Ashok R. Kelkar



Inculcation of Correct Attitudes and Beliefs about Language and Languages in Indian School Children


The occasion for this note was a request circulated by the Director, Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore (in his D.O.No.F.10-27/71 of 8.4.1971) for suggestions for the implementation of professor P.B. Pandit’s proposal accepted by the Institute’s Expert Advisory Committee (in its meeting on 14.1.1971) that essays be prepared that are suitable for secondary school pupils in India and that explain the origin, growth, diversity and inter-relationship of Indian Languages.


            The writer of this note endorses this proposal but suggests towards language in general as also to remove common misconceptions towards it arising out of what may be called folk-linguistics, as prevalent in India. It is not enough to remove factors hindering emotional integration of the country, but also to create in the more positive fashion a frame of mind for the proper solution and resolution of the problems arising out of India’s linguistic diversity and of the attempts to usher in a modern society and culture.


            Further it will be useful to consider not only suitable topics but also along with them the choice of points of entry-i, e. the age and the curricular head. Simple lessons could be introduced not only in the school language readers (the school language being English, Hindi, the regional language or the minority language as the case may be) but also in the social studies texts of history, geography and civics.


            In the list of themes that follows suggested age levels and curricular heads (SLR school language reader; H History including human origins; G Geography; C Civics; H Hindi as second language or as regional language; MIL Modern Indian Language i.e. school language other than English) are given against each theme. The themes are arranged broadly from the more general and /or abstract to the more specific and/ or concrete.


            Needless to say, this note is no more than a working draft, subject to modification and extension. It may be a good idea to bring out a collection of essays in English. It must be borne in  mind, however, that they will have to be not so much translated as adapted to the various modern Indian languages. Illustration will be drawn from the pupil’s experience.


            (1)             Importance of language in the emergence of man as a civilized animal; utility of language as a practical instrument (Age: 14 +; head: H)


            (2)            Some languages are merely spoken, a few are both spoken and written. Literature can be both spoken and written. Some languages are more commonly used for composing literature; others less often so. Literature and writing are not the whole of language. (Age: 15 + head: SLR)


            (3)            The Fable of Aesop on the Tongue as the great divider and binder of people. Being loyal to one’s own language does not entail despising or hating others’ languages. (Age: 10 +; head: SLR)


            (4)             The games people play with language. Style in everybody use of language. (Age: 15 +; head: SLR)


            (5)            No language is free from change or free from regional or social variation. The terms “language” and “dialect”. No writing system is free from compromises and therefore “perfect”. (Age: 12 +; head: C)


            (6)            When a language changes, it tends to diverge. The concept of language family as a way of explaining striking and detailed similarities between languages. Thus, all languages are equally old and equally new. The expression of same common meanings in the languages of India presented so as to bring out their family groupings. (It is much better to present India’s linguistic diversity in this concrete manner than to do it in the context of migration of people into the sub-continent which encourages facile identification of language and race. Besides, the accepted account - Aryans pushing Dravidians into the South and all that – is likely to undergo profound revision in the next few decades anyway) (Age: 13 +; head: SLR)


            (7)            All languages are born equal. A way of saying is correct or incorrect only within a language variety at a particular time. Language varieties are not “good” or “bad”; they don’t “improve” or “deteriorate”. They are only appropriate or inappropriate; more widely or narrow useful. Standard and non-standard, (In the case of Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, the diglossia would also be touched upon). (Age: 10 +; head: SLR, C)


            (8)            No language is “pure”. Some languages borrow more directly; others prefer to borrow through translation. No language is too advanced to borrow; no language is too humble to borrow from. Not only languages but also dialects borrow and lend. Once a word is borrowed it is an integral part of the borrowing language (Age: 14 +; head: SLR, C). At this point, one day draw attention to  S.M. Mate’s Marathi essay on “Bhashabhivruddhichi Samajik Drushti”.


            (9)            The languages of India – their genealogy and their distribution (Age: 11 +; head: G)


            (10)            The scripts of India – their genealogy and their distribution (Age: 13 +; head: H)


            (11)            India as a linguistic area – how it came to be one historically. The part played by Sanskrit, Persian, Hindustani, and English as links and sources of borrowed words in all Indian languages (Age: 13 +; head: H)

            (12)            Essays on each of the following languages: history, what the language is like, place in India’s cultural history, Important names in literature, script, etc. English, each of the 15 languages in the Eighth Schedule. (Age: 12 + to14 +; head: SLR).


            (13)            Learning a language/about a language. The proper use of a dictionary. The structure of a dictionary better in entry. Why is using a monolingual dictionary better in the long run in learning a new language? (Age: 15 +; head: SLR)


            It will be noticed that the notorious language problems and controversies of India have been left alone. This is not an oversight on the part of the writer of the writer of this note, but the result of a considered choice.




            This was prepared in April 1971 and circulated without much response. It has remained unpublished.