How Culture, Language and Perceptions Change?

Even though I know how to read, write and speak Marathi, I have hardly read a book written in the language. I simply never felt inclined to do so. I’ve often heard the quote ‘What will happen to our language if young people do not read books in it?’ – The problem with this argument is, that languages are more about practical communication and less about cultural identity.

I was having an interesting chat with a relative who told me that his father was taught how to read in Urdu. This was odd for someone who was growing up in Mumbai. I can understand he had to learn Hindi as it is one of the most widely spoke languages in India. Learning Marathi also made sense as our family speaks the language. They were a Hindu family on the conservative side, so why was a child learning Urdu? The answer is simply. This was back in the mid 1940s in India.

The language a lot of educated Indian spoke back then was called Hindustani. It was a pluricentric language (meaning a language with more than one standard versions). Hindustani consisted of Standard Hindi and Standard Urdu.

So why did I not learn this language in school?

The population of Muslims in India was almost halved after partition. The other half were in the new country of Pakistan. This reduced the practical need to learn Urdu and Hindi gained more importance in independent India.

The word ‘practical’ lurks around again. The fact is language and culture is never stagnant or steady. It changes a lot over the years, because of economic and political changes. Unfortunately perceptions about language and culture often seem totally unconnected with its actual history.

What do you think about the language and culture?


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7 Comments

  1. “Languages are more about practical communication and less about cultural identity”

    That says it. I don’t have the inclination to read in Malayalam either. Yes. language is about practical communication. Everything evolves and changes, language and culture are no exceptions. Whenever I have been pontificated to about ‘our’ language and how we must be proud of it, learn and use it and help in its preservation, I have asked those people, how come we haven’t preserved the grunts and other noises in which we probably communicated in the early stages of human life? Aren’t all the present languages the result of not preserving early (first ever) culture? Usually, that silences them. 😐

    1. That would be wrong, Shail. I freely still grunt at some people. It’s the only thing I have to say to them 😛

    2. Interesting. That said atleast I have never received this criticism of not wanting to read Marathi literature possibly because they (immediate family) themselves do not. But yes I have got this from a lot of friends and their family members.

      The response to it us quite often met with the ancient language of silence.

  2. You know my stand on languages. I am one of those who would pick up some old awful language no one’s ever heard about and want to learn it. But personal interests apart, I don’t see why a language must survive at all. If people do not find it worthwhile to talk in a certain language for whatever reason, so be it. It is not my responsibility to keep a language alive, nor is it my responsibility to sustain this part (or any other) of my culture. These things must flow freely; when it stops doing that, it’s time is over and we history lovers could have a fun time talking about how it used to be. 🙂

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