|Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Need and importance of preserving linguistic diversity. Government efforts. Measures needed.
Conclusion. Way forward.
India is one of the unique countries in the world that has the legacy of diversity of languages. The Constitution of India has recognised 22 official languages under the 8th schedule. People in different parts of the country speak more than one language since their birth. Though officially there are 122 languages, People’s Linguistic Survey of India has identified 780 languages, of which 50 are extinct in the past five decades. Examples of such languages are Wadari, Kolhati, Golla, Gisari.
Need and importance of preserving linguistic diversity in India:
- Cultural Identity: For individuals, language is constitutive of cultural identity. We are what we speak. Any destruction to language impact identity of individuals leading to identity crisis. This impact their ability to grow and develop as an individual.
- Cultural Diversity: Diversity in languages reflects and enhances cultural diversity. This in turn enriches the world. Unwritten languages rich in oral traditions, stories, songs, poetry, and ritual passed down through the generations constitute cultural diversity of a nation.
- Human rights: Since language is central to identity, one’s freedom to use one’s language is seen as inherent in the dignity of the human person. Many people don’t know English and thus fail to enjoy rights provided due to lack of understanding.
- A glimpse of our past:Languages provides a glimpse of our history. Once a language is lost it is a loss of history and culture associated with that language. Many languages have not been preserved and thus many traditions have lost due to this.
- Environment: Languages are closely connected to the environment they are spoken in, so in such areas they contain rich, detailed and technical knowledge about the flora, fauna, and habitat of that area. These languages are ecological encyclopaedias. The biological diversity and linguistic diversity go hand in hand. If one is threatened, then so is the other.
- Cognitive abilities: Research has shown a strong correlation between improved cognitive abilities in children when they are taught in their mother tongue in primary school. If a child is not taught in the language that he or she uses at home, then he suffer poor learning and critical abilities.
- Technology development: Government has initiated Technology Development for Indian Languages with the objective of developing information processing tools and techniques. This will facilitate human machine interaction without language barrier; creating and accessing multilingual knowledge resources.
- Mandatory inclusion: The Government of India under the vision of digital India has mandated the mobile phones sold from July 2017 should support all Indian languages. This will pave the way for bridging the digital divide, empowering one billion people who do not speak English. This will also enhance the capacity of large numbers of people to be part of e-governance and e- commerce.
Measures to preserve linguistic diversity:
- Engage indigenous people: To realise the rights and aspirations of indigenous people, it would be necessary that the government should engage and support indigenous people in determining their own development through policies that are inclusive, equitable and accessible.
- Education: About 8% of Indian population belongs to tribal communities. Their identity and culture is linked with their languages. The only way to ensure that these languages do not become extinct from this multilingual country is to give them their place in school education for at least 5 to 8 years as a language. This could be achieved making special provisions for regions/districts where the tribal and minor language population is concentrated.
- Promoting universal acceptance for international domain names: According to UNESCO, Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) can help to foster the growth of local languages online by allowing Internet users to use non-Latin scripts to access domain names. IDNs which consist of characters from non-Latin scripts form a vital part of the ecosystem necessary to foster the growth of local languages online.
- Awareness: The internet can be used to raise awareness about the issues of language extinction and language preservation. It can be used to translate, catalog, store, and provide information and access to languages. New technologies such as podcasts can be used to preserve the spoken versions of languages, and written documents can preserve information about the native literature and linguistics of languages.
In recent years the language diversity is under threat as speakers of diverse languages are becoming rare and major languages are adopted after abandoning the mother tongues. The problem needs to be addressed at societal level, in which the communities have to take part in conservation of language diversity that is part of cultural wealth.