ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Time for some linguistic chivalry

Time for some linguistic chivalry
Highlights

Language is meant to be learnt as a tool of self-expression and for communication. In a country with 20 official languages and myriad other languages and their dialects, it should be a fit case of more-the-merrier.

Smriti IraniLanguage is meant to be learnt as a tool of self-expression and for communication. In a country with 20 official languages and myriad other languages and their dialects, it should be a fit case of more-the-merrier.

Ideally, it should be kept above regional or regional considerations and be away from a sense of linguistic superiority.

A language is best learnt while young, particularly at the secondary school level. Time was when one was offered a plethora of foreign languages like Latin, French, German and Russian. Sanskrit was of equal status. Persian was popular among the Muslims while the Buddhists preferred Prakrit-Ardhamagadhi. Over the years, as Indian went global, thanks to the overwhelming patronisation of English as a common medium of instruction, we insulated ourselves from classical languages that anyway did not fetch jobs. By globalization we were given to understand that we learn at least those that brighten our employment prospects This is essential when India and Indians seek a global market, the knowledge of English language being a significant arrow in their armoury.

Now, if English is okay, why not German? Distracting from discussing key bilateral and global issues and German investment in India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to request him to look for a "pragmatic" solution to the issue the government-run Kendriya Vidyalayas discontinuing the teaching of German language.

Secondly, one sincerely hopes it has no hidden agenda that endeavours to “Indianise” the country’s education, like the way history books are sought to be re-written. The debate over ‘Indianising’ history is best kept among scholars and historians and if school-going students are kept out. They should be free to choose a language (irrespective of the nationality) of their choice.

One suspects the move at “indianising” of language curriculum stems from the stated preference for Sanskrit. Clarification by Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani that there is also an option of other Indian languages does not wash away the apprehensions because they raise a pertinent question: why not foreign languages?


Without meaning to slight Sanskrit, which is indeed the very source of most Indian languages, one cannot blame students who may wish to learn any of the modern languages. To deny them that opportunity would be wrong. And to deny them the German language would have made Max Mueller, the German scholar, unhappy. He was, after all, the Pandit of Sanskrit and his efforts made the world know what a great language Sanskrit has been.

Since taking office, the HRD Ministry under Irani has been functioning in a manner that has left many suspecting that ideological considerations are gaining priority over academic ones. Diktats from the top are pushed down the throats of authorities of institutions that are supposed to be autonomous. The reversal of the four-year graduation course in Delhi University is a case in point.

India is too diverse a nation. The HRD Ministry ought to confine itself to laying down broad policy guidelines and not try to micro-manage the field of education, which is too vast and too complex.

Show Full Article
Download The Hans India Android App or iOS App for the Latest update on your phone.
Subscribed Failed...
Subscribed Successfully...
More Stories


Top