Wednesday 15 February 2006

Me in Teluguwiki

This post contains mainly what I wrote in Teluguwiki in Google groups over a couple of days. I feel it is a fruitful discussion we, a group of Telugu people have had there. In my next post I will try to present others' views as well.
If you find it interesting and want to raise a topic or participate in this kind of discussions, join as a member.
Now read on:

"Hundreds of words from English have already made their inroads into Telugu and successfully "masked" their equivalent Telugu words.
So what? - some may ask. A language reflects the culture, and the ethos of the people who speak that language. For example, consider this:
Respecting elders is an integral part of our culture. But in English language, there are no words to distinguish between elder and younger siblings! In South India, parallel cousins are as good as our own siblings but "jocular" as well as marital relations do exist between cross cousins. But in English there is no such distinction!
(Parallel cousins are children of our father's brothers or our mother's sisters and cross cousins are children of our father's sisters or our mother's brothers)
Still worse is the case when we can not distinguish between a man's elder sister-in-law and younger sister-in-law and between a woman's younger brother-in-law and elder brother-in-law.I can't count how many times I was confused when I hear someone talking about "rice" wondering whether it was 'biyyam' or 'annam'.
It happens only with Telugus. Tamilians' and Bengalis'love for their culture, language and food is well known.
But what I observed when I was in Delhi for some time is that:

In the heart of a cosmopolitan city like Delhi where people from not only every nook and corner of India but also from various parts of the world coexist,
1. A traffic signal is always called a "LAl batti (erra deepam)"
2. Crossroads are always called "gol chakkar".
3. A spoon is always called a "CHEMMACH"
4. Believe it or not, In post offices, I have heard with my own ears more than once an inland letter being called an"Antardeshiy Patr".

The question is about the importance being given to English and also about neglecting Telugu. Well, why should we learn English? The answer is very clear: to get better jobs.
But how should we learn English?This is the biggest question...
and the answer can not be by "Eating English, Drinking English, Speaking English, ..." ALL THE TIME sacrificing our own mother tongue.
It is a myth that English can be learnt only by studying in English medium schools and that too by moving away from Telugu language and Telugu culture. Even in a city like Hyderabad we can see hundreds or even thousands of people who have mastery over 4 or more languages.We have better known examples of PVNarasimha Rao and Puttaparthi Narayanacharyulu who learnt more than a dozen languages each. It is an established fact that Indians in general and south Indians in particular have the natural bility to comprehend different languages easily.
That being the case I fail to understand why people these days are trying to keep their chidren away from Telugu language and culture in their own land only to learn English and that too when it is more clear than ever that the present day children are smarter than their elders.

Here, one word of caution: Imparting primary education in a language other than the child's mother tongue renders the whole education meaningless. The child has to relate what is being taught in the class room with what is being faced in the outside world. This is possible only when the language used in the class room is the same as the language used at home and in the suroundings and the language the child is most comfortable in ie, its mother tongue. Otherwise, the child will get the feeling that the moment it enters the school, it is entering an entirely different world far removed from reality.This does not augur well either to the child or to the education system.

There are several people around us who don't know what an uTTi is. Such things will survive only in Bhagavatam stories.

English is a truly international language. It has its own regional flavours in various parts of the world. Still there is a long felt need to "Indianise" it more to better suit our cultural requirements. The process is going on (eg, we have introduced "co-brother" to English in addition to an embarrassingly ambiguous brother-in-law and have successfully converted 'enjoy' into an intransitive verb) but it needs to speed up.

English has many thousands of words which do not have equivalents in any other language leave alone Telugu and new words are being added to it every day. But one sensitive point we must note here is that every word is Anglicised before being added to it. But Telugisation is not done when importing words from English.
For example, "Bandicoot" is an English word taken from the Telugu word "Pandikokku". But not a single syllable in the English word has retained its original form. 'Pa' has become 'Ba'.'di' has become 'Di'. 'kokku' has become 'coot'. This is something like 'Suddhi'. Same is the fate of "kAsuneTTu" which has become 'cashewnut'. I am not suggesting to distort every English word we use as a revenge against English. But consider this:
Telugu is called the Italian of the east because in both the languages words end with small vowels (hAyi golipe hraswa achchulu-pondikaina poTTi achchulu). I have read somewhere that only these two languages have this property. This renders songs composed in these languages suitable for any tune (RAga) by conveniently stretching the last vowel or cutting it short. That is why the "prathamA vibhakti" Du,mu,vu,lu were imposed on almost every word imported into Telugu from Sanskrit by ppropriately appending one of the four letters at the end of the word. eg, RAmah has become RAmuDu, kAvyah has become kAvyamu, gOh has become govu, etc.

Just like every person has a personality of their own, every language has its own personality. But with the onslaught of English many languages are losing their identity.

Actually institutions like Telugu Academy, Telugu Viswavidyalaym, AdhikAra Bhasha Sangham should take up the task of retaining the originality and uniqueness of our language. But can we really hope that they wil do it?

Recently in a movie song, phrases like heerAdhiheeruDu, sTArAdhisTAruDu were coined.
Staradhistarudu sounds good but heeradhiheerudu is absurd and unacceptable.

Let me write briefly about the state of Telugu literature. Lately, there are new literary forms introduced into Telugu like Haikoos and nAnees. The streams of literature are steeming except drama. If one laments that in the past one hundred years there is no Telugu drama that stands anywhere near Kanyasulkam, we can't refute it. (If only Yandamuri continued writing dramas.......??)
But all other literary forms have greatly developed in style, and the topics they deal with are greatly diversified. Especially short story is said to be passing through its "Golden Age" now. Regarding novels, every year, at least a couple of good or great novels are coming out. We have Sannapureddy Venkatarami Reddy's "KADi", Chandra Latha's "RaegaDi Vittulu" etc on one side and novels like "Thapana" on the other. I don't follow poetry keenly and so I can't say anything about it. Regarding the Publishing houses, Prajasakthi
Book House has published a great number of books on children's literature. I suggest you regularly follow magazines like Rachana, Patrika, and more important: never ever think you are too old to read (Telugu) Chandamama.

In this discuusion when I said earlier "Actually institutions like Telugu Academy, Telugu Viswavidyalaym, AdhikAra Bhasha Sangham should take up the task .... But can we really hope that they wil do it?" I meant developing the language to meet the present day needs so that people using Telugu can have access to the latest developments in various disciplines.

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