In the present era of globalisation, several minority languages face a major threat of extinction. Globalisation and the advent of digital and social media have developed a trend especially in countries like India, where English is given priority over indigenous languages.
According to a 2018 PTI report, more than 19,500 dialects are spoken in India as mother tongues. A total of 121 major languages and 22 scheduled languages have been listed out.
However, in recent years, a decrease in the number of non-scheduled languages has been observed. In 2011, non-scheduled languages decreased to 99, while the figure was 100 in 2001. It was a result of the exclusion of Simte and Persian from the list due to insufficient number of speakers and the inclusion of Mao.
The trend is alarming as it is essential to preserve indigenous languages, not just in India but across the world.
On International Mother Language Day on Thursday, DH celebrates the beauty of mother tongues, in particular, Kannada.
Need of the hour
Often, irrespective of one's educational qualification or achievements, there is ridicule for speaking in his or her native language. This is an unfortunate trend that many see as 'colonial hangover'.
"Children find it uncomfortable to speak in Kannada when they are around their friends or in school for the fear of being made fun of by their pals. They tend to take pride in conversing in English and expect their parents to do so as well. I feel, it has become a trend among students who study in the urban areas," says Savitha, a parent.
She adds that in order for the children to value their mother tongue, it is necessary to imbibe in them the realisation that the mother tongue is important. Parents should teach their children to read and write in their mother tongue along with other languages such as English and Hindi, she states.
In urban areas, there is a perception that a good number of children who attend English-medium schools are fluent in English and don't value their native tongues.
Even in the rural scenario, the importance of native languages is degrading by the day. The reason is that the rural folk think that the lack of English language skills leads to unemployment and that native languages do not help them.
Therefore, while it is necessary to equip children in rural areas with the knowledge of global languages, children in urban pockets should be made to understand the importance of their mother tongue.
Vasant Shetty, a Kannada activist, also spoke about the importance of fostering confidence among children in Kannada-medium schools and broadening their horizon in an interview for DH Changemakers. He had mentioned that Kannada has a history of over 2,000 years and one should look at the potential of the language with pride.
Today, many activists are trying to bring about a change and boost their native languages. In Karnataka, one of the many attempts to promote Kannada is a campaign for dubbing of non-Kannada films into Kannada.
Besides Kannada, there are many other major languages spoken across Karnataka, like Kodava, Konkani, Tulu and Byari.
People from all the communities express grievance that their culture and language face a great threat at present and will not survive if the present trend continues.
About International Mother Language Day
International Mother Language Day is celebrated every year on February 21 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism all over the world.
According to the United Nations, 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken across the globe are endangered.
It can be seen that only a few hundred languages are prominent and well known to all and have been incorporated in the education systems across the globe. When it comes to the digital world, a comparatively lesser number of languages is used for communication.
How it all began
International Mother Language Day is observed on February 21 to recognise the Bengali language movement in which Bangladeshis fought for their language.
The initiative to make it an internationally recognised event was proposed by Bangladesh in 1999 and this day has been celebrated since the year 2000.
Bangladesh's tryst to protect its language can be traced back to 1947, when Pakistan was culturally divided into East and West Pakistan. West Pakistan primarily spoke Urdu, which was declared as the national language in both parts of the nation.
As Bangla was the language of the majority of people in East Pakistan, they protested against the government for taking such a decision. During a protest on February 21, 1952 between the two culturally different parts of the country, the police were ordered to open fire and this resulted in the death of many students.
East Pakistan finally attained independence and became Bangladesh in 1971, making Bangla its official language.
The theme for 2019:
This year, UNESCO announced it's theme as, 'Indigenous languages matter for development and reconciliation'.
United Nations provided certain topics such as peace, harmony, conflict resolution/ competence to deal with conflict, mindfulness, resilience and well-being. It also invites people to pitch in proverbs in their mother tongues.
The organisation will compile the proverbs and the most appropriate ones will be published on the website and other digital platforms, according to the United Nations web page.