India is home to 25 official languages and more than 150 regional languages. Some people may argue that there are several thousand languages in India! Despite this, it isn’t unusual to find a Hindi speaker able to understand some Gujrati or Bengali.
When we talk about learning a new language, we usually think of foreign languages like French, German or Spanish. This is understandable- at some level these have a commercial appeal, especially if you plan to work abroad. But how many people are keen to learn the regional languages of India?
A,B,C …KA, KHA, WHAT?
The English alphabet has 26 letters. If I ask any educated Indian to recite them, they barely hesitate. Then I switch track and ask them to recite the Hindi Varnmala.
*awkward silence* “Urm…I don’t remember…”
A large number of people speak Hindi in India. Yet, we no longer find it surprising that we treat it as second best. English is seen as a language to push us further in life, but it seems as if our Mother Tongues are losing importance with every generation. With Universities in other countries teaching Sanskrit and Hindi, are only foreigners interested in studying our languages?
All hope is not lost yet. Urdu, a language with deep historical and cultural roots is finding takers- and they aren’t as old as you think. Prerna Gupta, a college student, finds time from her busy schedule to learn Urdu.
“I’ve always liked reading poetry even in English and Hindi, so I wanted to learn Urdu, to understand Ghalib or Faiz.” She pointed out that Urdu was actually the language of the common people. “It’s a very recent phenomenon, mostly enforced by the British that they separated Hindi from Urdu, whereas it was a common language Hindustani. So yeah, it is very important for us, for greater culture and for secular values.
Chicago born Ali Taki first learnt Hindi in a college classroom in USA. He eventually moved to Delhi and set up a language institute of his own where foreign and regional languages are taught side by side.
“Most people are not aware of how highly developed Indian languages are. I realized that there wasn’t a language school in Delhi that provided quality language instructions for Hindi, Urdu English and various other languages. This language institute is set up to ensure that when Indian people want to learn an Indian language, it’s available.”
With passionate and dedicated learners still available, regional languages aren’t likely to loose popularity anytime soon.
Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.