Dilawar Singh Being Dilawar/ Tools/

Let me add some context first. I am a native Hindustani speaker who spent most of his life in Southern India. I consider myself south Indian but I am yet to assign a state to myself. Since my wife is from Udupi, so I guess it’s Karnataka for sure. I speak Kannada a little (and a little bit of Tamil since I lived in Chennai for 5 years). I spent most time in college learning English and computer languages. I grew up in a village and didn’t learn English in school. I went to a Hindi medium school and I sympathize a lot with anyone who went to a vernacular medium. Vernacular is such a burden to carry around in this country.

As someone who couldn’t speak or listen English well, I was in for a rude surprise. I knew English mattered a lot since the whole curriculum was in it. Since I could read fine and write passably, I didn’t feel nervous it. I wanted to learn Tamil first since local RSS drilled ‘swadeshi’ stuff in my head so any language was preferred over English.

The rude surprise was to came from my fellow classmates who went to English medium school. They never tired of putting me in my place by showing me the deficiency in my English. Many almost took a perverse interest in it. So I ended up spending most of my time learning English. Now I feel it was a good decision but it left a bitter taste in my mouth.

These days, the same classmates who once were very proud of their English accent and vocabulary – and now sending their children to English medium school – are becoming very passionate about their glorious mother tongue e.g. Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, and even Hindi. They can enumerate various threats to their mother tongue while they teach even their dog to bark in English!

Recently a little toxic discussion on r/Bangalore brought back these memories. I was wondering if the people here who went to Kannada medium school also feel the same way about most language fanatics out there? That Kannada future is bleak? I feel that people who think in English are vehemently shouting that their mother tongue is in danger?! It is just venting at its best.

All this mixing up is bound to enrich local languages rather than devouring them, unless of course, every native sends their children to English-only school. Some languages are bound to disappear since there is no economy around those languages. Being endangered is one thing and having the feeling of being endangered is another! More and more people are gripped by the feeling of being endangered these days. Till 2015, vernacular books were doing better year after year (https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/books-in-kannada-and-other-languages-doing-well-online/article7835370.ece). Also, more techies are building stuff in their mother tongue. And language support in IT is improving every day. As long as a language doesn’t falter on technology and maintains a decent economy about it, it has a bright future. Kannada is definitely healthy on this front.

As far as Hindi is concerned, I think all the influence of English in the past has enriched Hindi a lot. The Hindi literature became enriched after the Russian and English influence. Guess what, Premchand wrote the outline of his famous novel Godan in English. Ram Guha has written a great piece on the rise and Fall of the Bilingual intellectual.

Hindi is a very new language: the first dictionary was written in 1901. Hardly anyone spoke Hindi then as we know it Hindi Nationalism, Alok Rai. Bollywood did to Hindi what technology did to English. There are enough noisy people near Delhi who claim that Hindi is in danger (from English). And not unexpectedly, they send their hatchlings to be trained somewhere in the US and Europe after securing them an English medium school here. I grew up among such eople so I suspect everyone who sends their kids to English medium school while lecturing in public about the health of vernacular.

The liberal mixing of people have created many anxieties. We need to have a healthy attitude about our predicaments. I get annoyed by the hypocrisy shown by the local language warriors. A language grows if the economy around it grows even if the number of its speaker dwindles. I’d rather be one of the peacocks than one of the crows anyday. I don’t think you can force someone to love a language: you have to give them something worth loving. I remember buying an English-Hindi dictionary after I read the translation of The Happy Price by Oscar Wilde in high school. I know many people, some hardcore anti-XYZ, searching for the meaning of Arabic words just to enjoy a Ghalib sher.p