06 April 2006

The National Language

The National Language

The Language: A national language is the language of a nation. When all the people of a country speak one language then their mother-tongue becomes the language of the nation or in other words the national language. But in a country like ours, i.e., India, where people speak a wide variety of languages, depending upon the the state they belong to, the problem of choosing a national language arises.

The Need: We need a national language, a) to serve as a lingua-franca between peoples of different languages or states, b) to serve as the language of the government, and c) to promote quality higher education of uniform standard throughout the country.

With so many languages around choosing one language as the national language becomes difficult. The criterion used in choosing 'Hindi' as the national language is that it is the language spoken or understood by the largest number. A fair criterion, it would seem. But the language has its own drawbacks.

The Drawbacks: A national language must also serve the purpose of uniform higher education. But scholars have failed in developing "Hindi" to a level where it is well-suited to teach even Sciences. And the politicians have succeeded in making "Hindi" unacceptable in certain parts of the country. Even if we have a well-developed and well-accepted national language we may have another kind of problem.

The Problem: The countries of the world too need an international language to serve as the lingua-franca. Of the few international languages English is the best with its widest vocabulary, vast literature and perfect suitability to teach Sciences in addition to being the widest spoken language. Then, must we learn one national language, one international language besides one's mother tongue? That is 50% of the school curriculum goes to learning languages with the result that sometimes children just cram things without much comprehension.

The Solution: We can reduce this burden to a considerable extent by adopting one and the same language at the national as well as international levels. That is English is the best choice for our national language. The time and effort thus saved can be better used in learning other subjects with better comprehension. Further, it reduces the cost of text-book publishing because books can be publised in large scale in one language. Also, we would be having access to a wide variety of foreign text-books available in English.

Our Sense of Nationalism: Many feel that having English, a foreign language, as our national lanuage is against our sense of nationalism. Okay, let us look at the issue this way: We have been aiming at achieving one world government and universal brotherhood. That is,"Vasudhaika Kutumbakam", the world as one big family. Thus if we can broaden our outlook a little, English need not be so alien. If we are so particular about our sense of nationalism and our own identity why not we show it through our dress? Almost all our dresses and fashions are Western. We have accepted them with such a broad mindedness. But when it comes to a language we become narrow-minded. Let us remember, a language serves a better purpose than a dress. It facilitates communication and commnication promotes understanding between people.

Gandhiji, a noble soul, was in favour of a national language of our own. I dare not question his wisdom but I wonder what he would have said to this line of argument. As far as I could understand Gandhiji, he never had sentiments that were not cosistent with his rationalistic thinking. Or could there be some fine imperceptible fallacy in my argument? With growing popularity of English-medium convents and education in professinal clleges and at PG level still being in English-medium, isn't it hypocritical to talk in terms of a national language of our own? Can't we shed our false sense of nationalism?

In my view real nationalism is something warm you feel at heart for your country. Whatever nationalism is, it certainly is not something to fool around.


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