought but is thought itself, said Vygotosky, a Russian Psychologist. Media is the message, said McLuhan. Look at this language/expression: most of the Westerner would say "I am angry", where as the Easterner would say "anger came to me",( 'gussa agaya' in Hindi; 'kopa bantu' in Kannada). Is it not a totally different world view ?, one identifies with the emotion and the other is separated from it. Language depict world view.

Mother tongue is the language through which we get to know the world within and around, the milieu's perception of life is ingrained in it. We will be alienated from our people, culture and society if we are not rooted in the mother tongue. Hence,there is lot of sense in making mother tongue the medium of instruction in our schools. Yet, is it enough to get imbibed only with my and my culture's view of the world in today's multifaceted, multidimensional and globalised world? How would you expect me to be tolerant of the diversity of living of multitude of people around me in the world? Languages are the means of engaging myself with the diversity of the world to enhance my growth. Further, often, like my mother tongue kannada, it is not adequate to know the world in its entirety as of now. In fact there is hardly any good book on science and technology in that language yet. Should I suffer all my life not knowing reality offered by science having restricted myself to learning of and by mother tongue only? Kannada people can become first class citizen of the world, not the next class of citizen and , we should never miss him any opportunity to become so.

We have a situation in India where those who know English and got education in English schools get posh jobs and those who come from mother tongue only end up in low paid or menial jobs. The poor and the Dalits belong to the latter category. Are we not contributing to the widening of the gap between the have and have nots, to the social inequality? It makes lots of sense as well to introduce a 'global' language,English, as a subject along with the subject/medium of instruction of mother tongue from the Standard 1st in the school. Studies on monolingualism,bilingualism and multilingualism on cognitive status of young children would support the contention that learning more than one language offers greater stimulation of the mind without being a burden which might even contribute to a more tolerant, more open, more creative and more robust personality.

Mother tongue offers me the rootedness, my identity. The root to grow into stem , branches, leaves, flowers and fruits needs water, air, sun, earth and space and a global language can contribute a vital element in all these. I want to be myself and that self of mine long to include the whole world, relate and respond to all that is in this world of today. Mother tongue and a global language such as English must be given equal priority in our Education from day one for the sake of the child, the society and the world and for God's also as He would love the universal person, viswamanava, and the world as a unit of family,vasudaiva kutumbakam !

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