21st Century : Language Evolution

Written by: Ajit Kulkarni

Language is an incredibly important part of a culture, many civilizations developed with the help of language. Language is the expression of success and happiness, unhappiness of an individual. It is the river of knowledge and epitome of diversity. Different timelines in history show that language faced many challenges. When colonization of civilisation took place, language was also impacted. Many times, endeavour to uproot a language was done to bring an end to the culture, hereditary titles and pride etc.

If we look at the history of Kannada language, especially in the last 500 years Kannada as a language has come under different rulers. The British, Portuguese, Marathas, Nizams, etc. They ruled Karnataka and left their impact on Kannada. Even today, Marathi words are found in the dialect of Mumbai Karnataka while Urdu words are used in Hyderabad karnataka dialect. Persian words are still found in Kannada due to the rule of Tippu.

The British ruled Karnataka for quite a long time. Before them, the French and the Portuguese ruled. They also contributed to Kannada and left their own impression in the fields of Grammar, Dictionary, Literature and Education. Reverend Ferdinand Kittel brought out the Kannada-English dictionary. Many British administrators emphasised education in Kannada medium. Their contribution in the field of history is also significant. But the Marathas and Nizams during their times did not seem to have made a significant contribution to the development of Kannada language.

After India gained independence, the kannada regions which were earlier split into several units were brought together into united karnataka. Karnataka was divided into many independent empires.  For many years, people who were under the administration of different languages were fortunate to have the opportunity to get Administration, Education, Civil service, Employment, etc in their own language. Subsequent governments devised many programmes for the development of language. Kannada keyboard, keypad, typing tools were invented.

Technological research and computer and internet innovations in the late 20th century changed the world on a great scale. The Internet made people connect with people globally. This technological change impacted every nation on the planet. Initially, though these privileges were limited to those who knew English, later it was planned to reach the majority of people who do not know English by localization. This important decision led to the increase in the usage of mobile and internet, even at village level, making them benefit from technological revolution.

Corporates, commercial enterprises and banks have also started to serve in Indian languages by opting the localisation as a way forward. As a result they have expanded their market and penetrated villages. Today even in the fields like Sports, Movies, Insurance and Banking services are being given in Indian languages. It is important to note that, Companies are benefiting business-wise and common people are enjoying transacting in their own languages.

From a language perspective, the 21st century is of great importance.. Now regional languages are also considering to compete globally. The desire and enthusiasm to grow globally and create a mark on the global map is what drives them now. This is happening because of technological development and its affordability.

In 2017, KPMG and Google together conducted research on Indian languages. The aim was to find out the growth and adoption level of languages in the next 4-5 years. A study was conducted with many questions such as what will be the adoption rate of Indian languages in the digital world. As per that research, it was found that Indians are eager to get services in their mother tongue and will show a great response to any advertisements in their languages and Kannada, Tamil and Telugu speakers are in forefront on that aspect

Sports channels were earlier available only in Hindi and English. But now, the live streaming of many Sports including cricket can be seen in several regional languages, including Kannada. Infotainment channels like National Geographic are also offering feeds in regional languages.

Government services, information and facilities are now coming in digital form and are available in Kannada, making it very easy for people. Digital entertainment is a big field and there is plenty of content available in many regional languages including Kannada.

This growth has also posed many challenges as language is growing in many sectors. The challenge is to use proper vocabularies that people understand easily. Creating simple and easy to understand  sentences, making technology or service closer to people is a need of the hour. If we use difficult to understand jargons and sentences, common people may opt out of service. This may cause a setback to the cause of serving in local languages.

So increased use of language has opened up many employment opportunities.Today, the need for translators and linguists is seen in many fields. It is the responsibility of them to translate technology in a way that is understandable to common people. Today’s youth have very less attention span and if we use a phrase that is difficult to understand, their attention will slip elsewhere.

Given the education sector of India, there is some disappointment. India as one of the developing countries, is now increasingly favouring English medium education. There are many who believe English is everything. This development is seen throughout India across states. According to scholars, primary education of a child should be done in his/her mother tongue, because this will help growth of cognitive and imaginative abilities of a child. But this suggestion is being put aside and english medium schools are cropping up across the country. This development is unfortunate from the point of view of language. We all need to know that any civilisation which loses its language, will also lose it’s soul.

There is a difference between learning English as a Language and English as a medium of education . Knowledge of English essential in today’s time. But if people forget their mother tongue, this will cause harm to the development of language. Many scientists of our country like APJ Abdul Kalam, U R Rao have studied their primary education in their mother tongue.

If we observe many developed countries today, what we find out is, they have developed their language in every field possible. Be it Science, Technology, Education, Politics, Administration and so on, what we see is in every field their language shines. What happened to us? Why are we not learning from them? It is important to learn from them, not ape them!

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