Language – Abused

India is filled with people and quite contrary to any other place on Earth; one would find a similar multitude and variety in the number of languages that people here speak. If that’s not enough, then even if the language is same, there sure will be a difference in the spoken dialect. This diversity in languages is indeed something that I am quite proud of. On the last count, there are currently 22 official languages recognized by the Indian Government.

Most Indians would know at least one Indian language and sometimes due to cultural diversity leading to cultural fusion, sometime more than one. As for me, I know two – Telugu and Hindi; can understand Punjabi, Bengali and Tamil. There is something distinctly nice about the Indian languages and it remains a fact that some things can never be expressed with the similar meaning/intent/feeling in English. A crude example of that would be the expletives. I can never feel the same intensity when I am compelled to use an expletive and do so in English. It has a completely different feel when can use the expletives in one’s mother tongue – satisfaction is tremendous. 🙂 Jokes apart, I find it difficult to express some of the most beautifully expressed phrases in Hindi or Telugu into English. They lose their charm and the intended beauty.

One thing that is distinctly different when compared to English and most Indian languages is the placement of the verbs and nouns in the sentences. If I had to translate ‘What are you doing?’ into Telugu then it would be ‘Nuvvu emi chestunavu’, literally translated into English, it means ‘You what doing?’ Hence, I am not surprised to hear so many Indianized English versions. This brings us to the interesting point about languages. Each individual thinks in the language that he/she is most comfortable in and then speaks the language that they need to. In my case, I mostly do my thinking in English and later translate it (unknowingly) into Telugu or Hindi.

Telugu is my mother tongue and this is the language I learnt to speak first. Due to a number of reasons, I never got to learn it in school, but my dad ensured I learnt how to read and write. I do not claim to be an expert here (though I wish I were) and hope to improve it over time. But, I love the language. Telugu is one of the most mellifluous languages and is called the Italian of the East. It has more syllables than any of the other South Indian languages and many of the greatest compositions have been made in Telugu. Sri Thyagaraja and Anamacharya are big examples. If one sees the Telugu mythological movies made between 1950s to mid 70s, one would fall head over heels in love with this wonderful language. Telugu literature is also as diverse and grand as its set of syllables. It has its base as Sanskrit – an ancient Indian language that has now been recognized as a syntactically flawless language.

What depresses me is the ill-usage of my mother tongue. I am happy with all the westernization and the adaption to the western culture. But, what pains me is that that today’s generation doesn’t even know how to pronounce the language right. I have met scores of parents who say it very proudly that their children cannot speak their mother tongue – Telugu. I see nothing to be very proud of; in fact it’s something to be terribly pitied for. I do not like to see most of the Telugu channels, as majority of the stuff is either dubbed from another language or the anchors are just unable to pronounce properly. The other day, I picked my phone to answer a call, only to find it a regular Airtel sales call and winced to hear a misspelled ad in Telugu. It simply put me off. There are some words in Telugu that need to be given emphasis, otherwise the whole meaning of the word changes or just sounds very lame. An example would be the word ‘Pelli’ which means marriage in Telugu. It should be written and pronounced with an extra emphasis on the L. But most people pronounce it as ‘peli’ which really means nothing. Another example would be the word Bhama which means girl friend. If one removes the emphasis after B, then it sounds like Bama and that could mean – grand ma :). Telugu has been granted the status of a heritage language. It is believed that this beautiful language might be extinct in three generations – that’s not very far.

It is this disparity and supposed westernization that I am opposed to. One should always believe in their roots. Be reminded of where you come from and what your ancestors did. Adapting to new cultures is good, but it should not be done at the expense of your own culture or for that matter berating your own culture. One should always look towards reaping the best of cultures, as each is good in its own way. I am proud of my culture and cannot see it being let down.


3 thoughts on “Language – Abused

  1. hey.. very nicely put.. and couldn’t agree with you more…
    I stopped watching telugu programs in TV almost 6 years back… peeved by the way the anchors speak. I love my language and I made sure my kids learn it too. I had a chance to explore telugu poetry and literature when my mom did her MA in Tel Lit. ( i was in 8th then..) and I consider myself lucky to have read some rare works..
    anyways good peice of writing… way to go…

  2. @Nischala: Thanks for your comment. Well what you are doing is really good and keeping the kids away from the corrupted form of language is the best form of preservation. 🙂

  3. I totally understand when you say “I find it difficult to express some of the most beautifully expressed phrases in Hindi or Telugu into English. They lose their charm and the intended beauty.”
    Take for example Proverbs – when one tries to translate “samethalu” – telugu / “thirukural” -tamil, sometimes the meaning and most of the times the humour is lost in translation. Languages make India so colorful – China too has people in different parts of the country speaking in different dialects but not completely different languages like in India. I enjoy when I explain to clients that though my whole team is from India but we speak different languages – they always seem to be amazed. I love being an Indian.

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