Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Language lost

A news article caught my attention today. It read, "Of the 6,000-odd languages in the world, one is said to disappear every fortnight. Should the English-speaking world care?"

Before I could answer that question, I was asking myself the question, "Am I part of the English speaking world?". It wasn't too long before I realized that I was very much part of the so called "English-speaking world". Ironically, English is not my mother tongue. My mother tongue is Malayalam and I speak it fluently. Unfortunately, I cannot write or read it. There are probably thousands of people like me. Thousands, who are more comfortable with English than they are with their own mother tongue.

I have had the good fortune of visiting places like Hawaii and New Mexico. One does come across a recurring theme. Younger generation trying hard to hold on to the old and adapt to the new. Native Americans do have special schools which help them connect with their rich past. The younger generation Hawaiians are showing a renewed interest in their culture.

Is just showing interest enough?

The article rightly points out, "young people all over the world are being exposed to 21st Century culture, which is very often arriving in the form of English". Many like me have been educated with English as the medium. No wonder my thoughts and my blogs are very much in English.

Zoological Society of London initiated a project called Frozen Ark. The idea is to create a DNA library of earth's life form. While the project might sound far fetched to many, to me it sounds like a necessity. A rapidly increasing human population is responsible for widespread habitat loss. Habitat loss not just in terms of wildlife, but also culture. Should we be creating a Digital Culture Ark also?. An ark that would preserve our many languages and our many cultures from extinction.

Malayalam as a language, is not becoming extinct any time soon. But how soon is soon?

No comments: