November 1st is Kannada Rajyotsava, our State’s birthday. It was on this day in 1956 that all Kannada-speaking provinces were brought together and named Mysore or Mysore State under the States Reorganisation Act. Then on November 1, 1973, it was renamed as Karnataka.
Since our States were created with language as its basis, each State is very proud and protective of its language, so also Karnataka. But in recent times with massive migration of people from other States, Kannada is spoken even less.
According to a study, in Bengaluru 68% of its 1.2 crore population speak languages other than Kannada. Unfortunately for Kannada, even Kannadigas speak their own dialects rather than Kannada.
For example, all Muslims in Karnataka speak Urdu unlike in Tamil Nadu or Kerala where everyone speaks the State language. Then in districts like Kodagu they speak the local dialect called Kodava thakk. Similarly in Mangaluru, they have Tulu and Konkani. In North Karnataka, they speak a mix of Kannada and Marathi. Obviously Kannada has its own challenges from within, but the new wave of migration has really given it a beating.
So, the question is why is Kannada losing out? North Indians in Chennai speak Tamil but in Karnataka they don’t. Why? Are Kannadigas too accommodative? Should Kannadigas insist on speaking Kannada thereby forcing the new migrants to learn the language like how Tamils have done? But may be first Kannadigas should speak Kannada before asking others to do so.
Even our leaders don’t do their bit. Most Karnataka leaders, be it B.S. Yeddyurappa, H.D. Kumaraswamy, D.K. Shivakumar or Siddharamaiah, when they speak to national media they speak bad and broken English instead of replying in Kannada, the language they are most articulate in. Politicians from other States speak in their mother-tongue and let the media deal with translating it rather than speak bad English creating ambiguity.
Also pro-Kannada organisations should lobby the government to give free or inexpensive spoken Kannada classes in the University because spoken Kannada is more useful than written Kannada and what is useful people will use, which makes it easy to promote and propagate.
In fact, young IT entrepreneurs have done more for Kannada in the last few years than by various organisations and the government. These entrepreneurs have launched Kannada learning apps and websites. Apps like Kannada Baruthe, Learn Kannada Quickly and Day2Day Kannada and websites like KannadaGottilla.com, organises free workshop where they teach Kannada.
Now, the Kannada and Culture Department and the city-based Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) are offering a 12-month postal course in Kannada for just Rs. 250. People who are interested can obtain applications from the Postal Kannada Course Project, CIIL, Manasagangothri. Unfortunately, there is an age limit; it is for those between 18-50 years of age. But should there be an age limit to learn a language?
Our activists and politicians keep harping about Kannada. However, most of them send their own children to private English medium schools but force poor children to go to Kannada medium government schools. It is unfair and worse they are playing with the future of poor students. That is why H.D. Kumaraswamy must be appreciated for his announcement yesterday.
The Karnataka CM, speaking at an event yesterday, said that his government had initiated steps to implement the decision that there shall be English education in government schools ! He said, “The government wants to ensure that rural students learn English so that they can remain competitive.”
This reminds us, back in 2010 the then Bangalore University Vice-Chancellor Dr. Prabhu Dev, speaking during an interaction with the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI), said that the rural students have a long way to go before they can catch up with the competitive corporate India.
Students from rural areas or even from the outskirts of big cities and towns do not stand a chance for a job in the high-profile sector, as they lack English-speaking skills and public etiquette, the VC said and added, “They are village simpletons whose body language is poor and their knowledge of computers not apt. How can they fit into the world of style and statement, flamboyance and finesse and above all, good English?”
This is true, but the good Vice-Chancellor must also know that the students coming out of urban India aren’t that corporate ready either. Even the urban students have a long way to go when it comes to etiquette and being a corporate human resource. That is why many Corporations spend a lot of money for soft skills training which includes simple manners such as table etiquette and social etiquette.
Now, our CM is right. In India, English is the language that symbolises aspiration, intelligence, modernity and a language that has delivered prosperity to millions. It is the language that has made us employable and competitive in the global market. It is the global business language, according to “Harvard Business Review” Report.
A 2014 Report from the Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy states that men in India who spoke fluent English earned 34 percent higher wages. But while it is a great asset to know English, it is important to know your regional language too from a sociological point of view.
English is our business language, but in Karnataka Kannada is the language of the government. If you want to effectively communicate with the Police, local government or even in shops, then Kannada is King.
So it is better if non-Kannada speakers, looking to settle down in Karnataka, learn the language if they want to be accepted and be fully integrated into the State. Else, they will always be “outsiders.” Also learning the local language is a way of showing respect to the State, which also endears one to the people of the State.
More importantly, local language has an unmatched emotional and communicative value. That is why Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. But if you talk to him in his language, it goes to his heart.”
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