Litfest stirs debate on English superseding regional languages

Saturday, Oct 4, 2014,18:34 IST By metrovaartha A A A

The Writers and Readers’ festival which began in Goa today kick-started a debate on the state of regional languages, which are crumbling under the commercial impact of English usage in the country.
Wherever I go, unless it is interior India, the language spoken is English. I find that really surprising. I no longer question myself as to why I write in English. Because there is something happening here. People are losing their fixed ideas about local culture and languages, said Kerala-born novelist C P Surendran, while inaugurating Writers and Readers’ Festival-2014.
In South India, whether Tamil Nadu or Kerala, what is happening is that young generation no longer study in their local language, he said, after inaugurating the LitFest in presence of renowned Australian novelist Thomas Keneally. The novelist-cum-journalist said that the trend is good from his perspective.
Around 300 years ago, all the literature in Kerala was written in Sanskrit and Tamil. But if you go to see now, Sanskrit is dying despite all the government fundings, he said. The author noted that Malayalam language too is directed toward the graveyard and the reason for it is that you can’t actually have love of language translated into survival of the language. Thats not happening.
An economy has to be transcripted in that language. Entire economy is slowly moving towards English and that is happening in urban India in a very big way, he said. Surendran said due to the large human migration from rural to urban cites, people have to communicate in English. You have to speak or write in English. I think that in 10-20 years from now, you will have English as India’s actual official language and not Hindi, he rued.
People are moving from local affirmations to global affirmations. English is slowly stolen away from the people who invented it. It is complex kind of paradigm which is emerging in the country like India, Surendran said in his address.
Keneally, who chaired the inauguration, however, differed from Surendran’s view saying that though the phenomenon is global, but it can’t doom Indian languages. Indian languages have so many speakers and those languages will survive side by side with English, he said.
English may increase with the impact that it has on the tongues of the world but when you think that 300 million people speak Hindi, it will take a lot to get the language (Hindi) dead, he said. The Australian author noted that a lot of material on various subjects available on the Internet is also in English language.
Its a fact that we have one world but we come from particular places and with particular kind of parents and particular practices, so I don’t think these languages are going to be doomed because people speak English besides their native language, said the writer, who is known for 1982 Brooker-Prize winning novel Schindler’s Ark.
The festival will conclude on October 6 with writers from across the globe participating in the various interactions planned for next two days.