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MALAYALAM - HOW TO ARREST ITS WITHERING AWAY?
M. K. Chand Raj, Ph.D.
INDIAN LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY
India is a country with a diversity of languages. Out of more than one thousand mother tongues, only eighteen languages are included in the eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution. Development of a particular state or region, to a very great extent, depends on the development of its regional language. This was an important reason given at the time of the formation of linguistic states, though such a linguistic "division" or "re-organization" was criticized by many.
India's national leaders, especially Gandhi, held the view that the true values of democracy could be spread among the common village folks only through regional languages. Furthermore, almost all the Education Commissions constituted by the Government of India stressed the need to introduce teaching through the medium of mother tongue from primary class to post-graduate level.
A PARADOXICAL SITUATION IN KERALA - WILL MALAYALAM WITHER AWAY?
It is paradoxical that in Kerala, in spite of one hundred percent literacy, the mother tongue - Malayalam - has remained in a state of neglect. This is a major issue now under discussion among the Keralites in and outside the state. Interestingly enough, a demand for the development of Malayalam has raised for a very long time. On this subject, seminars were held and continue to be held, and eminent personalities, litterateurs and politicians issue statements emphasizing the need to develop Malayalam. But, unfortunately, there is no sign of improvement noticed through expanding the domains of Malaylam use in Kerala.
Believe it or not, even after fifty years since the formation of Kerala state, the learning of Malayalam even among the mother tongue speakers of the language has not been made compulsory. In other words, if a student wishes (probably prompted by parents) he/she can avoid Malayalam and get any degree, even a post-graduate university degree, from this state. All this can be done without the student knowing how to write even a single word in his Malayalam mother tongue!
Is there any land on earth, apart from Indian states that were linguistically re-organized fifty years ago, which produces educated people who don't know how to read and write in the native language of that particular place? It is possible in Kerala! I am told that it is possible in Tamilnadu also, to go through the highest level of education without even bothering to learn Tamil!
THE UNIVERSITY OF KERALA - WHEN WILL THEY REALLY FULFILL THEIR PROMISE? THEIR CHARTER?
The University of Travancore in Thiruvananthapuram, the first of its kind in this region, was founded in 1937 by the Maharaja Balaramavarma, before the formation of Kerala State. The main aim of the university was to promote Malayalam language and development of Kerala culture.
After the formation of the Kerala State, the Travancore University was reconstituted as the University of Kerala in 1957. The aim of this university was the same as that of the Travancore University. Though the nomenclature was changed, there was no change in the preamble of the university. As per the preamble of the University of Kerala, 'The proclaimed objectives of the university were the conservation, promotion and development of Kerala art and culture and the Malayalam language and the gradual change of the medium of instruction into Malayalam in all the educational institutions in the state …' Yet, after five decades, nobody knows when 'the proclaimed objectives' of the university would be transformed into reality!
CAN WE NOT LEARN FROM OUR NEIGHBORING STATES?
Kerala's neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have taken so many steps to promote their respective languages. The governments as well as the people of these states are very keen on the development and promotion of their native languages. In Andhra Pradesh, for example, Telugu University, founded in 1985, takes interest in nurturing the Telugu language. This university has been publishing books such as dictionaries and encyclopedias to promote and develop Telugu.
MALAYALAM AS THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE - THE MAZE, & CHASING THE WIND
In the sphere of administration too, Malayalam hasn't yet reached a level at par with the status given by other states to their native languages. As per the Kerala Official Language Act 1969, Kerala's official language is Malayalam or English. The Act was amended in 1973. This amendment was made for the adoption of both' Malayalam and English as the languages to be used for the official purposes of the state of Kerala. Hence, today, Malayalam is considered as only one of the two official languages.
Subsequently, the Kerala government has issued several orders to change the Official Language from English to Malayalam. But it is difficult to implement these orders as long as the Official Language Act is not amended in favor of Malayalam. Moreover, government officials who have no Malayalam background will always be against the change over to Malayalam.
In other southern states, working knowledge in the dominant native (regional) language is an essential qualification for appointment in government jobs. It goes without saying that all other northern states have their own language policy very similar to this. But, in Kerala working knowledge in Malayalam is not considered as an essential qualification for getting government employment.
SAVE THE LANGUAGE! MALAYALAM MAY BECOME EXTINCT!!
If things go on like this, Kerala's mother tongue will get more and more neglected and as a result, in the long run, Malayalam language will decay and finally become extinct.
Death of a language takes place when its importance diminishes in the day-to-day affairs such as education, administration, judiciary, etc. Some historical examples can be cited for this phenomenon: Cornish, Gothic, Old Prussian, Sumerian, etc., are some of the dead languages. Sanskrit is a classical example to be mentioned in this regard. Sanskrit was kept away from the common folks and that was why it faded out from the day-to-day dealings of the society.
URGENT STEPS TO SAVE MALAYALAM
In order to save Malayalam from the declining trend, some urgent steps are needed. Such steps should be implemented by the state government with the full co-operation of the Keralites irrespective of caste, creed, gender, and political distinctions.
WHAT IS REQUIRED? STANDARDIZATION OF THE LANGUAGE
As a first step, standardization of Malayalam has to be taken up by the government. While implementing the standardized form of Malayalam, certain points are to be considered for the desired result.
In this language, the same word can be written in different styles, using different characters. Adhyapakan (Teacher), Vidyarthi (student), Thalparyam (liking), silpam (sculpture), etc., are common examples in this context. Students at the primary level are the most affected ones due to this inconsistency. Faced with this problem, students become more and more confused. We frequently come across this confusion in the magazines, newspapers and even in textbooks.
To overcome this occurrence, Malayalam should be standardized by accepting a specific spelling for every word. If everybody accepts this form of standardization, computer word processing in Malayalam will become easier. A Unicode system in computers would come into force, which also provides spell-check of Malayalam words.
Recently, Kerala Language Institute has taken the initiative to standardize Malayalam and they published a stylebook in this matter. As per this stylebook, the number of characters is reduced considerably and this is very convenient especially for Malayalam learners. Being a space saving style, this is advantageous to print media too.
The state government should take the responsibility to popularize this kind of standardized language system through various methods. Government textbooks, newspapers and magazines should be printed according to this system. The State government's communications including the advertisements should be released using this style only
MAKE MALAYALAM A COMPULSORY LANGUAGE TO LEARN
Secondly, Malayalam should be considered as a compulsory first language in the field of education.
Kerala Official Language Act should be modified so as to elevate Malayalam as the only official language. Kerala Public Service Commission's examinations for selecting government employees should be conducted in Malayalam, and working knowledge in Malayalam should be made compulsory while selecting candidates.
Also, the language of the judiciary in the Kerala state should be none other than Malayalam.
Before concluding this article, I wish to mention about a wrong notion that probably prevails among the Keralites: 'Those who write about the importance of Malayalam (mother tongue) must be against other languages, particularly English.' This is not so. We should learn as many languages as we can and we have to develop our communication skills through acquiring a variety of languages. That doesn't mean that we should ignore our mother tongue.
If the government, universities, politicians, intellectuals and common folks do not take willful steps to promote Malayalam language, its fate will become bleak and it must face a natural death in the not very distant future!
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LANGUAGE AND INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA | THE ROOTS OF LINGUISTIC REORGANIZATION OF INDIAN PROVINCES - DR. ANNIE BESANT AND HER HOME RULE MOVEMENT | MALAYALAM - HOW TO ARREST ITS WITHERING AWAY? | PANINI'S GRAMMAR - A FEW CHARACTERISTICS | LEARNING CLASSICAL STYLES OF LANGUAGES - A BRIEF REVIEW OF HOW BIBLICAL LANGUAGES WORK | RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VERBAL ABILITY AND STUDENTS' ACHIEVEMENT IN SECONDARY SCHOOL SOCIAL STUDIES IN SOUTHERN NIGERIA | COMBATING TERRORISM - CONFLICT AND POWER EQUATIONS - A Sociolinguistic Perspective - WHAT CAN INDIAN MYTHOLOGY AND PROVERBS OFFER? | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
M. K. Chand Raj, Ph.D.
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