India is considered as a diverse country with different religions, caste, creed, and languages. All of us might be proud of the nation’s diversity but at the same time 40 languages are considered to be endangered or are on the verge of extinction. Globalisation has taken its toll on Indian languages as people now are more interested in learning the English language as it opens up more employment opportunities for them. On one hand, the Modi government has been pushing for the promotions of Hindi language in government offices and on the other hand, no steps have been taken by it to preserve those languages which are facing extinction.
Marathi actress and author Nishingandha Wad said, “There is a need to preserve languages. Steps must be taken to preserve and promote tribal culture. A holistic approach is needed to understand their problems. We need to be aware of ancient Indian culture.”
“My mother worked for the preservation of Marathi Vangmay Mandal. Maharashtra government is also taking initiative for the conservation of Marathi language. In the era of globalisation, it is necessary to preserve our languages. In one southern state village, the Sanskrit language is used in daily conversation. Tulu language doesn’t have a transcript but still it is preserved with the efforts of Tulu people,” she added.
The government is also keen to make Hindi language popular in the south India and northeast. Hindi language is more popular in India and even non-Hindi speakers communicate in this language while travelling to other states. A lump sum amount is spent by the government for promoting Hindi language but no initiative is taken to popularise other languages. According to scholars, more than half of the languages spoken by India’s 1.3 billion people may die out over the next 50 years.
Prof. Sameer Jadhav, HOD Arts, Marathi Department, Sathaye College said, “Languages like Malvani and Konkani don’t have written language scripts; hence, it is becoming difficult to preserve them. Those languages which don’t have script should be transcribed so that the current generation can know about it. Vocabulary and unique words must be gathered by consulting veterans. The government must take initiative to preserve languages. It will also pave the way for employment generation.”
The People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) had 780 Indian languages in 2010, out of which 600 are dying. G.N. Devy, Chairman of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India said, “At least 400 Indian languages are at the risk of dying in coming 50 years. PSLI will begin a project to document about 6,000 spoken languages across the world.”
Prof Harish Trivedi, Delhi University said, “Once upon a time, I also believed that languages should be preserved but now I don’t believe in it. If people don’t want to speak a language or preserve it, what can the government do? Languages are dying because people don’t want to use them. Language preservation factor should not only be considered in political terms but from socio-economic and cultural context too.”
The languages or dialects which are considered endangered, include 11 from Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Lamongse, Luro, Muot, Onge, Pu, Sanenyo, Sentilese, Shompen and Takahanyilang), seven from Manipur (Aimol, Aka, Koiren, Lamgang, Langrong, Purum and Tarao) and four from Himachal Pradesh (Baghati, Handuri, Pangvali and Sirmaudi).
The other languages in the endangered category are Manda, Parji and Pengo (Odisha), Koraga and Kuruba (Karnataka), Gadaba and Naiki (AP), Kota and Toda (Tamil Nadu), Mra and Na (Arunachal Pradesh), Tai Nora and Tai Rong (Assam), Bangani (Uttarakhand), Birhor (Jharkhand), Nihali (Maharashtra), Ruga (Meghalaya) and Toto (West Bengal)
A professor spoke to AV on the condition of anonymity and said, “The government is not taking any initiative to preserve languages. For preserving a language, it must be introduced in schools and its dictionary too needs to be prepared. Documentation of languages is necessary and community representation is necessary too for their preservation.”
As per a report of the Census Directorate, 22 scheduled languages and 100 non-scheduled languages exist in the country. These languages are spoken by one lakh or more people. On the other hand, 42 languages are spoken by less than 10,000 people. These languages are considered as endangered and are likely to face extinction. Rampant urbanisation is another reason which is responsible for the extinction of several languages. In urban India, many families speak English with their children and often neglect their native language. Therefore, children too become accustomed to English and remain unaware of their mother tongue. Even migration of people from rural to urban areas is responsible for extinction of language. Often people tend to adopt the language and lifestyle of the city in which they have migrated as they start giving more prominence to the local language.