From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : 3 language formula
Mains level : Role of mother tongue
India is a linguistic treasure-trove. India is widely acknowledged for its extraordinary linguistic and cultural diversity.
Diversity in India
- More than 19,500 languages and dialects are spoken in India as mother tongues, according to the Language Census.
- There are 121 languages which are spoken by 10,000 or more people in the country.
Challenges to languages
- 196 languages in India are classified as endangered.
- We are not doing enough to preserve our rich native languages.
- Governments need to be doubly careful while adopting policies regarding the medium of instruction, particularly at the primary and secondary school levels.
- The mother tongue lays a strong foundation for the expression of creativity.
- It is a tool for intellectual and emotional expression.
- It is a vehicle of intergenerational transmission of culture, scientific knowledge, and a worldview.
- It is the vital, unseen thread that links the past with the present.
- It evolves with human evolution and is nourished by constant use.
- Our languages permeate every facet of our day-to-day life and form the very basis of our civilisation.
- They are the lifeblood of our identity, both individual and collective.
- They play a significant role in creating and strengthening bonds among people.
- Languages are never static. They evolve and adapt to the socio-economic milieu.
- They grow, shrink, transform, merge and die.
- The great Indian poet, Acharya Dandi, had said that if the light of language does not exist, we will be groping in a dark world.
- When a language declines, it takes with it an entire knowledge system and a unique perspective of viewing the universe.
- The traditional livelihood patterns disappear along with our special skills, arts, crafts, cuisine, and trade.
Language preservation and development
- Making the mother tongue as the medium of instruction in our schools at the primary level.
- A number of studies conducted all over the world have established that teaching the mother tongue at the initial stages of education gives an impetus to the growth of mind and thought.
- It makes children more creative and logical.
- Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Mother Language Day, said: “For UNESCO, every mother tongue deserves to be known, recognised and given greater prominence in all spheres of public life.”
- Mother tongues do not necessarily have national-language status, official-language status, or status as the language of instruction.
- There is a misconception that only English education offers opportunities to grow in the modern world.
- There are only a handful of English-speaking countries like Australia, Britain, Canada, the US, etc.
- Countries like China, Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, etc did very well without English education.
- Knowing English is useful, like knowing other international languages.
- This can’t be extended to make a case for supplanting the mother tongue with English.
- It can be learned easily at an appropriate stage after a strong foundation is laid in the mother tongue.
- Make mother tongue as the medium of instruction at the primary level.
- Take all steps to make it the language of administration, banking, and judicial proceedings.
- Remove the existing linguistic barriers to realize the goal of inclusive governance.
- Wherever there is a government-public interface, it should be in the language people understand.
- In 1999, UNESCO adopted a resolution on multilingual education and suggested the use of at least three languages in education: The mother language(s), a regional or national language and an international language.
- The crucial role of the mother language is a source of knowledge and innovation. The “command of a mother tongue facilitates general learning and learning of other languages”.
Steps in the direction
- The new draft National Education Policy puts forth a number of suggestions for supporting education in home languages and mother tongues, tribal as well as sign languages.
- The United Nations has proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages to preserve, revitalise and promote indigenous languages.
- People can start using their native languages at home, in the community, in meetings, and in administration.
- We must accord a sense of dignity and pride to those who speak, write and communicate in these languages.
- We must encourage Indian language publications, journals and children’s books.
- Dialects and folk literature must be given adequate focus.
- Language promotion should be an integral part of good governance. Swami Vivekananda once said that language is the chief means and index of a nation’s progress.
- In the Rajya Sabha, a provision has been made for its members to express themselves in any of the 22 scheduled languages.
- The Supreme Court has recently decided to make available its judgments in six Indian languages, to start with.
- The finance ministry has decided to conduct the examinations for employment in Regional Rural Banks in 13 regional languages, in addition to English and Hindi.
- The Railways and Postal departments started conducting their exams in the states’ official languages.