Kaps from Sambharmafia has this poem which he has sent for a contest – this post is triggered by the discussion on that on his blog.
The gist of his poem is ‘Tamilians have progressed far, while Tamil has been left behind’… I responded to this on his blog with a question – if the Tamilian had clung on to Tamil, would he have progressed this far?
Where I come from is the perspective of widening one’s horizons – not clinging to but moving on – but that does not mean necessarily leaving behind your roots – in this case, language. Kap’s point is about how
1. people find it unfashionable to speak in Tamil
2. children in schools do not even need to learn Tamil as a second ior third laguage
The two are different things – and I think the concern is about the former – I did not, for instance learn Tamil in school – not for one single year in all my school life in Madras – but I speak, read and write the language very well…
As for the other bit, I see this happening all around me – this is not just one language or about one state – ‘vernac’ is just not cool – sure, it is more uncool in some places than others, but there it is.
On the other hand, there is this evolving language of *lish – any local language married with English – Hinglish, Tamlish, whatever… This is more often than not, lingua franca among the young in age and heart…
So where is this post leading? To another related thought I have about how Tamil is coping with this ‘neglect’. I use Tamil here as an example; this discussion is not limited to that language alone…
Mainstream media has resolved to stick to its guns and maintain the language in all its grammatical sanctity – which, like this sentence means, most people have no clue about what a newsreader is saying on a Tamil news program or a writer in a Tamil weekly. Very often, I (remember I prided myself on knowing Tamil very well) find Tamil news going way above my head.
The message is clear. Chaste Tamil is where it is at. An ‘exclusive’ strategy.
On the other hand is the language used by presenters of entertainment programs – they bear no resemblance to any language one knows. I strain to listen and understand and find traces of a language I know – but so mutilated in form that it is not easy to even accept it as Tamil – all for the sake of sounding cool and in tune with the times. An ‘inclusive’ strategy.
What is happening here? Is this language schizophrenic? Can any language be, for that matter?
Or is this society’s (as represented by main-stream media) way of coping with seeming erosion in usage of a language? Is this happening with any other Indian langauges as well?
I did some research on the net and found this - Dodson and Jones (1984) document peoples’ emotional involvement behind the maintenance of threatened languages, such as Welsh, “highlighting the assumption that media provision in a minority language will stem the decline in the number of users of that languages” (ibid) Kuo (1984) discussing Mandarin in Singapore shows “the conscious use of television in promoting an additional national languages, which is not used outside the official spheres, to serve as an ethnic and cultural marker of national identity”. (ibid)
Is that why English is becoming less and less formal – with increased usage, the language (and its speakers) do not feel threatened in any way – and it needs to be flexible and friendly enough to welcome and retain all new speakers…
Many rambling thoughts – and many questions, as usual…