Multilingualism in India: History, Ideology, and Modern Era Influence

Multilingualism in India occurred after its independence in 1947. With a population of more than 1.3 billion people, it is not surprising that this country is home to many native languages. Referring to the 2011 census, there were 121 mother tongues and 22 of them became official languages. This phenomenon is influenced by several factors which will be explained below, so continue reading to find out.

There are six classical languages ​​in India, namely Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telugu. Two of them, Tamil and Sanskrit, are India’s oldest languages, even in the world. These languages ​​have been used for more than 1,500 years and that is why people want them as official languages. In addition, if a language in India has been designated as a classical one, it will not be used freely in everyday life. The Ministry of Education will set up a legacy that needs to be studied by researchers at the language center.

The language diversity in India ultimately made the Constitution not set one official language for the entire country. Then, as a win-win solution, the government plans to use Modern Standard Hindi as the official language as well as a term of family language. The reason is, the number of these language speakers is in fact more than Korean and Italian.

The development of language in India also started from the language family system and its use is based on linguistic origins as a mother tongue. The south India region uses the Dravidian language family, while the central and northern regions use Indo-Aryan. In the central and northern regions, variations of Hindi are widely used.

Hindi has the same grammar as Urdu but differs in some vocabulary and scripts. In addition, its use is influenced by religious factors. Hindi is commonly used by Hindus, while Urdu refers to the Muslim population. Interestingly, the number of speakers of the two languages ​​was recorded in the census.

Three years after India’s independence, the division of the mother tongue in this country has become increasingly complex and there have been protests from the population. There are twenty-eight states and the linguistic lines are arranged in such a way that one mother tongue can be used in more than one state.

The function of multilingualism in India has finally developed, namely as a marker of identity, because that way a person can interact with their community without feeling any difference. Currently, India has twenty-eight states and eight union territories which are headed directly by the government. Each regional division has one official language, but most have two and the other is English.

There is a history of how English became one of the official languages ​​of India. This change was initiated by the famous activist Mahatma Gandhi. He and his supporters oppose British rule, but also think that English is suitable as a unifying language. However, they will continue to support Hindustani as India’s national language. Hindustani is a blend of Hindi and Urdu which is also an attempt to unite the Hindu and Muslim populations in India.

Mahatma Gandhi’s attempt to make English one of the official languages ​​began in 1916 until 1928. He taught the language to the population because it was considered a patriotic work. In addition, Indians who can speak English can be said to be educated people and can show independence after colonialism.

English ultimately shows the socioeconomic level in India. The formal and international sectors also use the language as a medium of instruction. However, in some areas, code-switching is common. For example, the teacher first explains in English, then uses Hindi. There is also a linguistic phenomenon called loan or borrowing, so it seems that the language used is English, but actually, it is English and Marathi.

Maybe many people think that Modern Standard Hindi is the official language of India. However, this is not entirely wrong, because the scope of use between English and this language ​​is also different in everyday life. For instance, a world-famous Indian film uses Modern Standard Hindi now that its production refers to a region. On the other hand, the language in the national media actually uses English.

The diversity of languages ​​spoken at the same time in India seems to have been supported by the Ministry of Education since 1968 through the three-language formula (TFL) education program. The language refers to the mother tongue, Hindi and English, and Modern Standard Hindi.

Multilingualism in India is influenced by a long history and this creates its own uniqueness. India’s national languages ​​are also affected, so there are at least two languages, namely the mother tongue according to the region and English as a unifying language. On the other hand, TFL and people’s understanding of the official language of India is proof that the diversity of languages ​​in India is very complex.

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