Preserving the linguistic diversity of North East India

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With English being the preferred language of instruction, learners have been left out of the benefits of mother tongue instruction.

The northeastern region of India is blessed with unprecedented ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity. The land of seven sisters and one brother, it is the most diverse part of the nation’s most diverse, home to a number of lowland and hill tribal communities with their own cultures, traditions, livelihood practices, language and dialects.

As for linguistic diversity, in Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh approximately 23, 20 and 15 languages, respectively, are used and Meghalaya is home to Khasi, Garo and Pnar / Jaintia languages. The languages ​​used in the region belong to five different language families, namely Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burmese, Austro-Asian and Tai-Kadai. However, these are not recognized by the respective governments as official languages.

The pace of development in the region is putting massive pressure on the self-governing tribal communities. As such, some of those languages ​​and dialects encompassing cherished civilizational discourses have already become “vulnerable” to “dying”. Factors contributing to the disappearance of languages ​​in the region are better employment prospects in English, conversion to Christianity and the impact of churches in the choice of the lingua franca and inappropriate language policies designed for administrative reasons.

A native language is vital for conception and understanding and for creating the mindset necessary for holistic development. In addition, learning in a foreign language also brings a feeling of alienation from one’s own culture and heritage leading to an inferiority complex, while learning in a mother tongue helps to develop a better perception of one’s cultural traits. . Thus, learning in the mother tongue is of paramount importance for improving the quality of education. Since English is the preferred language of instruction in India, learners have stayed away from the benefits of mother tongue education. UNESCO has also recommended the use of the mother tongue in the first years of schooling to enable children to learn to read and write while introducing them to the first mathematical and academic concepts. In order to capitalize on the advantage of learning in the mother tongue, NEP 2020 emphasizes the mother tongue as the language of instruction at least up to the fifth standard. This policy also envisages integrating the teaching and learning of Indian languages ​​into school and higher education at all levels.

It is against this background that the announcement made by Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan at the recent NEP-2020 Northeast Education Conclave organized by the Assam government and the Foundation for education and Shamkardev research to make Guwahati India’s language laboratory and to create safe educational zones. is significant. He also underlined the capitalization on the strength of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic, biotic and abiotic diversities of the Northeast region for its emotional integration with the rest of the country.

Thus, the northeastern states should not adopt English as a state language only for administrative reasons, but adopt regional languages ​​as state languages, as many languages ​​are placed in the endangered category without status. official nor patronage. The major dialects should receive scriptures to promote them to the status of languages. The trilingual formula policy should be reviewed to promote regional languages. Dictionaries and learning books must be written for every language and dialect spoken in the North East. A group of people should be trained in the languages ​​spoken in the region for translation purposes, as is done for international languages. Customs and traditions should be written in every language and dialect.

Qualified teachers for each language should be present in order to teach and create ICT compatible electronic media in those languages. High quality translation and interpretation programs should be offered in all NER languages. Each Northeast Central University should be sanctioned by a Center for the Preservation and Promotion of Local Languages ​​and Dialects (CPPLLD) for the implementation of these and other imperatives to preserve linguistic diversity and harmonious community relations. tribals with nature, ecology and the cosmos. .

We run out of fuel with the deaths of older people, and without a holistic language policy, languages ​​and dialects are increasingly marginalized, leading to a decline in our traditional knowledge base on tribal cultures, traditions, and practices. livelihood, environmental ethics, nature centered development, etc. which are necessary ingredients to secure the future of the region.

(The author is vice-chancellor of the Central University of the Punjab, Bathinda. The opinions expressed are personal.)


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