Significance of languages in the modern world
We are grateful to Mrs. Seema Upadhyay who is an academician teaching language arts for the last 15 years and is presently is a faculty member of Hindi in Sarala Birla Academy, Bangalore.
She holds a Master’s degree in Hindi from Karnataka State Open University and a degree in Bachelor of Education from Hindi Sahitya Academy. She teaches across all age groups and has a remarkable experience of 15 years in this field. Her passion for teaching has turned into her career. She enjoys writing articles and poetry, travelling and craft work.
Language, a means of communication, has been in existence since time immemorial. If we choose to debate the structure and origin of languages, it may result in a long and tedious discussion. The basic purpose of any language is to express or channel our thoughts and feelings; although it is not always mandatory to have a spoken language for this purpose; it can be defined by the sign language. This proves that as humans have evolved, so have languages. Languages have grown, changed and adapted to our day-to-day requirements, geographic location, social class and demographics.
If we now focus on languages pertaining to their importance in the field of education, I strongly believe that the insistence upon mastering multiple languages, from a very early age, has led to the deterioration of the overall structure and quality of languages. A prevalent example of this would be the system of having three languages in primary education itself. Students nowadays have to cope with English, which is considered the global language, Hindi and a third language, usually pertaining to the local laws. It has become a set rule in our education system that every child must learn the “global” language in the first grade, the official language of India in the second grade and progress towards the mother tongue, or the language most prevalent in the region, grade three onwards. Modernisation has resulted in the education system facilitating world languages such as French, Spanish, German, Japanese, even Sanskrit as the third language. Under such a conglomeration of a variety of languages, only the ones that have been made compulsory are gaining any real benefit, the rest of them are continuously witnessing a fall in merit. I feel this is purely owing to the sheer number of languages that a student learns today. The quality of grammar and literature has declined considerably, even in the case of the mandatory languages. Children now do not have that finesse in their language, both written and spoken, which could be seen about a decade ago.
Deterioration of Languages
When we review the standard of literature from a decade ago, to the level we witness now, the comparative analysis would no doubt reflect the deterioration and downfall languages have suffered. This is the fruit of the number of languages the students are studying, the culmination of which is that children are able to delve into only the superficial layers of the language. The reach of a student has been limited only to the structural know-how of the language, very few are able to attain literary finesse. The competitive race to make students global citizens has created a severe disparity amongst the subjects a student concentrates on and here, unfortunately, languages take the fall. I cannot honestly say that this disparity is restricted only to the languages. Be it for choosing universities and courses, cultural activities or even sports, there is such a vast variety of options at our service that the interest is scattered and achievement of excellence, even perseverance for the same, is reduced. Not just the languages, knowledge as a whole is becoming mediocre.
How to Improve the Quality of Language
When we identify the need for raising the bar for languages then it becomes essential for us to bring about some kind of seriousness towards the subject. We cannot leave the languages optional and teachers as well need to focus more profoundly towards the study of languages. We need to create awareness amongst the children, and foster interest, which I believe can primarily be achieved by inculcating the language into their everyday life. Children should be able to identify with the language. This holds true for all languages, though I would feel fair only to comment about Hindi. If we need to elevate the quality of Hindi, firstly, we teachers must bring about a change in our ideologies. We must start respecting Hindi and realise the dignity the language holds. We have to leave aside the erudition and make the language popular amongst the masses. We will have to make the language approachable for every individual, while maintaining its purity and simplicity. The level of the language being used in educational institutions will have to be simplified by presenting our own experiences by the means of short stories poems that are easy to comprehend.
I endeavour to present my own subject Hindi in such a manner that children always wait for the next Hindi class. That is the kind of enthusiasm I would like to bring about. Wherever applicable to the chapters, I share my own life stories, trying to help the students form a connection, an identifying link, with the topics. I find that this type of an approach helps in turning a somewhat monotonous topic into a lively and interesting one, as a result of which I notice children sitting upright and more willing to interact in the class than wanting to put their head down or try and cancel classes. Another technique that I find beneficial is when I bring the topic and the language to their level of comprehension through the means of maybe a role-play, own experiences and stories. I find that this helps children relate more easily to the topic at hand and hence, interactive and receptive skills gain strength. Helping our children become global citizens need not involve the disregard of our own language. I am more than willing to not only learn but also inculcate interest towards other languages. I do not intend to demean or degrade the significance of any other subject as well. I mean only to impress upon the urgent need of preserving our language and also address a deeper issue: knowledge and learning that is becoming more and more superficial every day. I want only to encourage a complete education; a well rounded one, where subjects are not any more or any less important, where even languages command due respect and where every student is inspired to pursue the pinnacle of excellence, whichever subject, field, or language it may be in.