Hindi, Tamil and English: linguistic lessons in pragmatism

September 28, 2012

Press Council of India Chairman and former Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju has lived in India all his life, but he made a two-part statement on Sept. 20 that sounds like the kind of innocent remark that would land a visitor like me in trouble.

Here is the gist of what Katju said in an op-ed in The Hindu:
“If (children) did not learn English they would only be fit to drive bullock carts (Hal chalane layak rah jayenge). I said I too loved Hindi, which is my mother tongue, but that did not mean I should behave like a fool.”

  • “At the same time, people in non-Hindi speaking States such as Tamil Nadu should learn Hindi, because it is the link language in our country.”

This is, as you might suspect, a touchy subject. Hindi, one of the two official languages of India, is part of a group of languages spoken primarily in northern India. The group includes its many regional variations in the so-called Hindi Belt, its sort of twin sister Urdu, as well as Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Assamese, Nepali and more.

The primary languages of southern India, meanwhile, are Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. They are unrelated to the northern languages, which mostly are  Indo-European in origin, sharing a common root with English and other Romance languages, Celtic languages, German languages and more.

In southern India, there is a history of people resenting the imposition of Hindi as a compulsory language, and there are people who prefer English as the language of communication with other people in India who speak different mother tongues.

These days, languages are a source of pride for many all over the world, but the idea that someone is imposing a language on you might rankle. Here is one comment on Katju’s article:

There is a trace of imposition of Hindi in this article. Voluntarily we were learning Hindi during school days five decades ago but after the imposition by fanatics from North the politicians started the agitation in Tamilnadu. That was for giving headache to the ruling govt and to gain political base. We were studying well, the third language-Hindi but it was stopped. The Northerners do not study Tamil,Malayalam,Kannada or Telugu along with English and Hindi. Studying Oriya, Marathi,Bhojpuri, Rajasthani and learning Hindi also will not be very difficult. Imposition of anything language, culture, or social norms is bringing the conflict among society members. –Chandrasekaran

Katju responded to criticism on Friday. His basic points:

  • “If my suggestion that Tamilians should learn Hindi made sense to Tamilians, they should accept it, but if it did not make sense to them, they should reject it. Where is the compulsion?”
  • Regarding criticism that Hindi chauvinists say that their language is superior to Tamil: no, but you’re talking about a population of some 72 million Tamil speakers vs half a billion in the Hindi belt. Think about it.
  • Regarding English as a preferable “link language” to Hindi for Indians: “It’s the language of the elite. Only about five percent of Indians know English (though I myself have appealed to people to learn English, since much of the knowledge of the world is in English, and I have strongly criticised those who say ‘Angrezi Hatao (abolish English’).”

I’ve visited India on four short trips in five years, and have become familiar with the barest essentials of language politics (try getting a straight answer on whether Hindi and Urdu are different languages — not the standardised languages of today that they teach in schools, but their origins not so long ago. Best you study them yourself and draw your conclusions.). We all link some national and (in some cases) ethnic pride to the languages that we speak, but let’s leave that aside and consider one simple point: yes, it’s hard to learn a new language for many people, but when did learning a new language — any new language — ever hurt you?


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The problem is more than expecting Hindi to be a link language. Hindi is forced down the throat in schools, banks, airlines, so-called nationalized companies and other private and government institutions AT THE COST OF OTHER LANGUAGES. Not just that essential services used to serve Indians is being used as a mass tool for Hindi chauvinism – for example Indian Railways spends far more trying to push this language than on upgrading their security – which only explains why the same crimes from ticketless travel to people being pushed out of trains happen and happen again.

The Income Tax department is also another institution that sidelines every language other than Hindi

Hindi is a symbol one of India’s biggest bigotry as a so-called secular country.

Hindi speaking children virtually do not have to learn any other Indian language whereas all other out-of-state have to learn two non-native tongues.

Hindi language entertainment is the only one permitted across state borders. Just an example of this is Bangalore which has about a third of the population of Tamil origin. Over the air radio or TV with Tamil content is not permitted.

So it is not a question of “learning” Hindi – really it is plan to eradicate all non-Hindi languages in the country.

Today North Indians use more Hindi than their own native tongue. The margining of languages results in extreme reactions such as in Maharashtra or Assam – of course the media conveniently dismisses as handywork of politicians. The policy itself is racially favouring Hindi. India was unified with the premise of no national language – it looks like that history is being forgotten.

Hindi cannot be a link language. The Hindi speaking states do NOT contribute to the economy – they just contribute migrant workers. English is the only solution to unify the country.

The suggestion of Tamils to learn Hindi is from a person who made his career in Tamil Nadu and does not know Tamil himself – neither does he know that Hindi is far more complicated writing system than Tamil.

India needs English as sole compulsory language in all schools and link language or gets risk of getting divided.

Posted by rvn | Report as abusive

Tamils are not against learning new languages when its required, but against the imposition. India”s multi-ethnic groups consider language as their identity, Unlike other countries Indian identity is not on language, but diversity of its culture. But our Hindi zealots looking at other counties, have desire to make Hindi as national identity, a language of masses without any worthy tradition.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Thank you Sir, for sharing an article from one of the prominent person in India and your views, one of the sensitive issues in India for decades, no wonder the topic comes in once in a while.

Having my roots in Telugu (my mother Tongue by heritage), Tamil (my mother tongue by birth) and Kannada (language by occupation), I think I am better placed to give my humble views as a common man.

I can’t learn any new languages as I am busy with my work and have no time for studying, but for my son who will be in school soon, I have a view. I like my son to study few languages Tamil & Telugu (at Home), English and Kannada (at School). To be frank, with current academic syllabus, I don’t want to push my son to learn one more language unless it helps his academics or his interest.

The decision of learning a new language should be of a parent or an individual, no one else. Katju’s comment/opinion as “Tamizhans should learn Hindi” is not correct no matter what he says “accept or Reject”.

Talking about numbers like 5% speaks in English and half a billion speaks in Hindi, I am not expecting my son to be speaking all of this half a billion people and to whom he will speak within this half a billion they will speak English. In future if his work requires he can learn anytime but I wouldn’t force him. Same way no one else should write something which says “should learn” but instead it can say as “can learn”.

It is not at all a criticism but just a humble opinion from a common man.

Posted by NaveenRaj | Report as abusive

Thanks for sharing it! I appreciate your view.

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive

Thanks for this. Your comment here: “Hindi language entertainment is the only one permitted across state borders. Just an example of this is Bangalore which has about a third of the population of Tamil origin. Over the air radio or TV with Tamil content is not permitted” — sounds like a story worth pursuing. — Robert

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive

When we the people of India will stop fighting on the language issue. History is evident that we fight among ourselves rather than tackling intruding powers. Had a common consensus came out right after our Independence that Hindi should be accepted as the national language, English would have been abolished by now.

I wonder why the people of South India support English so much. Don’t they know it is a foreign language; a language of such people to whom we were slaves for nearly 200 years.

English should only be used for linking with the outside world, but within our country we should speak Hindi and help in enriching it even better.

South Indians should shed off their narrow mindedness and accept Hindi whole heartedly. Hindi can’t destroy Tamil and Tamil in any way can’t destory Hindi.

People who protest Hindi are no better than those English men who ruled us.

Hindi is vernacular of India, of Hindustan!!

Hindi hai hum, Hindustan hamara!!

Posted by ManuOnReuters | Report as abusive

To Mr ManuOnReuters, Hindi is not really the so-called Vernacular of India. It is also not a pure Indian language. It is language brought by Mughals destroying India’s own languages and culture in the process. It is a foreign origin language – this is the bitter truth denied by both govt and North Indians.

Tamil is a pure Indian language. So Tamil should be used a link language within India and not Hindi. Shame that you are supporting a foreign origin language like Hindi.

It is also another shame that you prefer English but not Tamil. At least English is neutral language, but Tamil is more pure Indian language than Hindi.

Tamil is the first proper language of the world. The first grammar in the world came from Tamil.

Tamil thaan ulagin muzhal mozhi. Kal Thonri Man thonri mooththta kudi thamizh kudi (Tamil is first civilization).

Posted by rvn | Report as abusive

I’d better start learning Tamil! I do love the sound of it when someone is reading poetry or literature— or even just on the telephone!

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive

To Mr. RVN,

People who came up with constitution of India, didn’t included Hindi as the official language just like that. It is important for us to understand the rich literary history associated with Hindi. We fought our independence in Hindi. Gandhi Ji was a Gujarati; still he urged the people of India to learn and speak hindi. Why? The sole reason been the strength Hindi holds to bind nation in one unity. Tamil or in any case no other regional language doesn’t have that ability to bind the nation. I would also like to convey that Sanskrit is the script/language from which most of the regional languages are derived. Hindi indeed and Tamil even. So Sanskrit is in the purest form to be so called as of Indian origin. Hindi of course is vernacular, since it is the common language which people speak. I have stayed in South India and often interacted with people in Hindi. People are willing to understand and improving their dialogues continually with time. Shed off your narrow mindedness. Nobody is holding Tamil in derogation.

Gandhi Ji laid the foundation for Dakshin Hindi Prachar Sabha. Would request you and your fraternity to join it wherever it is situated in Tamil Nadu and improve Hindi.

Posted by ManuOnReuters | Report as abusive

When any govt collects public money in the form of income and service taxes, or public shares and diverts attention to just one language in a multilingual setup sidelining others it is a facsist policy.

Same with imposition of a particular language in schools for non-natives while native speakers do not need to study any Indian language, it is again a fascist policy.

Same with restricing language content of radio and entertainment content across state borders to Hindi – again a fascist policy.

You keep talking about “improving Hindi”, “learning Hindi” etc. Hindi may be your native language or not, but do not mention of need to learn other languages in India – that is what is narrow mindedness. The Hindians are not Indian language by education and service setup in India. Worse their percentage is disprortionately high in criminal activities. TN state itself where populations of the Hindians very low, you see that in jails the population of Hindians is disproportionately high.

The native language is more important than anything else in the planet – English is required as neutral language and Hindi is not a neutral language in India.

Remember Hindi can be taken as a language in Tamil Nadu – but schools go over board and push it as a compulsory language, have differential syllabus. Can Tamil be learnt in any school in North India? Tamil is virtually banned states like in Karnataka. Customer service in any language other than Hindi or English is absent or restricted by essential service providers like banks, insurance companies, airlines etc. That is again a fascist policy.

India’s formation was on the basis of absence of national language.

The excuse of “official” language is being used as means to eradicate all languages in the country through the educational setup. To opposite such facist policies is not narrow mindedness, supporting it is.

You also claim that Hindi was the only language used for fight for independence (it was one but not the only language) – it shows that you are ignorant of the history – you forget names like Barathiar, Va U Si, Kattabomman, Vanjinathan. West Bengal itself had its own share of people involved. Of course your ignorance is a result of the fascist media and educational setup.

The so-called “independence” has long been lost. Going by the unequal policies, it only appears that British rulers were far better off than our so-called Indian ones.

Last thing, the bitter reality is that Tamil is a very grave risk of dying out of India – due successive state govt policy – Tamil has been banned in nationalized companies operating in Tamil Nadu, now Tamil schools have been closed by successful state governments, TN govts are trying to eradicate Tamil out of schools through govt sponsored conversion into CBSE/ICSE/IB streams, Hindi speakers along with Urdu, Telugu and Kannada speakers get reservation in Tamil Nadu, mass issue of ration cards to Hindi migrants, sidelining native Tamils. These things do not get reported by the so-called national media who run English or Hindi language channels – they appear to portray TN “Dravidian” parties as Tamil chauvinists – in reality they are Tamil hating non-Tamil political parties (you can do your research on internet – you will find that predomintly Telugu caste outfits). The slow planned eradication of the Tamil language out of India by central and state govts and political outfits in Tamil Nadu is something that may cheer people who are concerned only with Hindi or other language, but native Tamil speakers bring out and opposing this is not “narrow mindedness”. If someone is really caring and not “narrow minded” they would express grave concern about unequal status of Indian languages and virtual eradication of languages.

Posted by rvn | Report as abusive


The statement that Tamil is “Regional language” is FALSE. Tamil is only Indian language which is official language of multiple countries and significant minority or constututional recognized in other countries.

Tamil is largest spoken Indian language in Indonesia particularly the island state of “Sumatra” including the capital Medan.

Tamil is largest spoken Indian language in South Africa.

Tamil is largest spoken Indian language in 2 Indian Ocean countries – Mauritius and Reunion. The temples which forms the tourist attaction in those countries are all culturally Tamil.

Tamil is second most spoken Indian language after Hindi in just some countries – the country FIJI. Though it may be minority in compared to Hindi in Fiji, the cultural impact is much more, the Subraminia Swamy (Murugan) temple in FIJi is a cultural standout. Tamil is being taught again in Fiji after several years of decline.

Similar in the case in Trinidad (no 2, but culturally stong influence due to temples), but in Martinique island also in West Indies, Tamil is the largest spoken Indian language.

Tamil is largest spoken Indian language in Canada’s commerical capital Toronto, second largest Indian language in Canada’s western hub – Vancouver (Punjabi is probably the highest spoken language in Vancouver).

Tamil expat comunity is one of the largest in Indian languages, even countries like CHile (South America) have 1.5 lakh Tamil people (these are words of Chile president Michelle Bechelet when she visited Tamil Nadu). There is also large Tamil communities in Uruguay, Ecaudor etc.

Apart from Tamil Nadu state, largest minority community language in North east state “Manipur” is Tamil language. Tamils control the Indo Burma border trade.

So in India media tries to diminish Tamil as regional status, the cultural, religious and popupular culture (like cinema) influence of Tamil language is more unique compared to Hindi.

Learning of language should be of free will and choice and not like what you are seeing in school system of India. Denial to study learn native language and differential language policy (2 language in Hindi states, 3 language in Non-Hindi states) imposition of Hindi as compulsory subject, are all condemnable practices .

Propoganda stickers in yellow colour as you have seen in train compartments a few years back declaring “Non Hindi speakers are not true Indians / only speaking Hindi language make you Indian” are plain racist – even many Hindi / North Indians are not favouring these practices of govt bodies). How can govt institutions using public’s money allowed to propogate such messages?
It is like declaring Hindu religion the only religion and all Hindu’s are the only Indians.

Even states in North India have now woken up for importance of their language like Punjab, Maharashtra and Gujarat as they have been losing their language to Hindi for several years.

Another statement from you is “Tamil came from Sanskrit” is false. Sanskrit alphabet is almost 4 TIMES BIGGER THAN TAMIL. I also understand many Indian language like Hindi, Urdu etc are having very big alphabet and complicated number system and govt of India does not plan to reduce unwanted letters.

It is other way round, Sanskrit came from Tamil language.

Detailed discussion of common Sanskrit word from Tamil language is here and other website:
http://www.mayyam.com/talk/viewlite.php? t=1798

Reason of high literacy, high technical publications, highest religios magazines in Tamil language is because of small alphabet and simple number names. Literature content is also very high.

Language should be free will and mutual learning and imposition of one language is bad for the country.

Posted by Tamil1 | Report as abusive

I have deep love and affection for literature,

of any form. Be it Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam or


As people have posted, I could have also

searched on Hindi and came with better

statistics for Hindi.

My intention was to support Justice Katju’s

wordings. He is in any way correct. I have

visited Chennai, the capital city of TN and

often spoke with people in Hindi. People are

understanding and even showing willingness. Most

of our Indian states are open to Hindi. Be it

Gujarat, Karnataka or Punjab. Hindi is not

imposed on anybody. If kids are taught Hindi in

schools across TN, then it is seen as imposition

or burden. I primarily hail from UP and in UP,

we have curricula for each and every regional

languages. Although, other regional languages

are not taught but one has the choice to opt for

any other language apart from Hindi and appear

in exams. Moreover, if other regional langauges

will be sought for teaching to us, then how many

languages will we learn. One should only wonder.

Hindi makes one open to rest of the country.

Changes are happening in TN and nobody can’t

deny it. Still TN lag behind other states in

development and progress.

Tamil has its remarkable history and being an

Indian I accept it gladly that we have such

glorifying diversity within one nation.

But on the same note the significance of Hindi

can’t be ruled out. If a person belonging to KA

or TN or any other non Hindi speaking state

wants to interact with people belonging to Hindi

belt, then which language will they prefer. The

obvious answer being Hindi. Although people

speak English but it is just 5% of the total

Indian population.

Hindi communities are all across globe and I

hardly find any reason to state examples and I

am not pondering over the rich literary history

associated with Hindi. It is not required.

Hindi and English will ever remain the official

languages of the country.

One should shed one’s ugly perception that other

regional languages are getting eradicated.

Changes are happening, changes will happen in TN

and such changes are good for the state as well

as for the country.

Acceptance of Hindi is upon one’s will. Hindi

shouldn’t be opposed as no other languages are

being opposed.

Posted by ManuOnReuters | Report as abusive

Reference To MR MANU’s one sentence:



THese statements are not “perception” of made up story.

THis is a reality faced by school system.

Recall the murder of the Hindi teacher in St Mary school. Media will blame the boy – but the other side of the story is the boy was forced upon the language and was scolded and insulted in the school for failing in foreign like langugae.

If Hindhi man come to Tamil Nadu, he is expecting whole state to speak his language and he wont learn Tamil language – so state people will think he is not Indian citizen and simply ignore him.

Today Tamil Nadu is economic leader in the country in automobile manufacturing, software and educational institute and other state people are coming to Tamil Nadu compared to Tamil going to Hindi land.

Tamil Nadu state is always called “Vaandhaarai Vaazhavaikkum Thamizhagam” and it is very true the Hindi and other peoples are welcome and no hates crimes in Tamil Nadu like in Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore. North Indian places are more racist mentality than Tamil nadu.

You can find Hindi Ice Cream kaaran in even southern Tamil Nadu. But he will have to learn Tamil to survival. But unlike Delhi or Bombay no one will harm him because of Hindi identity.

However in recently the bad news is Hindi people and students come to do gun culture, bank robbing, gang activity it start to give feeling that Hindi people are dangerous people. Today Hindi people are often looked upon in suspicious mode due to last year events. Hindi students are also fighting with other Hindi students in Tamil Nadu.

So your esteemed language is great and greatest in the world or universe, but the language people are not conducting well which is result in deep suspcion. That is why every one is afraid of giving Hindi people even rent.

So it is very great news for your langugae, but your people are losing the respect due to side activities.

Tamil Nadu so far didnt become like North east state where your esteemed language people getting murdered, but the trend of the Hindi people in bad activities should not make it like that.

Posted by Tamil1 | Report as abusive

Mr Manu – Hindi is the only accepted language and all languages are being opposed and sidelined by both govt and private machinary.

Tell me why would a bank based in Tamil Nadu delete its Tamil web pages (talking about Indian Bank). Because it is not “official” language? Even your own people dont know the write official language (which has such a big script) how you expect other state to know the so-called official language – the purpose of a bank is to serve customer and by deleting their language it is not serving customers.

No one is opposed to Hindi. The truth is Hindi is part of mega crore scam like the so-called Hindi language fortnight, Hindi only customer service etc using tax payers and other money including money of non-Hindi citizens – of course because it is official language so this wastage is “OK”?

Why would a publc listed company in Tamil nadu need to spend crores on Hindi which no one cares in day to day life (which no-one opposes it either), why do railway spend more crores on Hindi “propoganda” than on security systems.

Tamil is a more international language than Hindi – it is official in more countries than Hindi, found in bank notes of more countries than Hindi – but it really means NOTHING. When a basic service like Insurance, banking cannot be provided cannot be provided in Tamil – it is reason to rise up. The court cases and cheating against some insurance companies with regard to claims due to language problem are still in courts.

THe government of India plan to eradicate all the languages in India and replacing with only Hindi through forced compulsion and disservice is very evident – you will see it everywhere from telecom, radio service across states, airlines, insurance, banks, schools – of course also in the Indian embassies outside India.

If that makes you extremely happy, it is very good for you, but in long runs it only helps country to disintigrate.

Posted by rvn | Report as abusive

With reference to one sentence of MR MANU saying Hindhi language not really being forced. Why did the Hindi teacher in St Mary school was murdered? Media only blaming the boy – other side of story will not be mentioned – boy was insulted and forced upon with this esteemed language.

Also Mr Manu, your language may be greatest language in Universe and official language of entire universe, but the language people are not conducting properly.

Today Tamil Nadu state is hub for automobile manufacturing, engineernig industry, service sector – so many Hindi peoples and out of state people coming to Tamil Nadu for job and earning purpose. Tamil Nadu is no. 1 state in SME (small middle enterprise ) companys.

Unlike North India which is very racist place and banned other language in India, Tamil Nadu didnt ban other language – Kannadam / thelungu new year is holiday, Hindi peoples have association like Jain sangam. Hindi companies have banned Tamil and other language from customer service.

But now Hindi peoples are indulging too much criminal activcies. The Bank robbery with open firing and shouting bad languaeg in public places, Hindi student fighting with other Hindi students and murdering other Hindi student only result in image that Hindi peoples are very dangerous people and negative image. Hindi peoples also dont know Tamil language even if working in Tamil Nadu – so it is easy to identity. Too crime conduting by Hindi peoples only result in police creating database of Hindi and other language peoples with address. People now afraid to give Hindi peoples rent.

In Tamil Nadu no one cares for anyone origin, but repeated negative acivity will create problem.

It is suggested that everyone learning the greatest language in entire Univese as per you Hindi is great idea which some people may or may not take but please advise your Hindi peoples learnign Tamil and living without conducting crimes. Because more and mre crimes conducted will only lead to innocent Hindi peoples being no 1 suspect in everything.

My Katjoo as you mentioned is having very big Hidden intention. He is reponsible for banning and not allowing Tamil in court. He is having no moral right for Hindi preaching. He is not Gandhi type person as you are thinking. Even Kurshid is better than Katjoo.

Thank you.

Posted by Tamil1 | Report as abusive

Well, your understanding that southern and north Indian languages are completely unrelated may not be entirely correct. While it is true that in origin the two set of languages are different, there is at least 2000 years of interaction between the two groups. In fact, as far my knowledge goes only Tamil has preserved some form of ancient Dravidian language, while rest are heavily influenced by Sanskrit. But even here there are several important points to be noted. For instance the most ancient texts found in tamil- the Sangam literature have significant Sanskrit words. Even one of the grammar written in this age Tolkappiyam is modeled on Aindra grammar school of Sanskrit. But I must caution that the influence is not one way street. The Rig Veda the most ancient text of India also shows Dravidian influence.

As far as scripts are concerned. You may be surprised. All indigenous scripts of India- Devanagari (used for Hindi), Tamil script, Kannada script etc are evolved from one mother script- Brahmi. Strange isn’t it. Even i couldn’t believe it at first. But historians can reconstruct how Brahmi changed and evolved in north and south India.

As far as Hindi and Urdu are concerned, I fear I may be repetitive because you do seem to have done a lot of research on it. But since you are saying that you never got a direct answer, I may try giving one. Urdu is essentially Persian + khariboli (derived from Sanskrit) in vocabulary, but it’s grammar is Khariboli.

So what does this mean? I will explain this using an example.
Consider the following sentence:

The police resorted to goondagardi to suppress the protestors.
( Goondagardi means acting like a goon)

While this sentence is essentially English, there is a slight change in the vocabulary. There is inclusion of a Hindi word. Something similar happened to Khariboli, as the speakers adopted many Persian words, while keeping the grammar structure same. This gave rise to Urdu. But do note that urdu is not pure Persian, it also has many Sanskrit/ Khariboli words.

So if you have to think of difference between the two languages it is possible that an Urdu speaker will have more Persian words in his vocabulary while a Hindi speaker more Sanskrit. ( And an Urdu speaker may use the Arabic script and Hindi Devnagari script). However, this is only theoretical, because practically both the languages are intelligible. Even as I write this, I realize that many of my Hindi words like Jahan (world), Tahzeeb (manners), Tarikh (date), Zehan (mind) are Urdu in origin. And I daresay that if I hear a Urdu speaker I may be able to make out 99% of what he is saying.

The languages unfortunately became a target of communalism ( the closest word in British English would be sectarian) in the 19th century. Katju is right in saying that medieval Indians did not see the two languages as different and both the scripts were used. In fact, when in 19th century it was decided to make Hindi ‘state language’ of UP, replacing Urdu, the Kayastha Brahmins (the core literate group in pre-modern India) preferred Urdu and not Hindi. But communalism and misinterpreted history won the day.

If my personal opinion be asked I like Urdu. Its a very polite language. While Hindi is good, Urdu is beautiful.

Posted by Woman21 | Report as abusive

We agree on everything that you wrote here, actually :)
The Dravidian languages are different in origin. I meant to point out that the structures are different, but yes, the interaction between languages in proximity to each other means that you cannot avoid mixing. Look at English/French, English/anything, the influence of Persian, Turkish and Arabic words primarily on Urdu, but in varying degrees also on Hindi, Bengali, Assamese and so on. Then there are the colonial echoes of Portuguese, English and others on Indian languages (vinho do alho –> vindaloo. Or to take it into English, the sadr adaalats of northern India becoming the Sutter or Sudder or Sutter Addalats in English, not to mention the lathes, goons, thugs and bungalows, or “that’s the cheese!” (chiz – yeh chiz hai) etc).
You know, after conversations like this, I wish I could speak every major Indian language…

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive

You are most welcome to learn them! But I am surprised at “thats the cheese”! Really it’s from yeh chiz hai. Wow. Thanks.

Posted by Woman21 | Report as abusive

The British were nothing if not capable of absorbing :)

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive

I didn’t follow your comment on absorption! I do admit Indian- British interaction has many aspects to it. But British were the only rulers who never really got absorbed into the Indian life. They remained perpetually foreigners and aloof. Although it would be wrong to brand every British as racist – some of them helped us in the freedom fight, and in Gandhi’s autobiography you meet some who were really good and helped his stay in Britain. But the truth is this that many people warmly remember the Mughals than the British. In fact some scholars of modern history had noted this in the 1960’s people of India completely forgot about the British. It was like they never happened or (sorry) who wants to remember them. This is in spite of the fact they left an important legacy – English. We speak English but we forget who brought it to us. And I agree I like ‘English’ language but not the British rule!

Posted by Woman21 | Report as abusive

I’m a Tamil and from Chennai. People who say Hindi is the national Language should be either stupids or ignorant. There is no national language for India. Hindi is spoken in most of the northern states and Hindi has the highest speakers in India. People should understand that just because it is spoken by most number of people, it can’t become the national language. In fact it is NOT the national language. Tamil is not just a language. It is an identity of our culture and tradition. We are the native people who have been ruling the most of southern India and mostly Tamilnadu for a very long time and we are very deeply attached to Tamil. Where does hindi come from? From which state has it originated? Is it a unique language? Where did it actually originate? Any answers?? The reasons Tamils oppose Hindi is, we love our language more and hindi is not at all required for us here. Tamilnadu unlike other states has not only been able to survive without hindi, but it is also one of the top developed states in India. Are the states which gave more importance to Hindi more developed than Tamilnadu??? NO. Because we give importance to Tamil and English which is the global language. The states which give importance to hindi, that is the north indian states are just underdeveloped because they are just clinched to this ‘hindi factor’. Its because of Tamilnadu that India attained this much level of development. Its because of Tamils’ agitations against Hindi, that English is the major link language in India. Each and every sector has boomed because of English. Had it been an “hindi dominated” country, India would have be an under developed counyty without the knowledge of English. The sectors of IT, BPO, science space research, Medical, etc are boomed with the help of only English. India has a good communication and relation with the rest of the world only with the aid of English. Had it been a “hindi dominated” country, India would had been like a slum. If Tamilnadu had formed a seperate nation breaking up with India, it would have got very much developed at least like Malaysia by now. Just because Tamilnadu is associated to India, it is being pulled down of others from becoming a more developed. It may sound harsh, but thats the undeniable truth. People should understand that we are not against the language hindi. BUT we are against the imposition of compulsory hindi which will never ever work out in Tamilnadu. We have our own langauge and hindi is not at all required in our state. If people argue that Hindi is required to have a unity among Indians, what unity are you speaking about? Are you people claiming to be “True Indians” by imposing one particular language and killing the richness o your own language ?? Its a shame on you people.
I’m a Tamilian first then only an Indian. One cannot be patriotic just because he/she knows hindi. One can be a true Indian only if he is a good human and truthful to his own mother tongue and identity first. If one ditches his own mother tongue and accepts or gives more importance to another language, how does the loyalty come here?? Can a person who has ditched his own mother tongue be called a patriot ?? NO. Doesn’t each and every state have their own language? Why to impose only one particular language on the rest of the people? Is that fair? Imposing hindi in a particular state is not going to do any good. Its just going to ruin the richness of the language of that particular people. We cannot allow that to happen to our state like what other indian states did. If someone has a learn hindi, let them learn it out of passion and not out of compulsion. And let me add this point. Every year, large number of people migrate from north india to south india for jobs and studies. So its the people of north india who are dependent on south india. So doesn’t the south indian languages be made compulsory in the northern India? MAKES SENSE RIGHT ?? Just because hindi is spoken in few states and most number of indian people, we Tamil people cannot enforce compulsory hindi in our state to meet the “Comfort Zone” of you north Indian people. We are not fools like other state people. If a hindi person has to survive in Tamilnadu, either he has to learn Tamil in his state or learn Tamil after coming to Tamilnadu. Thats how things work our here in Tamilnadu. Thats the way the heritage of every language can be maintained. After independence, most of the other states, gave a nod to compulsory hindi. So can we people say its the greed of the politicians of those states who thought of gaining luxuries from the Central government after accepting the impostion of hindi in their state??? The whole India gave a green signal to imposition of hindi post independence. But its only Tamilnadu which gave out strong cry against hindi. Maybe some of you people argue that it was because of political moto. Let it be but, we have our Tamil sentiments which contributed to this hindi-agitations. Had it not been for Tamilnadu, India today would not have been “India”. It would have been “Hindia”. Means other state people simply becoming slaves of hindi even by ignoring their own mother tongues. Just realise people ! Hindi infact is not a language of Indian origin. I’m not hating hindi. And I’m neither loving hindi. To Tamil people, Hindi is just another language. Hindi is a language formed by collecting words from various languages. It doesn’t have a unique origin. People should realise that you cannot give up your dignity of losing the richness of your own mother tongues because of another language that is Hindi. If you people like hindi, go and learn it out of passion, but not out of compulsion, which is not required at all and not going to do any good thing. Do not lose the dignity of your languages. வாழ்க தமிழ். Long live Tamil.

Posted by j3dawedk | Report as abusive

I agree to the point that Tamil agitation in past;saved eradication of English from India.No body is expected to forget his mother tongue.Though I am Maharashtrian;I sincerely feel that English is only language which can unite India inclusive of Art 370 states.Hence it should be compulsory for every Indian to communicate,learn,speak,read&write in English along with his mother tongue.But all correspondence should be in English at all levels.Just like supreme court decision.All person are allowed to use any language for personal use only.All public notifications must be in English & if need arises with translation.All southern movies & TV serials should be made available with subtitles in Hindi/English & vice a versa. What do you say sir?….S P CHAUDHARI.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive