We can become the centre of all the activities of entire South Asia and the natural economic power by promoting Hindi
Come September 14, we celebrate Hindi Divas and all the stalwarts of the language present their case to “save” Hindi. First things first, this is not a cultural argument for Hindi to be our national language, because it has already been made at lengths. It is also not against the use of English, it is only to emphasise the economic benefits of having Hindi as our national language. Being a Gujarati, I have always been conditioned to think over things from an economic perspective. One common argument against writing in English while making a case for Hindi that would have propped up in the minds of a few skeptic readers is “Why are you not writing in Hindi if Hindi is such a great language?”, but that would be preaching to the already converted. The message needs to reach those who are fashionably westernised and feel an extra pride in reading English only, who would even read Premchand in English.
This nation has for long debated the need to have a national language and English has always been thrusted upon crores of masses by the imperial masters and later on by the succeeding governments, the historic debates in Parliament over why Hindi should not be our national language, the thrust of Nehru towards retaining English as the language of transaction across the nation just because English was “prevalent throughout the nation!” need not be repeated. Though what was the logic behind retaining or rather thrusting English as a pan-India language fails any common sense. In 1947, our literacy rate was only 12 per cent, so what per cent Indians must have known English then to declare it a pan-India language is a question never asked. Today, our literacy rate is 75 per cent and only a quarter percent i.e. 0.25 per cent Indians have English as their first language, around 3 per cent Indians could speak and only 10 per cent Indians can read English!!! After thrusting a language for around 170 years, only 10 per cent can read the language which does not mean they understand it, let alone make it compulsory for many purposes. Indians feel extra pride in declaring they are well verse with English even though it may be contrary. It can be conferred that the original figure of those who can genuinely understand it would be even lesser. Among those 3 per cent who claim they can speak in the language, the actual language spoken is, mostly, Hinglish (combination of Hindi and English), Ginglish (Gujarati and English), Tinglish (Tamil or Telugu and English) and so on. I have seen even the most proud English speakers fumbling when reading some British author.
Let’s compare the same figures with Hindi, more than 75 to 80 per cent of Indians can understand Hindi and not less than 60 per cent can speak it comfortably (it is the mother tongue of 40 per cent of Indians). The language of transaction is either local language or Hindi. The only place where English is used is during drafting. Besides, Hindi is spoken and learnt in all our neighbouring countries without exception. Even Sri Lankans are fond of learning Hindi, quite contrary to the propaganda spread by our “Dravidian brigade of Politicians” in some southern states. The TV serial with highest TRPs “Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi” and “Devon ke Dev Mahadev” in countries like Indonesia and Afghanistan have been without subtitles. Have we ever thought of exporting Hindi to other countries? Have we never calculated the amount of money it can generate? We could have had Hindi as the regional language of SAARC for starters. We could become the centre of all the activities of entire South Asia. We could be the natural economic power as well, given our huge potential. The biggest benefactor would be our services sector which is already the biggest contributor in our GDP. Have we ever thought about the soft power we could have if our language was spoken by their masses? China could never beat us there. We can export Hindi teachers to those countries; we would have students from these countries and also from other Asian and African countries coming to India just to learn Hindi literature the way our students line up for Oxford or Harvard and each one pays lakhs of rupees every year. We have even been paying handsomely to French, Germans and Spanish to teach us their language just because of our “love” of foreign languages or anything that is foreign. Added with the additional avenue for our teachers to go abroad and teach our languages is the fact that when you export teachers, you export culture. Did it ever occur to us why we could not inject that love for our languages among Europeans and Americans so that they would visit our universities for studying Indian
literature? Have we ever calculated how many dollars it would generate annually?
Because of a simple reason that our house is itself divided. If we had 120 crore strong people proud of Hindi as our national language, we could have generated that demand. For starters, it should be one of the official languages of United Nations. Out of the six official languages of United Nations, only Mandarin and English have more speakers than Hindi. We are so fond of French and German languages that we are ready to fight our own government and are ready to neglect our own
languages to learn them, we have
sacrificed our languages because of our feeling of inferiority to foreign
languages and so we cannot market our languages. The French, Germans, Chinese, Japanese, Russians and people of most developed countries are all so proud of their language that they refuse to speak English when in their country, even if they can. It seems to be a trend that developed nations use their own language and nations that are still reeling under slavery use the language of their former masters – be it English, French or Spanish. It can be seen in India as well as Pakistan, South Asia, Africa, Latin America etc. Unless we are so proud of our language as the French or German, foreigners will not be attracted to learn it.
For long have the so-called Dravidian brigade of politicians poisoned the minds of people of some states against Hindi, we have even seen violent protests to keep them away from Hindi, laws were passed in some states to exclude Hindi from schools, but now the scenario is reversing. The parents of these states want their kids to learn Hindi and are forcing state governments to include Hindi in courses. (http://www.ndtv.com/south/we-want-hindi-in-tamil-nadu-new-demand-speaks-language-of-change-578550) It is because their kids face problems finding a job in Northern India or find it difficult to communicate once they get one.
Internet penetration is lesser in rural India and it can be attributed mainly to the language problem. It is much higher in rural China as websites there are all in Mandarin (Chinese), computers, phones all the gadgets support Mandarin. So we are depriving a huge chunk of our population of internet because we are so blind in our slavery to English that we do not emphasise on the need of these facilities in our languages. Whereas computers are produced in so many languages that have very few speakers compared to most Indian languages, but we could not even demand for a Hindi computer or Hindi website.
All the government offices communicate in English. All our higher education is in English which promotes more of rote learning than conceptual understanding. China and Japan, showing great wisdom, translated all the books of higher education from English to their native languages so that their students can understand the concepts. We have a popular misconception in India that we need English if we want to progress, of course inculcated by our British masters, but all the developed countries have educated their students in their native language and have they performed better than India? I’ll leave that unanswered. The ground reality in India is that not many people are fluent in English and the fact is not pitiful, it is actually an alarm call that when majority of masses are not so comfortable in a language, why should it be thrusted upon as the only messiah? We are out of the British Raj, why is the Government of India and our “liberal, progressive, intellectual brigade” imposing it? Have we ever imagined the trauma that a student or a professional goes through because of not being
comfortable in a language that he is so
expected by the society to be fluent in? Do we assume it does not affect individual performances at all? We have doomed them in a gloom of inferiority complex for eternity… just because they do not know a foreign language. On the contrary, we have a saying in Gujarat, “Naukri English me ho sakti hai, par Dhandha to Gujarati me hi hota hai.” Meaning one is
creative enough to generate employment in only the language he is comfortable with. Are we depriving the majority of our masses of that opportunity? Can we ever rise up to our full potential thus?
The argument of forcing Hindi on the entire nation is completely hollow. Indians have been the most receptive people in the world. It was English that was forced on us long back and yet we accepted it. The only required thing is to use our entire potential and not waste our priceless human resource in teaching them a language they are not comfortable in. Will even the rural-most people learn Hindi faster than English? Of course, because Hindi is not much different from any other Indian language, the mother of all Indian languages being the same, Sanskrit. It is, in fact, a mixture of most Indian languages. It is also akin to English in receptivity to words from other languages. It would soon be assimilated with most
languages, over course of time. One major contention presented against Hindi being a national language is that Hindi used in government
terminologies is very difficult to
understand. We need to simplify it, we need to be a bit liberal with grammar when judging people from non-Hindi states, and accent too, the way it is taught in a number of states. The idea of a national language should be to serve as a medium of conversation where delivering the message is important. One problem faced by non-Hindi speakers is they are made fun of whenever they err. That is an area where Hindi speakers need to be
The main argument against having Hindi as a national language was that it would give undue advantage to Hindi speakers in employment, but having English as that language is disadvantageous to more than 90 per cent of population. The reason English is being tested pre-recruitment can be nothing better than continuation of British Raj. This is a practice not
followed in any developed nation. If say, the members of IAS need to learn English, why can’t they be taught during their 2-yr long training? Is it easier to teach English to 100 IAS recruits or ask the nation of a billion to learn it? My contention is that when we can accept foreign languages like French, German, Mandarin, Japanese or English, a language whose speakers literally looted our entire wealth and divided the nation beyond recognition, why do we need to show such step-motherly treatment towards a language of our own land? “I will learn the language of a looter of my nation but not of my own brother” seems to be the stupid-most argument by the eternal argumentative Indian.
(The writer is a Researcher on Vedic Math and Indian Tradition)