The oppressiveness of imposing one’s language on others

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Jiby J Kattakayam


Maharashtra has made learning Marathi compulsory till Class 12. Kerala made learning of Malayalam compulsory some years ago. Against the tide of language fanaticism and compulsory mother tongue learning, Andhra Pradesh saw merit in making English compulsory. Karnataka under Siddaramaiah saw the rise of Kannada crusaders who harboured ideas of mandating that even adults spoke the language at workplaces. I hold no brief for any language and am proud that I can read, speak and write three languages—English, Malayalam, Hindi—and can understand and speak and bit of Tamil.

Uddhav Thackeray may be the chief minister of Maharashtra but winning election mandates should not give politicians the power to decide what children should learn or not. His remit should not extend beyond the state board that Maharashtra govenment runs. Children studying in private schools and under other education boards shouldn’t be held hostage by his government’s decisions. Curriculum choices are best left to educationists, parents, capacity of schools, and finally the learning ability of children themselves. Uddhav would be better off ensuring a steady stream of qualified Marathi teachers to schools. Languages will find their speakers, tutors and learners.

Languages were never my cup of tea in school. I struggled with Malayalam and Hindi and ironically came to love both languages only after I left school. More recently, I recoiled in horror opening my son’s Class 1 Hindi textbook. Both he and I were absolutely at sea with the text and we beat a strategic retreat. I admitted my son in a Waldorf school where he would be in kindergarten and out of the pale of academics. I want my son to learn Hindi but I am unsure how I can help him with my own rudimentary knowledge of the language.

Hailing from Kerala, I worry how my son would catch up with Malayalam in middle school if we return home someday. In a globalised world where people are forever on the move, education curriculum needs to show flexibility, at least in terms of language. Young people will invariably learn the languages they need to survive in the worlds they exist. Moreover, language nazis are anachronisms in this age of Google Translate. Chinese passport reading machines are communicating back in your mother tongues at their airports.

In future, I could have a perfect conversation in Marathi with Uddhav Thackeray without even knowing the language. Netflix and Prime have already opened the world of Marathi films to thousands like me. I may even be interested in learning the language in new ways through new technological mediums without a language forced down mine or my son’s throats. The world is changing and Uddhav still fixated on language may want to take notes from millennial son Aaditya who has rightly gauged the economic and cultural practicality of cities staying open 24×7.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

via TOI Blog

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