Aug 27, 2009

Y-3 : The mystery of Language

Let me give two disclaimers before commencing this article.
1. In recent times , I am being more attracted to one specific word in English .... .The word is WHY . I dont know why . But as a consequence this Y series is born . Lots of interesting WHYs float in my mind which I find good to share . This is Y3 ........since the previous two articles on my blog are also WHYs. Soon some more to follow.

2. I do not intend to be a chauvinist or a blind linguistic terrorist . At certain areas in this article , I may pose some questions to other languages like Hindi . But not with the slightest intention to ridicule it or to make Tamil look superior. In fact I do not think Tamil is a superior language over Hindi AND VICE VERSA ! Or consider English also for the fact. No language is superior over another for me.

There was this young Tamil speaking fellow who never had the necessity (let aside curiosity) to learn any language apart from Tamil and English. He speaks Tamil at home , Tamil with his friends , English at work and where Tamil does not sell. His friends predominantly knew Tamil or English. Life was smooth.

And time takes him to a far away place where the majority of people speak Hindi and not Tamil - where people find it comfortable to speak to him in Hindi , knowing fully well that he does not understand Hindi ( :-) !) and perfectly aware that thers is a common language English that they both know. He tells them he does not know Hindi . Some kind souls offer to teach him Hindi . Some kinder souls switch to English when they speak to him. Some curious friendly souls offer to teach Hindi and demand to be taught Tamil in return .

These are questions for the other special souls . Is it a sin not to know Hindi in India ? .........
Ok I accept that knowing it helps. But is not knowing it a sin ?

Invariably they flood him with reasons to learn Hindi . ONE : My favourite one too ..... How come you not know our national language ? Shame on you Indian chap !
Should he be ashamed ? Honestly , how many of the Hindi bolo people learnt Hindi because it is the sacred prestrigious rich national language of ours ? ....... Come on , they learnt it because their mother taught them to say MAA and he learnt Tamil because his mother preferred AMMA.
Then has his mother committed a sin ?

TWO : LEARN HINDI BECAUSE IT IS ESSENTIAL TO SURVIVE IN INDIA . Well ..... I will say a Yes and a No. Yes because it is essential to survive in some parts of India . He can not negotiate with a Hindi-speaking auto rickshaw driver in Delhi . And No because the Hindi pundit can not negotiate with an auto driver in Tamil Nadu , or Kerala or Karnataka or Andhra . I am surprised when certain people think the people in southern states find no necessity to speak in Hindi. He was even asked by a curious passerby , "I cant imagine how you people converse in your place without knowing Hindi " ... Which looks funny ?

THREE : HOW CAN YOU NOT WATCH A BOLLYWOOD MOVIE . SHOULDN'T YOU LEARN HINDI ASAP ? The world is improving people . It is exactly for this fact that an invention named 'subtitle' came into place. ( I don't want to stress on this , but in recent time I find a lot of Tamil movies made with real sense of meaning and intellectual thirst compared to Bollywood ..... But it depends on my perception )

FOUR : BETTER LEARN HINDI BECAUSE WE WILL NOT HAVE THE MANNERS TO SPEAK IN ENGLISH ABOUT YOU WHEN YOU ARE AROUND SO THAT YOU DONT FEEL AWKWARD AND LOST. AND WHO KNOWS I MAY SWEAR AT YOU IN HINDI AND YOU SMILE AT ME ... NOT UNDERSTANDING A WORD OF IT. Thank you very much .. I will soon learn Hindi because I do not want to be a pushover . This question is not only specific to Hindi .... Dont the Tamilians do this in Tamil Nadu ? Dont the Kannadigas do this in Kannada ? Dont we all do it ? Let us all be ashamed when we do this and let us all learn the other languages because the others are also like us .

FIVE : FRIEND , I UNDERSTAND BUT WHAT TO DO . WE DO NOT HAVE A COMMON LANGUAGE . SO YOU LEARN MINE . Perfect friend ... we both have a task at hand. Let me learn yours and you learn mine. What is wrong , now we both know one additional language . Don't we ?

Please read disclaimer 2 again . Here I say the Tamil speaking guy only finds such questions funny and lives in perfect harmony with the friends from other places in the new place. He has nothing to complain about them . But the following are not funny issues !

To me a language is a means of communication . Sense of ownership and pride come second. Languages are like religions. Let everyone have their own and live in peace respecting the other's language. Unforunately languages are being exactly like religions today !!! Some Muslims hate Christians . Some Hindus hate Muslims. Some Kannadigas hate Tamils. Some Marathis hate Biharis . Why ?

Where does the superiority concept come in . I have seen a lot of Tamil scholars flaunt proudly that Tamil is the best language in the world . Every language has these bunch of clowns. What does the best language mean to a person who does not understand it ? Every language is equal and demands same respect . It has earned the respect because a group of people felt that it is the best for them to use . A language gains respect from a person who uses it . Not the other way round . A nice axiom in Tamil says , 'Not everyone who grows a beard can be Tagore and not everyone who has a mush become Bharathiyaar'. ??

What is the mother language then ? Shouldn't we proud of it ? Of course , we respect our mothers. But we don't doubt the sanctity of our fellow human being's mother . Do we ?
It is sad and disgusting to see the younger generation grow up not knowing the mother toungues . How many kids in Tamil Nadu can read and write in Tamil comfortably ( leave alone perfectly ) . Does'nt this question extend to every other language , in different proportions of seriousness ?

Is it the reason ? Is that stupid foreign language the culprit ? Absolutely no !!! We are the culprits. We let our mother to rot . ( Lots of young mothers and fathers in Tamil Nadu are chiding their kids when they do not call them mummy or daddy . So they let themselves to rot ? ) Don't call English stupid . It is easy, flexible and has some advantages that other languages do not have . After all we use it for lots of purposes . So like it or not , learn it . Don't call English foreign .... The language, like Sonia Gandhi, has obtained citizenship here . The only problem is that many youngsters are not aware of the concept of dual citizenship and they throw away their native citizenships for English. I have read poems, novels and books in English. I understand them. I find the language as sweet and intellectually rich as Tamil (this comparison is just because Tamil is the only other language that I am proficient enough to read for pleasure ) .

Last question : An Indian speaker ( let him be Tamil, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali or what ever ) gets ridiculed by the educated society when he commits hopeless pronunciation mistakes on other foreign languages and English too . MTI ( Mother Toungue Influence ) is a sin !!! Perfectly reasonable . The educated community wants a foreign language to be spoken as it is by a native speaker . Sign of an educated man !!

But where do they go when Geoffrey Boycott utters Myoothaayaa Myooraleedharan or Haawbjan Singh. Can Sunny Gavaskar make fun of Geoffrey's pronunciation in the commentary box ?

How to use the 'மொழி'ன்னு ஒண்ணு இருக்குல்ல ?!


nanda said...

Ur contradictions to all d reasons are very much true.. But...

Every country has their own boundaries.What will happen to a common man if he crosses that boundary without informing the concerned officials?? He will obviously be shot down or prisoned. (We all know wat happens to an indian fisherman when he loses his way and ends in SL.)If you say Language is just meant for communication,I say that the lands are just meant for habitation. If the citizens of each and every country boast that their nation is the best, why is the same thing, when done to one's own language looks idiotic?? When the former is hailed as patriotism, why is the latter nailed as stupidity?

We can clearly see the leakage. But d origin of the crack is hidden deeply inside our 'self-centered attitude'. Unless these cracks are identified and sealed, these leakages are bound to occur..!!

mathi said...

Interesting questions da ... The division of habitat was done originally for the purpose of peaceful living in one's own territory without intrusion . Patriotism - for both land and language will be respect for one's own and not contempt for the other. The self-centred attitude that you say set in somewhere and ruined the very purpose . Very true. Today we are bragging about respecting global cultures and creating harmony (let aside terrorism ) . that is what every business and bureaucracy is doing. Survival of an MNC or a govt. is directly linked to goodwill of other nations now and this leads to that mutual respect. But hidden motives and lack of complete trust are still in the air !!

aswin jayaraman said...

Enaku en intha kola veri nu puriyala.And one more thing,have u really registered a copy right for the blog?

aswin jayaraman said...

There is a reason behing asking this:)

a said...

well well GS. your blog reflects the sentiments of most of the south Indians.

mathi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mathi said...

Hey Aswin .. idhu kola verilaam illa da . adhuvaa varudhu . naan enna seyya :-) Copyright is not a registration-must IPR(intellectual property right) . Pieces of literature , art , music etc. need not be registered to claim a copyright. They are owned by the creator by default. By mentioning I reservr the copyright for my blog , I can ascertain that I have the right to sue any person who copies this without my consent . Legally right . Avlodaan . Any creator can take this right.

SHIVA said...

i have experienced a similiar situation in SSB interview in mysore where the northern students are more interested to reply in hindi than in english. (i dont want to blame those guys). it happens every where. now i have a question, why one should have a citizenship? (this question can be extended to religion and caste).what if i wish i dont want to be identified by any nation??? Is it possible?

mathi said...

this citizenship issue s already debated . i think there are two ways. one .. you should be a nobody. if u wish to forgo all rights including voting in the nation, you can prefer to be and no one worries. two .... you should be a big shot , countries will fight to offer you citizenship. proud to say u r their citizen. they fought for einstein and a few others.but such wise men prefer to be called global citizens .... nammai pola nadula nikaravangaluku ipo oru nizhal thevai. can opt out of the citizenship only if you earn the right i feel

Narasimhan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Narasimhan said...

Well said ,my friend. Not knowing Hindi does not mean ignorance. It is unfortunate that there is a hindi tamil divide which we have to go through even in this era. As regards this issue this is what tamilians have had to face as compared to the other south indian states. The issue of national language as a sentiment is crap. How many people can sing the national anthem without any mistake?? The very funda of unity in diversity seems pointless when people seperate each other based on language.

Venkatesh said...

Good post da.. Me too have been into this linguistic research for the past two or three months.Some points to be noted:
1.The major,really a MAJOR misconception is HINDI IS THE NATIONAL LANGUAGE OF INDIA. I'll give someone million dollars if he proves that HINDI is the rashtrabasha.Hindi is one of the 23 official languages of this country.Article 343 states Hindi(written in Devanagari) will be used as an official language for the Central Government for official communication between central and state governments along with ENGLISH.A national language defines the culture and tradition of a nation. India being a multi-lingual nation,Hindi can definitely not be the National Language.

2."I can't imagine how you people converse in your place without hindi"-Me too felt this experience when I was speakin with some of my fellow interview-mates at SIBM,Pune and was deeply hurt by such a kind of statement.Simply unacceptable.I wished of telling him the uniqueness and classical status etc etc of our THAAIMOZHI.but just left it.
3."Learning hindi is an added advantage."Yeah..Accepted.. No second thoughts.(FYI,I'm gonna start learnin hindi asap).But a person has no right to compell us to learn hindi.I saw this statement in some orkut community rightly said,"Enaku arippu edutha naan sorinjukuren.Enaku futurela arippu varumnu,nee enaku onum sorinju vida venam ;-) (No offence meant)

4.Language is basically a tool for commuincation. A valid point. But I personally feel the mother tongue of every individual is more than that. It'our tradition,our culture,the repository and archive.. It's what our forefathers believed in it. My mind is filled with a lot of joy when I hear someone speaks about tholkaapiyam,pathupaatu,ettuthogai,ani illakanam,alagiduthal,pagupatha urupilakkanam,siledai etc etc. I'm deeply worried if someone says I'm not fluent in my mother tongue and I don't know to write my mother tongue.(My relatives included).I wish everyone should learn their mother tongue compulsorily.

5.Hindi people refused and refuses to speak english because they feel english as alien to them. They say they are patriotic. Yes. No wrong in it. The same case with us. hindi is as alien to us as english is. all this Indian nationalism arrived only due to British Raj.Else there is no chance of India being a single united nation.It would've been like an European Union. Thanks to British,now we're facing a single nation(Technically three-Pak and bang included) and enjoying a lot of advantges and some kind of disadvantages like this. But if someone says and proves me that,"Being patriotic means you should learn hindi and the vice versa",then I have no hesitaion in saying that I don't need this (H)INDIA.

mathi said...

@sima thanks
@venki good one venki .... i m happy that the post became a platform for many opinions to pour out from many ! even i m learning hindi recently. ek gaav me ek kisaan rahu thaathaa dan ipo:-)

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