The number of languages spoken by Indians is unfathomably 780. At the launch of 11 volumes of the Survey of country’s languages, the People’s Linguistic Survey of India has raised alarm over the diminishing languages of India that can get extinct in the immediate next 50 years. They claim that every time a single language dies, the corresponding culture slips into oblivion forever. This is a grave situation, and needs requisite attention for its preservation.
India has already lost around 250 languages in the past with the extinction of several tribal communities. These threatened languages are mostly of tribes, where their children mostly receive no education. Even if they do, the language taught in educational institutions are mostly those of India’s 22 officially recognized languages. This denies them requisite comprehension and practice of their mother-tongue and regional language. It is possible to protect these dialects. As a matter of example, Maithili is a 1000-year old language and is still spoken by the local people. This testifies the possibilities of preservation and promotion.
India has an unparalleled culture, tradition, and repository of heritage. Our multilingual, multiethnic, multidimensional egalitarian society has no comparison to any other civilization. We need to protect languages in order to safeguard the culture associated with it. To do this, we need to protect our indigenous tribes first. They have historically defied and denied any superficial development. Tribes don’t tolerate interference, rather demand autonomy. Their less intermingling among the mainstream community doesn’t necessarily mean their isolation or backwardness. Rather it indicates their self-governing and self-determined lifestyle, which we need to respect. They face threats from excessive tampering with their natural habitat, migration, climate change, forest fires, left-wing extremism and other such harassing intrusions. Many tribes are on the verge of disappearance. If extinction at this pace continues, it can be disastrous for our future. We all need to come forward to defend and secure our heritage.
Creative and ingenious steps have to be taken to preserve languages. National Geographic has come up with Enduring Voices Project, a brilliant way to find out more about the endangered language and rejuvenate them. Living Tongues is another spectacular method of conserving and propagating endangered languages. Prominent linguists and artists often engrave scripts on a Rosetta disk which is a waterproof disk capable of withstanding high temperature and electromagnetic radiation. These microscopic carvings act like an archive of dying languages thereby making them eternal.
Tim Brookes of National Geographic is a crusader of language protection. He is deeply involved in the fundraising for Endangered Alphabets II. He is well known for his awareness campaign in Bangladesh where he carved several language dialects on maple planks that helped children of the Chittagong Hill tracks in learning the native and indigenous languages. Such endeavor has to be encouraged in India. Campaigns must have neoteric themes and the young generation must be incentivized or encouraged to come up with out-of-the box ideas. Educational institutions, NGOs, conservationists, and the government must come together with such ground-breaking ideas to help protect our heritage and legacy.
Article by mausam.