The Telegraph
Wednesday , November 28 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tribal tongues to woo children

Eight languages spoken by tribals of Jharkhand are among the world’s endangered list of 1,763, including 171 in India, according to a Unesco report.

In this context, Sahitya Akademi, which hosted a two-day seminar on “Survival of Indian languages in the face of various challenges”, pointed out problems and pragmatic solutions to overcome them.

Delegates representing languages at the meet, which concluded in Ranchi on Tuesday, pointed out problems ranging from government reluctance to accept other languages as mediums of instruction in schools, vanishing generation of speakers and writers, invisibility in electronic and popular me-dia and the globalising force of English.

As solutions, linguists and scholars stressed on speaking, translating and teaching as well as writing fiction for children in endangered languages to make them living and vibrant for generations to come.

“Languages die when we don’t speak them,” said Sreesh Chaudhary, representing Maithili. “There is no culture to develop them. This mindset must change,” he added.

On Santhali language, scholar Krishna Chandra Tudu said it could not develop as expected due to lack of government patronage and absence of a common script among the Santhal speakers in Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha.

Many speakers said English as medium of instruction dissuaded children from learning their mother tongues, as a result of which a generation grew up not knowing or caring for them.

Santiniketan-based Visva-Bharati academic Swati Ganguly, however, cited an exception. “Renowned English teacher and scholar Buddhadeb Basu who enriched his mother tongue Bengali,” she said.

Speakers such as Amitava Gupta in Bengali, Arabinda Roy in Odiya, Ratnottama Das in Assamese, M. Pathak in Nepali and Phukan Basumatary in Bodo outlined how their languages survived and developed through the ages.

Sahitya Akademi eastern regional board convener Anil Kumar Boro spoke on how the outfit promoted even non-scheduled languages of India.

The best suggestion perhaps came from eminent linguist Pabitra Sarkar. In his keynote address on Monday, he said:

“If we push children’s literature in endangered languages, they will flourish. Attracting youngsters towards a language keeps it alive,” he said.